Top 12 Must-Read Tips for Working Moms by Jeneration PR Founder, Jen Berson, first appeared on Babble.com.
Being a mom ain’t easy. Being a working mom is especially hard, but also extremely rewarding. I’m not gunna lie: I would have hard time walking away from my career and the company I worked so hard to build, in order to focus solely on raising my kids. Being a stay at home mom just would’t work for me. Amen to you for making the powerful decision to return to work after your baby comes. You are awesome! Here are my must-read, stay-sane tips for new working moms:
1. Believe in the Power of Sleep Training – Most babies 4 months and older have the ability to sleep for 12 hours, in other words, straight through the night. Yes, you read that right! Consult your doctor to make sure the time is right, then load up your kindle with sleep books, pick a strategy that resonates with you, and stick with it. For me, the book that helped get both of my sons sleeping through the night and napping consistently was Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Marc Weissbluth, M.D. It takes a few challenging (ok, painful!) nights, but the results are so worth it. Being well-rested will make you feel like a person again!
2. Pump Breast Milk Early & Often –If you’ll be nursing, save up a store of milk when your supply is highest so you’ll have enough milk to feed the baby when you return to work. Sure, you’ll be pumping at the office, but the pump yields a lesser volume than the baby drinks. Also, as he gets bigger and drinks more, your supply tends to wane. Store-up as much milk as you can in those early days when your supply is abundant, and be sure to label each bag with the date you pumped and the number of ounces. Frozen milk = Freedom!
3. Praise & Encourage Dad’s Efforts – Let’s face it, nobody will do everything exactly the way you do it. But the more you encourage your husband to be involved, the more support you will get with the baby. Translation: more time for yourself. Win-Win! Men want to be helpful, but sometimes they don’t have the same instincts that you have as a mom. A little praise goes a long way. And a little nagging or criticism may just shut the door on your biggest helper.
4. Make Time for Yourself –I mean it! Schedule some me-time whether it’s a workout, a night out with the girls, an hour for a manicure… You may think you don’t have time to do it, but it’s important to make the time and ask for support with your baby in order to get out once in awhile. I joined a Stroller Strides class at a park near my house and committed to going a few mornings a week with a mommy friend. When my kids were a bit older, I fell in love with The Bar Method. I would add these classes to my schedule two times a week, and missing them “because I was too busy” was not an option. Just those two hours a week to myself to focus on my body and mind did so much for my overall well-being and confidence, not to mention how it helped lose the extra baby weight! Make time to reconnect with what you enjoyed doing before children. Remember, you are the glue holding your family together, so everything will run more smoothly when mommy is relaxed, recharged and refreshed. An hour to yourself here and there has magical healing powers!
5. Mommy & Me Isn’t Just for Your Baby – Find a support group of like-minded moms with babies of similar age, and keep an open mind, giving the relationships with other moms time to develop. I started a class with my older son when he was three months old, and the moms I met in the group are some of my closest friends to this day. Through my experience in this class seeing other babies who were the same age as my son, I was also able to identify my son’s developmental delay, which was easily treated through physical therapy. The moms in the class provided a great support system for this and other milestones we all were facing with our little ones, like feeding, sleep training, separation anxiety, etc. Even when you go back to work, make time for Mommy & Me class, as you learn so much from other moms who are all dealing with the same age-appropriate issues. It is so important to have a network of women going through the same parenting trials and tribulations that you are.
6. Prioritize and Organize – Working moms are some of the most productive people I know because they prioritize and focus. Planning out your day, your week and your month goes a long way in staying on top of everything. Use the internet to get regular diaper deliveries, order groceries and buy clothes so that you can accomplish these tasks on your own time. Amazon Prime for diapers and Amazon Fresh for groceries are a godsend to a working mom! Make lists and plan the night ahead when your kids are asleep so that you aren’t running late in the morning as you get you and your family organized for the day on your way out the door. I will even stick post-its to the garage door, so I will be sure to see them as I’m heading out in the morning. The lunch you so carefully packed the night before is of no use if you forget it sitting in the fridge.
7. Trust in Those Who You’ve Entrusted With Your Children – Whether it’s a spouse, mother-in-law, nanny or daycare center, have confidence in the people you are relying on to look after your children. Nobody will do things exactly the way you do. Sure, your child’s socks might be mismatched, or she might be wearing clothes that you’ve never seen before (where DID that “Mommy’s Lil Helper” onesie come from anyway?), or her diaper could be a little loose for your liking. But who cares? Worrying is unproductive. As long as your child is safe, cared for, happy and relatively clean, that’s all that matters.
8. Set Boundaries – Set boundaries for home and work and stick to them. Also, don’t feel the need to apologize for the boundaries you set. For example, my workday ends at 6 p.m. when our nanny leaves. From then until 8 p.m., I am with my kids, cooking and eating dinner, giving baths and finally tucking them in for bedtime. During this time, work takes a backseat while I am focused on family. After the kids are down, I can check back in on any unfinished tasks for the day, wrap-up email and prepare for the next day. My clients understand the schedule I have set and know that I’m focused on family between the hours of 6 and 8 p.m. Most people will respect the boundaries you set if you get your work done. Most won’t even notice…
9. Go Easy on Yourself – Banish guilt! Self-imposed guilt is not productive. Parenting is just like anything else in life; hardly anyone gets it exactly right on the very first try, and practice truly makes perfect. Trust your instincts, as you are your own best measure. Do what feels right to you, not what others are doing. And most importantly, be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over the little things. If you leave the house without enough diapers, you can always stop and buy more. If your baby cries an entire flight, you’ll never see the other passengers again. It’s easier said than done, but stressing doesn’t change anything.
10. Preserve Memories & Milestones That Matter – Time passes so fast with a new baby. Pick one thing you will do to catch the important moments, and stick to it. Get everyone else who may be caring for your child on board. For example, for my older son, we keep a quote book that I made on Paper Coterie and write down all of the smart and funny things he says, including the date and his age. Our caregivers always let me know his clever quotes throughout the day, and we’re sure to record them in this journal. Other milestones to track are the sleeping and napping hours, first words, when baby ate his first foods and what the reaction was, etc. There’s even an app called One Second Every Day for capturing a quick video glimpse of baby’s growth and change every day. Having everyone signed on to track these milestones that matter will make you feel that you haven’t missed out when you come home and see the little things written down and recorded.
11. Rely on Technology, (but know when to shut it off)– Ask your caregiver to send texts, photos and videos throughout the day. You could even have a virtual lunch with your kids via Skype/FaceTime. Even though you’re at your desk, you can still get some quality time talking, singing and laughing with your little one. While it may not be as good as being there, you’ll feel connected to what your child is doing throughout the day. On the other hand, when you are home from work and with your child, remember to be present. Commit to having quality time with your baby without texting or technology getting in the way. I never take calls while I’m in the car and will instead use the time to talk to my sons about things we’re seeing on the freeway, things they learned at school, what I plan to make for dinner that night, etc. Your children will model themselves after you as they grow-up, so pay attention to your child when she is talking to you, make eye contact with her, and make her feel like she is important by focusing on her when you’re together. Kids realize when you’re just pretending to be present–step away from the smartphone and make them the priority.
12. Work-Life Balance May Be a Myth: Some people may truly feel balanced in their work and their personal lives, but I honestly don’t know too many. I made a career switch eight years ago from law to PR, hoping to ultimately have more balance in my life and for the chance to spend time with my kids when I ultimately became a mom. While it’s never easy to get everything done, and I find myself working hard all of the time, I do feel that I have found more of the balance I was seeking and am very lucky to have a career where I’m still able to be part of my young children’s lives. But I realize that things are generally not perfectly balanced, and I try hard to be ok with that. Sometimes work will be more demanding, and other times the pendulum will swing the other way, and family becomes the priority. The goal should not be “balance,” but instead you should always try your best to be focused on whatever task you are working on at that moment. Say “no” strategically, and try not to allow the angst or guilt weigh you down. Change your perspective on what balance means, and instead seek happiness and celebrate the peaks and valleys, as they are all opportunities to learn. Appreciate the unique position you are in as a working mom to get the best of both worlds.