The topic of balancing work and motherhood could fill many books. In my practice, I talk to new moms every day who invariably share their thoughts and ideas about the unexpected challenges of caring for young children, attending to their personal needs, and managing to perform well in their jobs.
Here are some strategies that I’ve found are helpful when dealing with jobs and young children.
1. Be proud of your juggling abilities. Although you may sometimes feel overwhelmed, step back and look at all you’re achieving. By handling it all, you become an inspiring role model for your kids.
2. Learn to live with guilt. Most moms feel guilty when dividing their time, attention, and loyalties between home and work. Accept that you’ll sometimes feel conflicted, and then move on.
3. Think creatively about work options. Try to negotiate work hours that fit with your whole life. Ideas include part-time, flextime, job sharing and having your partner work less and parent more.
4. Find child care that works for your family. Learn about your child care options as early as possible, and pick the one that will free you physically and emotionally to do your best on the job.
5. Have backup child care. Plan ahead for when (not if) a childcare crisis will develop. Some ideas: visiting nurse “sniffle care” for mildly sick children; trading childcare with other parents; getting you or your partner’s boss to allow an emergency day off.
6. Simplify your domestic life. Shop online; ask your partner to help more around the house; have dry cleaning, groceries, or drugstore items delivered; pay for a lawn mower or house cleaner.
7. Be efficient and organized. Spend the last few minutes of your workday preparing for the next morning. Keep only one calendar and coordinate with your spouse — doctor appointments, kids’ activities, work obligations. Put clothes out for the next day; make lunches the night before. Pick up toys just once a day.
8. Book grown-up time. When life gets busy, you need to schedule time for yourself or you won’t get it. Have boundaries, such as a closed bedroom door, and set rituals, such as strict bedtime hours. Nurture your relationship. A happy parent has happy kids.
9. Do a reality check. Periodically reassess how your arrangements are working for yourself and your family as a whole. If you’re miserable, make changes. Saying “no” to people who want too much of you is okay.
10. Remember to enjoy life. Take pleasure in your children — they grow up quickly. Think of parenting as a gift, and make time for fun with your family. Don’t forget to laugh and keep it light.
Marjorie Greenfield, MD, is an obstetrician-gynecologist, author of The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book (Yale University Press, $20).