5 things you must absolutely have to make your life easy as a working mom who once thought she’d never understand stay at home parents.
As you may have read here and here, I was raised by a single working mom. As an opinionated teen I had so many questions and concerns about stay at home moms. Weren’t they bored? Weren’t they suffocating their kids? Why weren’t they using their education and intellect to fix our world? Was this all the evil doings of the patriarchy?
Staying with my god mother in Mexico right after my au pair year in Paris, I watched as she doted on her grandchildren and both of her daughters dutifully married and raised their children while their husbands worked, and her sons went off to work and become providers. I shudder now to think how I oozed with self-righteous feminism.
The PTSD my son triggered in me when he was born had me immediately questioning if I could ever leave him in anyone else’s care, and teen-Angie’s feminist questions were replaced by near opposites. Every minute I spent away from my son as a baby after 16 weeks of maternity leave (a privilege in the US but meager time) was excruciating and my job I once loved now felt meaningless. Baby and maternity leave number two was the opposite experience, but I had 6 months to spend with baby, a job and team I adore, and the support of my mom and an au pair living with us.
Still, nothing in life is more humbling than becoming a mother. I now fully understand the benefits of dedicating your spirit fully to raising your little ones. Further challenging teen feminist Angie, my biological children were both born to their gender roles of what my sister calls BamBam and Pebbles—the rough and tumble boy who loves all trucks, and his sweet sister made of sugar and spice who adores dolls.
Every step of parenting has continued to show me the importance and value of caregiving and of mothers who’s work is systemically undervalued in our society. My breastfeeding journey also underscored the biological necessity (in previous generations) of women staying home with babies, and the necessity of women’s only camaraderie (along with a few special men) to share the survival wisdom needed for those early months.
Only you know what kind of life you want for yourself and what will make you most fulfilled. Don’t follow any advice that doesn’t resonate with you, whether it is putting your kids in a daycare or school that doesn’t feel right, sleep training or not, breast or bottle, purée or BLW. Do what feels right to you and the rest will come.
As a result of COVID era remote and hybrid work plus working with a global team I now have the ultimate flexibility and structure to where I can fully say I would not be satiated and stimulated enough without extensive work outside the home.
From my life as a working mom in tech with a full house and a fuller google calendar, here are my tips for making it all work as a working mom.
It would be absolutely impossible to work, write, play music, raise worms, get disgusted with my worms, throw away a worm farm, expand a real estate portfolio, etc without a husband that was 100% supportive. Choose a partner who loves you for who you are, not in spite of it and is genuinely invested in your happiness and satisfaction. No one is perfect and you will need to constantly align on these priorities and communicate what support you need and want from them.
I am so lucky to not only have my mom close by but in my house. Yes we could do it all alone but it’s better when your family is present and aligned to your goals. Not everyone has this luxury, but we can all find family by choice to fill the gaps. Use parent groups on social media (like Austin Working Moms) or other family meet ups to make friends with other families that share your hobbies, interests, and values.
Supportive Work Culture
They say people don’t leave a company, they leave a boss. That was certainly my last career hop. My manager wouldn’t tolerate me being “on silent” during my son’s naps during COVID-19 pandemic. Now I work on a team where not only do my manager +3 levels have babies and toddlers but I am 100% empowered to set my own schedule, collaboration hours, etc to integrate my work into my life however is most effective for me. I wish this for everyone, but at a minimum advocating for your personal boundaries is one way to get this. It can sound like “I cannot meet after 4:30 as I have to go pick up my son, but I will review your proposal tonight after he goes to sleep.”
2. Role Models
I am so lucky that my sister is a whole 16 years older than me so I got to watch the amazing results of her working mom journey. She taught me to be selfish (listen to and prioritize my needs), play the long game (don’t get caught up in transactional parenting), focus on connection, and to treat children with respect. Based on those four principles and may I say a delightful gene pool, she is raising one of the most talented, unique, intelligent people on the planet that I am proud to call my niece. I work every day to emulate these amazing qualities and you must find role model moms to help guide you.
I don’t mean this the way most parenting blogs and books refer to, I mean a routine with your partner and your team at work. My husband always does breakfast and lunches and drop-offs. I always do afternoon pickups and dinner except when things are boiling over at work and I’m spoiled to have my mom to help. Once a week, we take all three kids and wreak havoc on Costco/Whole Foods all together. We don’t necessarily have set schedules for many things, but loose routines based on seasons, sports, and other needs that we know we can count on. I need this consistency as a working mom, and being able to communicate these routines to my team at work ensures they know when they can and cannot reach me and how to plan working together.
No, I don’t mean watching my kids at home during the work day as a working mom. That is a disservice to your sanity, your career, and your children so don’t plan to do this unless you have to. When you work until 5, rush to get kids and get them fed and bathed and into bed by 8 (or earlier if you’re lucky) you won’t have time to do everything at once. Tonight I l lured my son into a shower with me using a popsicle so I could 1) get myself clean, 2) get him clean to remove today’s face paint from school, 3) use the sensory experience of mixing cold popsicle and hot water to calm him, and 4) have time to connect and bond and be silly. It’s hard to have dedicated time for each activity, and the more people in your family the more you have to multi-task these needs! If you’re working from home, you might fold laundry while listening to a Q&A, or watch a recording of a meeting you missed while you lay next to a kiddo falling asleep. Yes, I strive to be present and dedicate 100% of energy and effort to work and family activities, but using the 80/20 rule I give myself the flexibility to multi-task around 20% of the time.
The final and invisible support for me is privilege. My experience as a working mom is SO different from my mom’s. She had my sister for support, but my sister needed to be living her own life as much as possible. She didn’t have two incomes to throw money at other problems and we ate so many coupon dinners from Burger King at Mr. Gatti’s Pizza both because working and studying there was little time or money for anything else. I’m relatively young and pretty and well-spoken with no accents, physical disabilities, or neurodivergence to account for. My privilege doesn’t negate the struggle of having a super high-needs son, a boisterous baby, a teen, plus an amazing job I love and want to pour myself into, while trying to build generational wealth, stay in shape, have fun, maintain my marriage, be around for my mom and sister, etc. etc. etc. But each layer of societal oppression is another hurdle for another working mom to face. To support and uplift other working moms we have to acknowledge each other with the levels of privilege and intersectional oppressions we face—especially beyond just “the patriarchy” that teen Angie thought was behind all of it.
Hybrid and distributed work has made me a mom that works in and out of the home. My mothering journey has made me a mom that sees and honors the value of moms who dedicate themselves to their children exclusively. Whichever lifestyle works for you, I’m here to support you and uplift your journey too, mama.