Ode to the Working Mom

Sorry guys, this one’s for the ladies… I’ve learned many things by being a mom. I’ve learned that Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay pairs terribly with Pirate’s Booty (for those of you without kids or grandkids under ten, think highly addictive edible packing peanuts laced with white cheddar flavored powder). I’ve learned that the public education system smells blood when looking for volunteers and that if you make eye contact you will not only be volunteering in the class but also coaching P.E and organizing the holiday party (and yes, that means cutting reindeer parts out of construction paper instead of responding to emails). I’ve learned that the most annoying Disney or Nick Jr. song will get stuck in your head for no less than a week (Yeah, I’m looking at you Dora the Explorer). I’ve learned the value of humility, patience, roots, reflection, appreciation, eloquence, efficiency and grace. And, I’ve learned that I never truly understood my ability to love two little human beings more than life itself.

I was self-employed before I became a mom. And before kids, I thought I was busy. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. Therefore, more recently, I have learned the art of guerrilla multi-tasking.This is the ode to the not just working, but also self-employed mom.

Do you throw on lipstick in the car, rushing into the office feeling like you already worked a full day? Been there. Grab for your phone out of your purse at a business lunch only to pull out two Legos, a Power Ranger and a fistful of fruit snacks instead? Been there too. Sneak into the back of the room for the small school performance that you didn’t find out about until twenty five minutes prior and halfway through a meeting so that your child sees you and knows you were there to witness their debut? Yup, par for the course.

But, there are those moments of brilliance. Those moments where you truly feel you can juggle and do it all. The Martha Stewart meets Meg Whitman meets June Cleaver side of you that can bring home the bacon AND fry it up in a pan.

There is a very agrarian part of me that regrets not taking the stay at home mom route. The part of me that believes I would make homemade organic baby food and feed my kids nothing packaged, enthusiastically helping with homework, playing board games, doing word problems, playing catch and having rock hard abs from the extra time I have to work out. But then reality hits and I realize that no one is getting out alive if I were to stay home. I am the type of person that needs to work. Hungers for that intellectual, if not stressful, outlet. And I can count, without taking a breath, at least one hundred of my self employed or high-level professional girlfriends that are in the same boat.

We are our own toughest critics. When we are with our kids, we feel guilty about not working. When we are at work, we feel guilty about neglecting our family.

So how do we do it all?

Step one – Cut yourself some slack. So you didn’t bake four dozen cookies for your kids’ teachers this Christmas? Let it go. And, that proposal you were supposed to have done on Tuesday that will now get there on Wednesday? It’s all right. The world will go on.

Step two – Get organized. Think of the life of the working mom as a riptide. You get on top, you are fine, but the second you are sucked under, forget about it. The more you struggle once you are under, the worse it gets. Staying organized means getting on top of that riptide. No one can stay on top of it all the time, but staying on it even for a little while makes a huge difference in your feeling of control. Do you pack your kids lunches every day? Make up bags of lunch items when you get home from the grocery store and are already in unpacking mode. Get swamped with demands first thing in the morning in the office? Set aside a set time for questions, signatures, etc and then block out specific time to get things done. Put it on your calendar. If you make an appointment with a project, it has a better chance of being completed before you are dragged in a different direction.

Step three – Touch everything once. A large part of getting organized at work or anywhere means touching everything once. How much more time would you have if you just either dealt with or discarded everything you touched? Believe me it makes a huge difference.

And lastly step four – Make to do lists. Not huge overwhelming lists that make you want to run and hide. To Do Lists that give you a feeling of accomplishment without creating a sense of guilt and pressure. You’ve got enough of that already!

My personal favorite tactic for To Do Lists is to take a yellow pad of paper and draw a line down the middle. Sorry – this isn’t very green, but I have found that electronic To Do Lists are easier to ignore. On the left hand side of the line, write a list of everything you have on your To Do List right now. As new demands are made of you, add them to the right side. If anything you are adding to the right side is critical and takes precedence over the left side, put a star next to it. Complete tasks by first completing anything on the right with a star. Then complete everything you possibly can on the left. Once everything on the left is done, move on to the right side. At the end of the day, start a new sheet with a line down the middle. The list on the left should now include everything from the left that you didn’t complete plus everything on the right that got added and not completed. If you want to get really crazy about this method, put estimated time to complete next to each task.

You are able to accomplish so much. Look at you! You’re a working mom. You love your kids. You kick butt at your job. You are doing your best. Your biggest weakness right now is that you may be beating yourself up to do more, be more, accomplish more. Sit back and appreciate that you are one person. One amazing person. You will get it all done in time. Better yet – you will get the important things done in due time. Focus on your strengths and your passions and you will be the best you can be to your family’s and your company’s success.