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Beyond “Having It All”: Advice to Working Moms from Working Moms

September 11, 2015

In recent years, the conversation around working motherhood has often focused on the (now trite) question: Can women really have it all?

Honestly, we don’t even know what “having it all” means, but we do know that every working mom has crucial wisdom to share about balancing the demands / joys of work and family life. Below, we’ve gathered nine insights from ladies who are leading by example—and learning as they go.

“Do not judge others; do not worry if they judge you; and most of all, don’t judge yourself. Some moms work all the time. Some not at all. Some part-time. I’ve done a little of each at different points in my life. I’ve also learned not to care about what other people think of my choices. I know that I’m not happy if I don’t have the mental stimulation of work. If I am not happy, I can’t be as good a mother to my children. It’s as simple as that. Other mothers—and even a teacher—have occasionally been judgmental about the number of hours my children spend in after-school programs. I had to learn not to get sensitive about that, and to push back if necessary.”
—Daniella K., attorney

“You are not abandoning your child by going back to work. The best example I feel I can set for my son is being happy and fulfilled; and for me, work is necessary to achieve that. Be proud you’re showing your child(ren) that mom is also working for the family. And ask for what you need to be successful at work. Whether it’s a flexible schedule, a mother’s room, childcare on site—ask. You are worth retaining and worth making happy.”
—Erica H., tech professional

“Build a network of empathetic working moms around you who are willing to listen, give hugs, pick up your kids from daycare, and/or pick up your breast milk when you forget it in the office kitchen. We need to have a crew of supportive women around us who know what we’re going through—how hard it can be some days and how joyful it is on others. Once you have done it and start to feel a little more sane, give that support back to other moms around you who are figuring it out and need your help. That way, we’re building a cycle of kindness and empathy for each other that makes this whole crazy experience sustainable.”
—Alia L., tech professional

advice to working moms

“The to-do list never ends. It shifts, but it never ends. When you first reconnect with your family after work, don’t speak about work or anything else that needs to be done—even stuff around the house—for at least 15 minutes. Each time I have remembered this, sweetness happens. Each time I have forgotten, temper tantrums arise, harshness and resentment grows. There must be hugging, reconnection—the transfer from doing to being.”
—Ingrid M., small business owner

“Unplug from the iPhone when you’re around your kids. Live in the present. Nothing takes away joy faster than comparing your life to others’ blog and Instagram posts. Your baby is perfect because it is yours. If you love your child, you are doing a great job as a mom.”
—Megan O., interior decorator and blogger

After maternity leave, return to work with a couple of vacation days available to you. This isn’t always possible, but I think the transition back to work can be difficult. Not having a vacation day to call in when you return can make work feel interminable.”
—Rebeka P., attorney

“You will discover efficiencies in your life that you didn’t know existed (and didn’t really need) before children. Allow motherhood to help you put everything in perspective. What kinds of things did you allocate mental energy to that you no longer have time/space for? Losing five pounds? Trying to keep up with the Jones’s? Allow yourself to mentally purge and reestablish what’s truly important to you.”
—Erica H., tech professional

“Do not give in to the pressure of having to do it all. And do not buy into the myth that you can do it all. If you try, you will fall short in everything. If you are giving your best to one area, another is going to suffer. They key is making the right priorities for the moment. You can’t have it all at any given moment, but you can have it all in life as a whole. What ‘all’ is depends on the individual. In this context, it includes career, children, and self. For some, it also involves spouses, other family and friend obligations, important hobbies, etc.”
—Kesha J., attorney

“Don’t seek advice (particularly medical advice) from parenting listservs! They can offer up opportunities to become a member of a greater community—which is really important as a new parent—but getting advice off of them is like using Google to self-diagnose. Seek advice from a good friend who has kids, talk to your pediatrician, check in with your mother or aunt—but don’t consult the listserv.”
—Rebeka P., attorney

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Elle Stephenson is a writer based in New York City. Read more of Elle's posts.

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