Tips for Working Moms: How to Balance Family and Work

The idea that a woman can have both a family and a job is heralded as one of the great achievements of the women’s movement. However, many women might be surprised to learn that mothers have been successfully balancing work and family life for centuries. The difference is that historically, women worked alongside their children, whereas today’s working moms are forced to leave their kids at home, causing many to experience feelings of stress and guilt for neglecting one, if not both, of these often conflicting obligations.

Of course, that isn’t to say working outside of the home is unnatural; what is however, is the current structure that forces women to choose between work and family. That being said, there are ways working mothers trying to balance work and children, can do so more harmoniously. Follow these parenting tips, and you'll be on your way to a more satisfying schedule.

1. Choose a workplace that is accommodating of families.

While it may not be a realistic expectation for everyone, for the most part, we have options when it comes to choosing where we’re going to work. To that end, it’s important to choose a work environment that fits with your values as much as possible. Ideally, this step would take place before becoming pregnant, but this is equally important even if you already have children. Some questions to keep in mind when considering a workplace are:

  • Does it have on-site childcare?
  • What is the commute like?
  • What are your superiors’ positions on family obligations (i.e. how would they feel about you leaving early because your child was ill)?
  • Would your employers allow you to work part-time or more flexible hours?
  • How do you see yourself at the end of the day (i.e. drained, stressed, tired)?

If you feel you are unqualified for the job you desire, consider getting additional qualifications. It may sound like a huge investment now, but it will be worth it if it helps you to feel more fulfilled.

2. Continue breast-feeding.

The benefits of breast milk for a growing baby's development are well documented, which is why it is recommended that you continue to do so for the first year of your child’s life. The problem, of course, is that it can often be difficult to get away from the office to feed your child (unless you work at home or have on-site child care). For most working mothers, therefore, the expectation is that you pump at work. However, many workplaces do not offer an environment conducive to breastfeeding. That’s why it’s important to find solutions that work for you. For example, talking to a lactation consultant or nurse midwife can help ease your mind about storage and pumping safety.

3. Leave work at work.

While it is understandable that on occasion your work life might spill over into your family one, it is important to delineate clearly between the two. If you find that you are routinely receiving work-related phone calls at home, are arriving late from work, or are having to take work home with you, it’s definitely time for a change.

Talk to you boss about delegating some of your tasks, or insist that they hire more staff so that there aren’t lingering jobs left to be done at the end of the day. If there is a problem at work you need to get off your chest, talk to your partner or a friend, so that you can move on and start enjoying your time at home.

4. Leave home at home.

For whatever reason, there always seems to be coworkers who are resentful of other employees receiving what they feel is ‘special treatment’. If you are constantly talking about your family, and getting a more lenient schedule, you may notice certain people starting to snub you during lunch hour. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to hear about your daughter’s dance recital, or son’s winning goal at the hockey game, so try to keep the family talk to a minimum, unless your work environment dictates otherwise.

In addition, try to limit the amount of time you spend thinking about your home-life while at work, as this can lead to added stress. If it’s necessary, create a slotted time each day (such as during your lunch hour), when you will allow your mind to wander onto the question of why your son is having so much difficulty potty training. Then, get back to work; you’ll have plenty of time to worry about that later on.

5. Don’t apologize for being a mother.

Many working mothers experience feelings of guilt both at home and at their jobs. This is because they are often made to feel bad about wanting to spend more time away from their work, as it is seen as a sign of poor commitment. You know this is not the case, so don’t give others reason to. Having a sick child, or other important familial commitments makes you human, not a slacker. Be direct about what you’re after, whether it’s extra time off, or a little more leeway in your arrival and departure times, and stop yourself from apologizing profusely every time you need to do so.

If you do feel that you are being discriminated against on the basis of being a mother - such as unreasonable exclusion from meetings, lack of exposure to career opportunities, or outright demotion or firing - contact the National Partnership for Women and Families, and find out exactly what your rights are.

Finally don’t forget to ask for support. Find ways for you and your spouse or partner to work together so that you don’t end being the only one to make compromises. Single working mothers may consider getting hired help, such as a responsible teenager who would be willing to run some errands for you during the week.