I jokingly tell people Princess A is my third child. Our first was Dolce, the adorable little dog you see in pictures; my second is Goodie Godmother; and finally, Princess A. All three “children” are very significant, very loved, parts of my life.
My career and my work are very important to me. I do not regret working and I do not feel it diminishes my role as a mother to my little girl. In fact, I can tell you I’m a better mother because I work, and the Godfather agrees. He will quickly tell anyone how miserable I was during maternity leave. I loved spending time bonding with our new little, and I definitely didn’t have the energy to go back to work immediately, but I missed the fulfillment of building a career and, at first, it made me feel incredibly guilty.
I felt as if I should be so enamored with our daughter that I couldn’t bear to go to work or think of doing anything other than letting my new role as a mother consume me. The pressure to feel that way was internal (at first) as I struggled to define what makes the “right” kind of mother (whatever that means), and later external as I faced questions and comments from people regarding my decision to work.
I love my daughter very deeply, a love like no other I have experienced in my life, but instead of driving me to lose myself in her, it’s motivating me to be the example she needs. I need to teach her to be caring, strong, faithful, dynamic, loving, ambitious, poised, grounded, honest, confident… all the traits she will need to walk the path God has planned for her. How can I teach her if I can’t be her first, albeit imperfect, example?
I’ve been very open about the fact that I am looking for a full time position in Virginia. This is the first assignment we have had in a major metropolitan area and the first real opportunity I have to work in business development in a corporate environment – something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember because I love helping things grow. By corporate, I simply mean a place other than my own business, regardless of actual company size. I am so excited for that “yet to be found” position, just the thought makes me almost giddy. To give you perspective, I had to pause just now and remind myself to finish this post and not go on a job-hunting tangent.
I have been working as a full time entrepreneur for some time now, and I went back to work a little over six weeks after Princess A joined us. During that time, I had the opportunity to “test” working to confirm my choice, and I learned a few things along the way I’d like to share with you.
Lessons I’ve learned…
Before Ava’s birth, I would clock 10+ hours a day, at least five days of the six, sometimes seven, I typically worked at Goodie Godmother. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the fairy wand so many pictured and my little one-woman show put in a lot of hours to make the magic happen. I tried to avoid working at least one day a week to give the Godfather and I some leeway for unplanned adventures and time together, but I’ll admit I wasn’t always the best at it and sometimes would put in a few hours of admin catch-up or planning on an off day. He’s my biggest supporter and incredibly understanding of the demands of entrepreneurship, but it took some tuning to be sure we had time together. After we became parents, we actually sat down and talked about my work schedule and how we would develop a nurturing family-focused environment even with both of us working.
Once I put the below into practice, I stopped feeling guilt, and I could fully enjoy my time at work, my time for me, and my time with my family.
Respect your time.
Regardless of whether you work for someone else, or run your own business, be sure you balance your time so you can work, be with family, and do something for yourself. If you make a commitment to spend a day with family, turn off the work phone, and focus on being with those you love. Those moments are valuable and your work can do without you for a few hours. I schedule my life with my little green day planner and I try to stick to my schedule as much as possible so I can accomplish each day’s “to do” list.
During the months Goodie Godmother was an active cottage bakery, I tried to only work when A was taking a nap, before she woke up, or after she went to bed. When she was awake, I wanted to give her my attention, take her on walks, play, etc. This didn’t leave much time for housework, and my clients who picked up orders witnessed an almost permanent pile of clean laundry waiting to be folded in our living room.
Despite mostly losing the battle against clutter (I have a Pinterest plan for our next place!), I could not stand the thought of a dirty house. So I outsourced and had someone come in to help me keep things clean. Yes, it was an additional expense, but so incredibly worthwhile for me. It freed up time I could spend on more valuable pursuits (i.e. – weekend adventures with family after orders were done).
Find what you can outsource and do it. I promise you don’t even have to turn in your superwoman cape.
Be thankful for your support system!
Being military means that we don’t typically live close to family, so it was up to the Godfather and I to work out the best system so we could both balance work and family. I took care of baby girl while he was at work and whenever he had other work related things to do (and the occasional golf outing because he deserves it!). In turn, he would watch her the evenings and weekend hours I had to work while she was awake.
I cannot stress the value of having a strong support like him. Knowing that he was so incredibly supportive and genuinely enjoyed spending time with her made me feel confident when deciding which orders I would fit into my calendar. Interestingly enough, knowing I had that kind of support from him made me very selective regarding the hours I had available for work because I wanted to be respectful of his support and make sure he felt appreciated. From time to time I’d have a friend come help in the kitchen, or at market, or once, I even had a friend come over unannounced and just sit cuddling Ava while I wrapped up the Valentine’s Day rush. I tried never to rely too much on friends as most of my friends are fabulously talented in their own right and also wearing many different hats in their lives, but boy was I incredibly thankful for those moments. Each time the Godfather or even a friend helped out, it was as if they were saying “I believe in you. I believe in this. Let’s all be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We’re all on the same team. Let’s win one for the Gipper!”
If you are lucky enough to have people on your team, whether it’s a spouse, family member, or friend, be sure to say (and show) your appreciation and thankfulness. You can’t do what you do without them!
Keep, hold, or forget? Prioritize your life!
This is good even if you aren’t a working parent, but it’s imperative if you’re balancing a family and career. I never realized how limited time and energy would become after baby and it’s difficult to find time for friends and hobbies like before! So invest time and energy wisely by ensuring the activities, people, and commitments you keep are worth the attention. Life isn’t black-and-white though, so I feel the prioritizing process works best when you have three categories: keep – investments you must have in your life, hold – investments that may not fit into your life right now but you’d like to bring them back in the future, forget – investments that are just not worth keeping.
For example, working out is important to me so I kept it on the schedule and tried to work out at least three times a week. Before baby, I would spend some time at the gym and then some time at a dance studio taking classes. I wasn’t able to keep up with flamenco classes between work and new baby, but I’m planning on fitting them in again as soon as I can because it was fun and I met some incredible people. Flamenco classes went in my “hold” pile. Many moons ago, I was a performing dance artist and studio owner. I “retired” almost immediately after moving to California and closing my Georgia studio, but held on to some of my costumes and props “just in case”. It took some time, but after we knew we were expecting, I just knew I was never planning on going back as more than a student, so my pro dance items were listed for sale and that went in the “forget” pile.
It may feel a little complicated at first, but you’ll find that’s it’s really quite simple. If you aren’t sure about something, put it in the “hold” category for some time and then think about it again. If it’s important, you’ll find time for it or plan for the future, and if it isn’t, to the “forget” pile it goes and you never think of it again. Easy! 🙂
If working is the right decision for you, regardless of reason, do it! You can still be an incredible mother and have a strong bond with your child. If naysayers tell you otherwise, it’s because they aren’t confident in the decisions they made, so are instead judging yours.
But be understanding because everyone has the right to choose if their life circumstances allow.
Just because working was the right choice for you doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for everyone. Some parents even have the opportunity to decide whether to work or not, consider yourself blessed if you do.
For me, the decision may have inspired a few “what ifs” I hadn’t been able to tailor my work schedule around my daughter most of the time in the early months of her life. Even though the Godfather and I discussed me working vs staying home before she was even born, we were blessed to have the opportunity to “test” out both options before making a final decision involving an outside employer. I understand why some friends of mine who had children younger have never worked. I understand why my mother chose to stay home until my sisters and I were all in school. I understand why a former co-worker of mine in Georgia told everyone she was leaving her job after the baby, and then changed her mind and came back after maternity leave because she missed being at work.
There is no right or wrong decision here. If you find working is the right decision for you but you are struggling with balance, I hope that by sharing some of what I have learned I help you simplify so you can find your happy place, a place where you can genuinely say, “I love being a working mother” too.
There will likely be a follow up to this article in a few months after we settle into our new schedule and I gain more insight into working with childcare.