Slay the (Part-Time) Day
Mom guilt. We all have it.
The full-time working moms having some serious FOMO over the many activities and events in your children's lives, while burning out from all of the "added responsibilities" of motherhood once the workday is over. I see you.
Stay-at-home mamas, juggling ALL the things kid- and house-related 24/7 – a Herculean task with seemingly no breaks to be had – and maybe wishing you could find some work outside the home to contribute (and get some adult socialization in too). I see you.
For the past six and a half years, I've been you.
Life Before Kids
During my LBK (life before kids), I was a bit of a workaholic. Though I didn't know how to answer the age-old "what do you want to be when you grow up?" question (I still don't have an answer for that, btw), I didn't bat an eye when asked to put in overtime. I'd frequently bring my work home with me to plug in additional hours (often unpaid) just so I could keep afloat with multiple projects ... or just to get a brief feeling of satisfaction after getting ahead on (or better yet, completing) a project.
I've mentioned it before – though my mommy brain can't recall if it was in a post or just talking aloud to friends and family – I discovered within a week of having my second child that I'm a BETTER mom when I'm working.
Yep. No joke. In the midst of c-section recovery with a rambunctious three-and-a-half-year-old leaping around and yanking on her newborn baby sister's limbs, I knew.
I HAD to get back to work.
We'd tested out the "you should just stay home with the kids since any money you'd be making will go to daycare costs" route. (Don't get me started on how messed up our country is when it comes to rising childcare costs that make no sense in comparison to earnings!)
WHY is this mom smiling?!?
She should have major bags under her eyes
from the sheer exhaustion of it all!
I was yelling at my toddler and feeling the full brunt of postpartum anxiety. (Fun fact: I knew all sorts of facts about PPD, but never realized that PPA was a thing until my doctor diagnosed me. And, apparently, it’s a thing for many women out there.) I hated who I was becoming.
Though we'd have been in a much more stable (and sometimes happier) place if I had returned to work full-time, I desperately wanted to find a part-time job – or at least something that would allow me to take off when I needed to (better still if I could work from home a few days here and there). Because, heck, once you have any "time off" with your kiddos and/or flexibility to attend those school functions that are always conveniently scheduled mid-morning, you can't go back to how things once were.
... and I've been chasing that unicorn ever since.
Think of the Possibilities
Having the opportunity to get out in the working world again for a few hours a day has given me new insight to the life I want (no, need) at this stage in my life. Right here, right now.
I know that every mom – and every family – is different. Our circumstances are all different and we may not feel like we have the ability to change jobs or even consider any other options.
But, given the changing nature of the working world (options for telecommuting or a flex schedule, companies valuing moms and their needs more, and jobs that can be done virtually), you don't need to feel stuck.
Again, we may love the work we do
(sometimes as much as we love our kids),
but this happy scenario never really happens IRL, right?
We moms have so much to give to this world. Our professional talents (both before and after children come into the picture) are many and we have the power to take these wonderful gifts and make them work to our advantage, if we play our cards right.
You’re sitting there, shaking your head right now, aren’t you?
I swear, I’m not normally so much of a motivational speaker type – I just really happen to be passionate about this topic and want to share some insight about things I’ve learned after far too much time in the working world rat race.
I speak from many years (ahem!) of experience when I tell you this – being scared of change is normal. But allowing yourself to continue on in a position day after day, year after year, isn’t making your life any more fulfilling if you’re not enjoying some aspect of it.
I also believe with all of my being that the elusive work-life balance can be attained. This crazy thing called motherhood comes with a heaping of guilt, envy, and a host of other emotions no matter what path you choose. But, as Captain Planet has told us planeteers countless times, "The choice is yours!" (OK, he said power and not choice, but it works either way.)
Sure, compromises will be made and a few arguments and/or breakdowns will likely ensue as a result. The life you’re cultivating may not LOOK exactly as you once pictured it when you considered your career path before kids. But ladies, it IS possible.
And what's more is, as a part-time working mom, I have found that I am achieving a greater level of productivity in both my professional and personal lives without the burnout I once had … I know this post is extra-long, but hang in there. I have some “tips” for you if you keep reading.
Finding My Eleanor
Any Nick Cage fans out there?!? Remember Eleanor?
If you’re a little rusty on your Cage filmography, or have no clue what I’m talking about … or maybe you just don’t feel like scrolling IMDB to see this random reference to Gone in 60 Seconds, let me clarify.
In the movie, Nicholas Cage’s character is reviewing a list of cars that his team will be “acquiring.” When he gets to the 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500, he pauses and Donny eventually chimes in that “Eleanor is Memphis’ unicorn.” (The one that got away – the car he could never get no matter what he tried to do to boost it.)
The choice to work isn’t a "this or that" scenario anymore. You can work as much as you want (or as little) and still be slaying the mom game.
I'll be honest. I didn't buy that line for a second a few months ago.
I'd been half-heartedly applying for jobs here and there while second guessing myself and my abilities (coupled with a wicked case of grief brain that was making me panic any time I'd hit the submit button on an application) for a few years at that point.
I sat back and admired moms who were throwing caution to the wind and “just going for it!” – whatever their hearts had called them to do. They took risks and a giant leap of faith and are now following their passions and succeeding. They were (and are) inspirational to me – and Stacey and I are hoping we can have them be guest bloggers here soon so that you can see what I mean.
A few other mom friends seemed to be rocking the various aide positions within their children's school districts (e.g., playground aide, lunchroom supervisor, teacher or instructional aide, and other support staff spots).
I can see now why so many moms out there are desperately trying to get these gigs – it's a handful of hours out of the house to earn money each week and you (typically) have all the same days off as your munchkin. Win-win!
If, like me, you find that a part-time district position isn’t in the cards for you (not for lack of trying, mind you!), do not despair.
1. Sign up with a temp/staffing agency
Call it Divine intervention, a shift in the Universe, a twist of Fate, or something altogether. This November, our family was blessed with an amazing opportunity that would help me continue to improve upon my mom skills, while also helping ease the financial burden my husband's been shouldering ever since our youngest died.
For me, it was finding a staffing agency that worked for me. The ones I’d worked for in the past were OK, but they operated differently – this one put an entire team to work on finding me a part-time administrative position that I could work around a few of my daughter's commitments.
A temp job may not be something you’ve considered. Or you signed up with one, met with them to chat, and have heard very little. Keep trying! You may need to travel a bit further to get to the main office of a new place (like I did, which is why this agency wasn’t even on my radar beforehand), but the right fit is out there.
2. Negotiate your current role, or seek something better
Take a look at what you can do at your current company. Compare what you’re getting now with what the competition offers (if you like the line of work you’re in but need more flexibility).
Or check out some great companies in your area with open positions to fill to better your working situation. Working Mother puts out their 100 Best Companies list each year, with some great data – I promise, it’s worth your time to peruse.
3. Consider working remotely
The landscape of today’s job market has changed so much since when I first got my working permit and began a part-time job as a library reference page at the county library near my parents’ home.
Kelly Staffing, popular as a placement agency for temporary and/or permanent positions for years now, has a specific branch dedicated to remote work. (Be sure to review the self-reflection questions about remote jobs, as a work-from-home gig is not suited to everyone!)
Think about being a VA (virtual assistant). There are loads of companies seeking VAs! If it sounds like something you'd like to do, why not check it out?
The job search process can already be so much. But you can take some of the work out of it, by signing up with a matchmaker-like organization. The Mom Project works to “connect talented women with world-class employers that respect work and life integration” – though I haven’t followed up on any of my matches, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see what each position I’ve been matched with entails and hope to use this service more in the future.
Balancing – Not Juggling
It’s taken me almost 40 years to get here, but I’m darned proud that I’m figuring it out now and plan on using this knowledge in my not-so-distant future as well.
Here it is. Your takeaway after all of this rambling…
Having a finite work day – one that allows for all of the weekly commitments we have going on after school – has made my focus razor sharp. In truth, it's putting my perfectionist procrastination tendencies on blast. And I (finally) feel more at ease.
I’m not juggling way too many balls anymore. If something doesn’t get done, it’s because I’ve reexamined my priorities and made a choice – I haven’t dropped one of those balls and instantly felt regret or shame (or a number of other emotions) for having missed an item on an insane list.
(Singing) For the first time in FOREVER …
I feel like I am not having to choose my kid over my work or vice versa.
Yes, I'm preaching the part-time working mom thing here. But, even if you can't do that (for whatever reason – you do NOT have to justify yourself to me, mama!), I hope you’ve started considering putting yourself in the driver’s seat and setting the GPS of life to a more balanced place.