I’ve been a working mom for over two years now. I knock out a 40-hour workweek, usually some side work hours as well, and call myself Mom 24/7. I’ve always prided myself on this. It’s been a part of who I am for the past two years.
But I don’t want to be a “working mom” anymore.
There, I said it.
I love what I do, I love the kids I get to work with every day, but it’s been harder and harder for me to walk out of the door on my own kid every morning.
I thought it would get better at each stage. I thought when I was done pumping at work it would be better. I switched to a four day work week, I thought that extra day would make it better. I know it’s different for everyone, but MY reality is that nothing made it better, I want to be home with my crazy, awesome two-year-old.
So what do I do? My family isn’t in the place right now, financially, to allow for me to stay home. Hi, student loans.
I’ve exhausted pretty much all work from home options, but I work in the mental health field. My job is to meet with people face to face every day.
I don’t have the solution right now, but if you’re like me, a “working but I wish I could be home with my kid(s) mom,” here are some strategies that help me throughout the week.
Weekend organization. I have to work in a few hours of meal prep, grocery shopping, cleaning, and laundry each weekend. I know myself; if it doesn’t get done on the weekend, it will lead to starvation and insanity throughout the week. Getting organized for the week on the weekend lets me have every afternoon and evening with my family during the week, and that is a huge, daily mood booster.
Take full advantage of your PTO. It’s very hard. If I take a day off, I usually have twice the kids to see the next day. There’s no one else to do my job when I’m not there, but I know the secret to my sanity is setting boundaries. That means I schedule in days off, I don’t check work emails when I’ve scheduled time off with my family, and I don’t leave any hours on the table. I average my days off out by quarter. If I’m getting close to the end of the quarter and there are hours to use, I’m penciling in personal time, letting others know in advance, and learning not to feel guilty about it.
Learn to say no to others. Speaking of boundaries…I set them for my personal life as well. Work is not an option right now, family is not an option. What is optional for me are the extras. I’m careful to schedule our weeknights and weekends. I’ve learned to say, “we would love to, but it’s not going to work out this weekend.” We pick one or two things to say yes to each weekend, first-come first-served, everyone else gets a ‘no thank you.’ I know that if we run and run all weekend, I’ll feel like I missed out on time with my son come Sunday night. We prioritize our family of three.
Quality time. When I am home, I try to be very conscious of my son’s awake hours. I include him in simple chores that need to be done, I put my phone away, I save the work from home tasks for after he goes to bed if at all possible. I know I have about five hours with him each evening and I try to make those count.
Overcompensate all you want! On the days I do have with my son, pretty much anything goes. Donuts for breakfast? Let’s go. Children’s Museum all day? Let’s do it. I’m perfectly aware that I tend to overcompensate when I am with him. I see other SAHM’s doing all the fun activities throughout the week, and I feel guilty that I can’t be there to spend that time with him. I know he doesn’t know the difference, but I do. Planning a day off work to hit up one of our favorite Indy spots is always something I look forward to.
Lastly, I give myself grace. Whether getting out of the house every week is right for you, or you would rather be home full/part-time. It doesn’t change the fact that being a full time working mom is HARD WORK. If we eat out one night of the week, I enjoy it. If someone gets upset with me for skipping an activity over the weekend, I don’t give it a second thought. I skip a workout if extra snuggles are needed in the afternoon, and I allow myself the space to make mistakes because working and momming is a lot to juggle each week.
Until I can add SAHM to my resume, I’m prioritizing and enjoying every minute that I do get to spend with my son.