Real Talk from a Working Mom: Regain Your Sanity with Practical Advice

Posted by Joel Bennett on

By Dr. Brittany Linde

Working moms can benefit from letting go of perfection, asking for help, unwinding, and learning to say “No.”  

You already have so much to do. You may be responsible for the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry. Maybe your partner does some of the household chores; maybe it takes some nagging to move things along. Maybe you’re financially stable and choose to work; maybe you’re struggling to make ends meet and are forced to work to pay the bills. If you’re lucky, you have family nearby to alleviate the need for costly childcare. If you’re not so lucky, you might be searching for the most affordable daycare option; one with high enough standards so you are not concerned for your child’s safety. Whatever your situation is, it is not easy being a working mom. I’m not saying it’s easy being a stay-at-home mom either. Stay-at-home moms are Supermoms and should be placed on a specially-reserved Endangered Species list for devoting their livelihoods to their children. However, today I’d like to focus on the working mom.

The Working Mom A working mom is a vulnerable yet resilient creature: a workhorse, a multi-tasker, and very, very tired. She loves her family with all of her being, even when she feels as if she is all alone. Most people, who aren’t working moms themselves, don’t understand her. They may think they do, but they don’t. They will never truly understand how much she loves her children and how she longs for them when away from them. How being away from them makes her sad, but there’s no place or time to cry. She doesn’t want anyone at work to know she has weaknesses, so she internalizes her pain, and longing, and sadness. She may have anxiety and periodic depression from the weight of it all. However, due to her overly-strong constitution, she might not tell her employer (or anyone) that she needs help. She smiles through the tiredness and pushes through the day, knowing that it will all be better when her children’s’ smiling faces see her later in the day.

Practical Advice If you’re a working mom, some of the things I’ve said may relate to your life. I know you want to deny everything I’ve said; it’s in your nature. I understand you. For those of you in denial (myself included), I’ve compiled some advice that I think will help. If you’re not a working mom, keep reading. These tips will apply to your life as well. Also, I provide workshops on these tips, so please see ideas about time and health at the end of this article.   # 1) Repeat After Me: Perfection is not attainable. Perfection is NOT attainable. Perfection is not attainable. The current climate and social media in the United States constantly promotes perfection: the perfect body, the perfect car, the perfect house, the perfect job. If any of these are missing, then you should strive to right that wrong. Consume, consume, consume. Popular media reinforces these pseudo-ideals by tainting the airwaves with unrealistic expectations. But let me fill you in on something that’s very important for you to hear…. YOU WILL NEVER BE PERFECT.  Perfection is a trap and, indeed, there are gifts to imperfection. Perfection does not exist. We are all unique and, despite the standards popular media and television impose, we are exactly the people we are supposed to be. Acceptance of our natural imperfection is perhaps the most freeing opportunity we can attend to. It will relax you, clear your head, and help you breathe. Also consider that you’re taking the best action you can take, right now, in this moment… and can let the rest go.

Acceptance of our natural imperfection is perhaps the most freeing opportunity we can attend to.
So, repeat after me: Perfection is not attainable. Perfection is not realistic. I am imperfect, unique, and free to be me. Everything I do is complete, correct, and OK as is.   # 2) Ask for Help Growing up in the U.S. we are taught to strive for individual attainment. We don’t get team grades, we get individual grades. If I fail a class in school, it doesn’t affect you. You aren’t forced to go to summer school because you fail geometry. We aren’t encouraged to seek help; help-seeking is stigmatized from a young age. For example, mothers may tell children to “suck it up” when they’re injured. Similarly, teachers keep kids in class when they’re clearly ill and need medical attention. Mothers with symptoms of post-partum depression (PPD) can suffer anxiously in silence, and fail to get help. This partly because society tells mothers that they should only be happy when they birth children. Rather than isolating ourselves when we’re worried, anxious, or unhappy – Ask for Help!
  • Ask a neighbor or family member to watch your children so you can take a walk or a shower.
  • Talk to your partner, neighbor, or therapist about your sadness.
  • Hire a lawnmowing company to take care of your lawn. Grab a weekend with less chores.
  • Buy a notebook or journal; write in it when you’re feeling emotions you can’t express aloud.
  • Find a supportive group on social media that has similar ideals as you; they will encourage you, reinforce your thoughts, and provide impartial advice if you seek it.
# 3) Unplug and Unwind We live in an electronic era. When I was growing up no one had a cell phone or laptop. I got my Nokia 8210 (look it up) when I was 16 and started driving. The Nokia 8210 had two things going for it: the game Snake and it’s indestructible casing. Text messages cost $0.15 each and talk time was limited to 100 minutes per month. Needless to say, I never used it. Things are different in 2018. If you look at your cellular phone more than 10 times per day, raise your hand (seriously, do it). If you look at your phone more than 20 times per day, raise your hand (c’mon, you know you do). Raise your hand if you ignore your family and friends because you’re staring at a screen. Raise your hand if social media stresses you out, like it does many Americans. Now, I want you to do something today. Don’t do it for me, but for yourself: Give your phone to someone you trust, have them turn it off, and hide it from you. Yes, I said I want someone to hide your phone. If you have kids and worry about not being able to reach them in case of emergency, wait until you go home to do this activity. You can start with an hour or two if you’re very anxious about what I’m suggesting. Breaking a habit or, dare I say, addiction, is not easy. But (and I’m being very honest here) you’re missing out. You’re missing life. You’re not breathing the air. You’re missing the birds. You’re not experiencing your children and their growth. You’re not taking care of you. You are ignoring life when you’re absorbed into electronics. The other day I lost my phone (it ended up being in my car) and I didn’t look for it until the morning. It was the best afternoon I had in a long time. My daughter and I played in the front yard, drew shapes and pictures with sidewalk chalk, listened to airplanes overhead, ran through the sprinkler, and smiled a lot. #4) Learn to say “No” Women, in general, are “yes” people. We are accommodating; we settle for less than we deserve or are worth. But in the past few years I’ve learned a new skill that I want you to wrap your head around: learn to say no. No is a powerful word. It’s not used by working moms enough. Say no to overtime if you don’t want overtime. If your job has a problem with you saying no maybe it’s time to look for a new job. Say no to rude coworkers or people who talk down to you; you are worth being respected. Say no to your chores for one day; they can wait. Say no to working after-hours or on the weekend; the job can wait. It’s a job, not your life. Mind you, saying no takes practice and strategy to be successful. You may want to ease into it. Choose your words carefully and thoughtfully. But hold your ground and know that by saying no you are standing up for your values and your well-being. It’s not an easy task to stick up for yourself, but this simple two letter word can help you. Embrace the NO.

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Working moms, you are superheroes to your children. The advice I’ve shared is meant to be positive and uplifting. I’m here for you. There are others like me. Take care of yourself. Breathe. Communicate. Learn. Understand. You are perfectly imperfect and you are loved. If you’re not a working mom and this blog resonated with you, please share it with others. You can help to support working moms in your actions and communication. We need you to reinforce and uplift us. We are in this short life together. Let’s make it great.

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 Bonus Ideas: Workshops on Time and Health Whether you are a working mom or not, all the tips above can help you have a healthier relationship to time. At my company, Organizational Wellness & Learning Systems, we provide training and tools just for that purpose. Below is a list of some of our training programs, and what they do. I’ll be speaking about all of these at the upcoming National Wellness Conference. Please contact me at blinde@organizationalwellness.com if you would like one of these training programs for your company… especially if you are working mom!
  • Work-Life Alignment: From Work-Life Balance to an Aligned Life (A Journey of Practice). Move beyond the myth of work-life balance and power up the inner, core, values that drive who you are at work, in life, and in your future.
  • The Wisdom of Rhythm: Innovative Approaches to Promote Health, Sleep, Rest, and Work. It’s not just about healthy sleep. It’s about the whole cycle of wake, rest, sleep, and in-between times. You have a rhythm. Its time to get back in touch with it!
  • Social Savoring: Experiencing the Moment at Life’s Bookends. Above, I talked about taking time out with my daughter. Our children teach us to savor life’s precious moments. But also do our aging parents. Perhaps they are grandparents to your children. Take time to enhance social savoring for the whole family.
  • Time and Presence: The Importance of Spiritual Health to Well-Being. Every major religion and any approach to human spirituality provides deep insights on how to approach time... for well-being! There is a method to make the connection between life purpose and time in a way that is suitable for all…regardless of your religious orientation (atheists welcome!).

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