Striking a Balance
by Kristina Cappetta
As a mother it feels as though you are always walking a tight rope, trying to strike a balance between maintaining your career and your title as “mom”. At any moment if you take one too many steps in either direction, you’ll fall off and something or someone will suffer.
It’s a delicate balance that many of us are constantly trying to figure out, myself included. In the process we can start to feel guilty that we’re putting our career before our child or on the other end of the spectrum, depriving ourselves of having a career because of our children. It can feel like either way you need to choose and you can never “have it all” as so many of us have heard countless times before.
I don’t think it’s a case of “having it all”. It’s more a case of striking a balance. In doing so, I think you need to accept the fact that you’ll have to make compromises on both sides. You can’t expect to work forty hours a week in an office and still make it to every school assembly, soccer practice and dance recital. If you do, then kudos to you and please share your secret! You must be drinking some serious caffeine or have a superhero cape in your trunk!
In reality, you need to determine how much you’re willing to give on each side in order to strike your personal balance. What works for someone else is not going to work for you. We all have different family structures, different schedules, different expenses…different everything! Despite all of our differences we all have one thing in common. We all want to raise our kids and be there for them as much as possible without losing our own identities. Am I right?
With that said, I learned (I think) how to strike a balance that works for me and my family. It’s something that’s constantly changing and something I still work towards each day.
Rewind seven years.
I worked a 40-hour-a-week, high-paced, fairly high-stress job outside of the home after my first daughter was born. I was fortunate enough to have family around to watch her so I avoided the crazy daycare costs. I was going to work at 4:30 in the morning just so I could be home with her in the afternoon. Some may argue the schedule was great because I did have my afternoons off. But when you wake up at 3:45 every morning, you don’t feel like taking care of a baby at one o’clock in the afternoon. You are exhausted! But, you just keep swimming.
While we made this work, I constantly felt as though I was missing something. I wasn’t the first face she saw in the morning. I wasn’t there to put her down for naps. I never knew if I was going to be there for the “first” whatever when it happened. It was a crap shoot…one that I constantly kept losing.
Fast forward two-and-a-half years to when my second daughter was born. Even before she was born I begin to feel as though I wanted a change career-wise. This made me question my return to my job after my maternity leave. While I had all of this going on in my head, someone asked me, what is your passion? What do you enjoy doing above anything else? For me the answer was easy. It was writing. I wanted to write...all the time. It really didn’t matter what, just give me my computer and a fresh cup of coffee and my day was made.
Could I stay home and somehow make money writing? During my maternity leave I began researching work-from-home jobs, specifically writing gigs. I quickly learned you had to kiss a few frogs before finding your prince, meaning that you had to take some low-paying gigs and build a portfolio before you were even looked at for the gigs where you could actually make money.
I was okay with this because I felt like doing this type of work would allow me to strike my balance. I would be home more to raise my daughters, without losing my professional identity! Yes, it did mean a cut in pay. Yes, it meant not having a traditional work schedule. But, I think something has to give at one time or another.
As you look to strike your balance, write a list of the areas you’re willing to make concessions in and the ones you are not. This can help you decide what’s right for you. Like I said, what works for your best mommy bud is not going to work for you. Once you have this list, let it serve as your road map to make other decisions.
Consider the following:
If your job does allow a work-from-home option, take advantage of it. More and more companies are seeing the cost-saving benefits of allowing their employees to work from home. In my opinion it’s a win-win for both sides.
Other companies allow flex-options, allowing non-traditional 9-5 schedules or 4-day work weeks. Things like these can also help to strike a balance and give you more family time without sacrificing your career.
If these are not options, then you need to strike a balance in other ways. This could mean trying to bring office work home so you can do it when the kids are asleep, giving you time to spend with them when they’re awake. Again, this is contingent on the rules at your job. If your job doesn’t already offer any of the options mentioned, it doesn’t hurt to propose them. You never know what could happen!
Now that both of my girls are in school full-time, I couldn’t be happier with my choice. Working from home and essentially being my own boss helps me strike the balance I need that works for my family. Although many people still think I sit home and eat bon-bons all day, the reality is I do work from home. Just because I don’t put on fancy clothes and drive to an office, doesn’t mean I’m not working.
Yes, having a flexible work-from-home job can be a luxury. But, it can also mean staying up until midnight just to get a job done so that I can chaperone my daughter’s field trip the next morning and then coming home that night and doing the same thing all over again. It’s all about making compromises to strike that balance.
The most important thing is to keep your eye on the prize. It takes time to find the happy medium. Even then it’s not all rainbows and unicorns, but at least there are fewer cloudy days.
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