Your business partner just emailed and needs to know what you think about an important marketing decision. This Zoom meeting is lasting longer than you anticipated. Your 3-year-old daughter is banging on the door while you try your best to pay attention.
“I need a snack!” she says.
The laundry is piled on the living room couch, waiting to be folded. There are bills to pay. Another late night is in your future getting all of this done, you realize. That’s the life of a working mom, especially working moms who are trying to start a small business on their own or launch a start-up. The juggle — and the struggle — is real.
Working moms today are not just trying to do it all. They’re trying to do it all, all the time. All that perpetual juggling, though, also has very real consequences. Working mothers are incredibly productive, multi-tasking jedis, but they’re also stressed and conflicted. When they pour all of their energy into their work, they feel guilty they’re not fully present at home. When they go full-tilt toward taking care of their homes and families, they hear loud and clear the societal message that they’re not leaning in far enough professionally. Never mind making space for themselves to rest and relax. Instead, they work through their vacations and beat themselves up emotionally when they can’t keep it all together. The price they pay? A never-ending cycle of burnout, anxiety, and irritability. The price their businesses pay? Reduced productivity and increased distraction.
It’s time to redefine what success looks like for working parents. To decide to be successful means:
- Having a clear vision for what matters most to you,
- Spending the majority of your time, physical energy, and mental focus on your highest priorities,
- Developing a strategic framework for dealing with everything else that doesn’t matter, and
- Cultivating your supportive inner coach, thereby reducing the time you spend stuck in self-sabotaging stress cycles.
Business performance coaches classically guide professionals primarily on time management, a trademark skill of high performers. Performance is only one aspect of success, though, in the workplace and at home. When working moms solely focus on performance, they feed into a subconscious, society-ingrained belief that their value is most closely linked to what they do, not who they are. It’s not enough to tell working moms they can do it all if they learn to do it faster and smarter. Instead, we have to find a way for them to do less but do it effectively.
That’s why a strategic framework should include streamlining and developing efficient systems for all the non-negotiables working moms have to handle on their own but can’t stop there. It also has to involve delegating and automating, reducing physical and mental clutter, and setting personal and professional boundaries. Breaking the cycle of perpetual burnout for working moms also means empowering them to build equity with their parenting partners regarding household management and childcare responsibilities. It means teaching them exactly how to audit their time and their physical environments so they can reduce clutter and contamination in their busy schedules. It means showing them the power of mindful self-compassion. It means empowering them to be their own navigational beacons, able to make decisions when competing interests arise on their time and energy from a place of strength and presence instead of panicked inner conflict.
We don’t have to accept that, to be working parents, we also have to be exhausted and stressed. Yes, policy and culture changes that support moms well are critical to reaching this goal. As we eagerly wait for society to help us as we try to balance work and our home worlds, though, we can also take steps as individuals to flip the working parent script. It’s time to break the burnout cycle and to make a change, a change that will ultimately happen one working mom at a time.
Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP, is a board-certified, practicing pediatrician. She is the mother of 2 young daughters and lives in Portland, OR. She also holds a Master’s of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health from The University of California, Berkeley. Her newest book is “The Working Mom Blueprint: Winning at Parenting Without Losing Yourself“. Dr. Casares’ mission is to help parents win at parenting without losing themselves, especially in the baby and toddler years.