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Working Mom Truths: We Feel You, We Are You

Rebel Staff,

We all share certain, unequivocal truths. As working moms, the core truth is that finding balance is a daily challenge. On the one hand, we’re celebrated for “doing it all” — for doing all the things all the time. On the other, there’s the stress of knowing that we can never let others, whether at home or at work, see us falter, even for a moment.

The trouble is that when you have a day, seemingly the whole world can tell. We all know what having a day means — what it looks like — and the weight of the subsequent guilt. Those are the days when the ground beneath your feet grinds on like an unrelenting treadmill, constantly rotating, regardless of your need to stop and tie your shoe.

In those moments of “weakness,” which are usually followed by oversharing out of a desperate search for a life vest, we tend to shed the armor and get real. Unfortunately for most working moms, those times are exceedingly rare. It’s just so difficult to lift our heads and ask for help or to even simply raise our hands and say, “Wait! I need a little bit more time.”

For National Working Mom’s Day, we’re sharing our truth(s). The truth about the intense pressure we’re under every day. The truth about what it takes to be a working mom and what it looks like. The truth about how it feels.

Beyond the struggles, there are other truths we’ll share. The truth about how we can all support each other and make it a little less daunting. The truth about how a healthy dose of honesty, courage, friendship, and advice can make it feel less impossible. The truth about having an authentic understanding and appreciation that we can’t actually ‘‘do all the things,” but that we can celebrate the grit and grace it takes to try our damndest amidst the chaos. And that we can find lifelines — even seemingly minor ones — that help us stay connected to our sanity and who we are. (Check out the “Working Mom Real-World Tips” box, below, for more.)

Sharing Our Truths

To get some context, we gathered raw responses from working moms across multiple industries, holding various positions, and at vastly different stages of life, with kids ranging in age from baby to pre-teen. Asking questions like “What do you struggle with most as a working mom?”, “How do you find work-life balance?”, and “What advice do you have to share with other working moms?” brought forth answers — and clarity — that stopped us in our tracks because we so clearly saw ourselves in almost every instance. 

At the very least, they provide validation about something we all can agree on: it is hard. With that said, the following are some of the core issues that repeatedly emerged. 

What Do You Struggle with the Most?

Time is already fleeting but as a working mom, it simply evaporates. Every minute of the day must be planned for maximum productivity, and we have less patience for meetings or people who take advantage of our most precious resource. When we don’t feel as though our time was spent wisely amidst busy days, it tends to leave us feeling frustrated and guilty; that we’re not doing a good job, that we’re pulled in a million directions, that we’re…failing. 

The issues related to mom guilt — having less time with the kids, not enough time in the day, or the inability to show grace to ourselves — show that prioritizing preparation, clear agendas, and commanding more time to be productive is key. Multitasking does not exist and when you feel completely overwhelmed, stop what you’re doing. Stepping back and taking the time to listen to yourself and feed your mind in the best way possible can go a long way.

How Do You Achieve (or Maintain) a Healthy Balance Between Work and Life?

In a go-go-go world, boundaries tend to bleed, often until they nearly disappear. With the “convenience” of working from home, the workplace and the playroom have become one and the same, leading to a more scattered approach to our jam-packed days as working parents. The reality of never feeling 100% focused on any given to-do list item or project can make the transition from mom mode to work mode difficult to manage. A lack of genuine personal and professional support can lead to burnout and that dreaded mom guilt we’ve all felt at one point or another. 

The advice? Shift your mindset, gain alignment, and reprioritize. By refocusing our sights on what is truly important in our lives — whether it’s family, friends, or climbing the corporate ladder — being intentional about what brings you the most joy and fills your cup may help, even if just a little. If all else fails, and as one mom who was surveyed shared, “Don’t forget about you. If having your nails painted 24/7 is vital to your everyday life, never allow for a chip.” 

What Are the Biggest Challenges Working Parents Face?

First, there are the tangible issues, like childcare costs, kids getting sick, and unexpected work demands. Every parent has to deal with those obstacles. 

Then, for working parents — especially moms — there’s the guilt (again). Am I spending enough time with my children? How can I get to that event or move enough things around to stay home with my sick child? It feels as though we’re in a constant battle of balancing the desire to excel at both our jobs and as parents. You often feel as though if you crushed it at work, you failed as a mom that day. It’s a constant struggle and can easily take a toll on our mental, physical, and emotional health.

The bigger question is how can you thrive in both environments. Make sure both teams — home and at work — are supportive. It’s much easier said than done, but talking to your spouse or significant other and understanding each other’s daily challenges can help prepare you for the week ahead. On the office side, get support from your manager when it’s needed and lean on (and trust) team members to help you get the job done. In addition, communicate with friends who are also working moms and share your challenges and tricks of the trade. It doesn’t have to be about “taking a village,” but about tapping the support network already in your life. 

So, to working moms everywhere, know that we feel your truth, we celebrate you, we are you.

Working Mom Real-World Hacks

When we spoke to moms from all walks of life and in varied stages of motherhood, we received a laundry list of incredible real-life tips. Here’s a short list of some of those that resonated with us the most. 

  1. Set clear boundaries with work hours and home hours. When working (especially while at home), it can feel like you’re never off the clock. Although difficult, drawing a clear cutoff time can help.
  2. Prioritize your family above everything else.
  3. Whatever you can afford to hire out — whether it’s grocery delivery, house cleaning, landscaping, etc. — do it. This gives you valuable time back to spend with family and friends. 
  4. Adopt a “this is temporary” mantra. In moments of heartache, upset, guilt, or frustration, it’s a mindset that can help you quickly shift gears and refresh yourself.
  5. That mac and cheese and yogurt pouch is perfectly O.K. The freshly baked muffins with shredded carrots secretly blended in or the rice, diced grilled chicken, and veggie dinner you intended to make probably won’t get eaten anyway. Cut yourself slack wherever you can.
  6. If you have a little boy, “Trash Truck” on Netflix is gold. 
  7. You are the best you when you take care of yourself. Kids will remember you laughing and playing with them, so more of that always! 
  8. Follow the 2-2-2 rule: a date night every two weeks (and don’t bail on that date because you’re tired), a mom’s night out every two months, and a family vacation every two years.
  9. Learn to say no more often, which if done intentionally, feels like saying yes to less stress.
  10.  Surround yourself with people you admire — and more importantly, that make you laugh.
  11.  Make intentional time for memory-making (e.g., weeknight ice cream runs and movie nights).
  12.  Wherever you are, be there. Being in work mode while getting dinner on the table isn’t fair to anyone. 
  13.  Set aside 1:1 time with the kids.
  14.  Finally, use those vacation days. You’ve earned them! 

While Sara Dolan, Director of Marketing and PR. was putting this blog together, her two-and-a-half-year-old son Leo was in her office. With daycare closed, Sara got to live a perfect demonstration of balancing work and family. As she worked through this piece, Toy Story blared in the background from an iPad and Leo persistently requested more fruit snacks. But Sara got it done. So, from one mom to another, we truly get it. You’re doing a great job.