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Embracing Your Role as a Working Mom Embracing Your Role as a Working Mom
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Embracing Your Role as a Working Mom

Insights & Ideas Team •  January 14, 2016 | Focus on Women

Gretchen Gagel had her son and daughter 13 months apart while working as a management consultant, traveling four days a week, 46 weeks out of the year. She loved her family, but she also loved her job, and there was no question that she would be going back to work.

“I loved my work, and it made me a better mom because I was happy and fulfilled,” Gagel writes in her new book, 8 Steps to Being a Great Working Mom. “I love that I’m passionate about what I do, and I bring that to being a mom.”

She offers the following tips for letting go of guilt, relying on others for help, getting organized and taking care of yourself.

Adjust Your Work Schedule

Many moms find that the schedule they kept before having kids no longer works for their family. Gagel wrote that women shouldn’t be afraid to propose alternative schedules—at worst, the boss will say no.

Before having kids, Jody Camp of Denver, Colorado, didn’t think twice about attending charity luncheons during the workday because she could stay later to finish her work. Since her sons—now six and eight years old—were born, she’s had to adjust her mindset and work schedule so she can spend more time with them and give them the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. 

“When they were young, I would drop them off from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. I felt terribly guilty about them spending hours and hours at daycare, but I could get a lot done,” she said. “Now that they’re on a strict school schedule, I rush from drop-off to be at work by 8:30 and skip my lunch breaks so I can leave by 4:30 to pick them up and take them to soccer.”

Establish a Strong Support Network

Gagel wrote that you have to trust that your children are well cared for so you can focus on work. She found a wonderful caregiver whom her children loved, and she coordinated with their father to make sure he was available when she was gone. One time when Gagel was out of town, her daughter called, extremely upset about her classmate who had committed suicide.

“You hate not being there to put your arms around them and console them,” Gagel said. “But you never know when your kids are going to need you. You can’t sit there 24/7 waiting for that time.” Although she was away, Gagel knew they were in good hands.

Take Time for Yourself

Donna Hileman—a flight attendant from Winfield, Illinois, who has a three-year-old and a five-year-old—and Camp agree there are benefits to traveling. They both enjoy having time to decompress when they travel, so they are refreshed when they return home.

Now that her kids are away at college, Gagel arranges her travel schedule so she can visit them. She also makes time for herself at home. After discovering she had a heart condition caused by stress, she made exercise a priority by regularly doing yoga and playing golf.

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Whether you use a paper calendar or apps to share information, everyone who cares for your children needs to know where they need to be at what time and who is responsible for what.

“The hardest part is the planning,” Hileman said. In addition to her travel schedule, which constantly changes, her husband also occasionally travels for work or has late meetings, so she relies on two babysitters to cover most of the gaps. Every month, she has to compare four people’s schedules to see who can take care of her kids and get them where they need to be. Sometimes she has to call other sitters or ask friends to help. To make sure her husband and kids have everything they need, she always finishes the grocery shopping, bills, laundry and other chores before leaving for a trip.

Build a Child-Rearing Partnership

Working moms need a partner with whom to share the work load and provide emotional support. Gagel writes that this doesn’t necessarily have to be a spouse or the other parent—it could be a close friend or other family member.

“As a working mom, if you’re trying to do everything on your own … not only will it cause a lot of stress in your life, but if you have a significant other, you’ll probably begin to resent him or her,” Gagel writes.

Gagel rounds out her eight steps with the following:

  • Getting Over the Guilt: Remind yourself why working is the best choice for you and your family. Reflect on these positive thoughts in a journal to quell internal guilt when it comes up.
  • Setting Sane Expectations: Accept that you cannot do everything perfectly all the time. Set realistic expectations, delegate and make the best of what you have.
  • Finding the Right Child Care: Realize that no one will do things the same way you would. Give yourself plenty of time to find the right provider, and prioritize what’s important. Maintain clear communication with your caregiver to alleviate stress and misunderstandings.

“Whether we’re passionate about our work, simply enjoy working or have no other choice financially, the more we embrace our role as working moms, the more effective we can be at home and at work,” Gagel writes.

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