Women work for many different reasons. Money is not always the motivating factor. Sure, money can always come in handy. But for many women, working outside of the home brings intellectual stimulation and a sense of contributing to society, and, if they are in a relationship, it creates a greater sense of partnership and equality. Working mothers with partners often still find that many of the child-rearing responsibilities fall on the mother. And what about those ladies who do not have a partner? They have to handle the entire package all by themselves.
As I turned 35, I realized I was in a marriage that was time-limited, and I went back to school to make sure I would have a way of supporting myself and my kids. So for me, the issue of child care started before I even went to work. It’s now 25 years later, and my adult sons still occasionally remind me that I disappeared once I returned to school.. Now I am a clinical social worker with my own practice, and I help other ladies who struggle with this issue. So as a former working mom and a current psychotherapist, I offer you these tips so that you can be a successful mother and worker.
10 Tips for Working Moms
1. Create a schedule and post it so that everyone knows where they should be, when they should be there and how they are going to get there. Never keep this schedule in your head.
2. Make time to get to know other parents, even if this means that you have to leave work early a few times. Get numbers to call if you have an emergency. The number of the local taxi is not the only alternative you have. And it’s important for you to have a sense of being a part of your child’s social world. Give your number to other mothers, so they can call you if they feel they need to speak to you about a school or play issue. Exchange numbers with your child’s teacher, making sure to give him or her your cell number. In an emergency, you want to be contacted directly and not have to wait for your secretary to give you a message.
3. If you are in a relationship, take the time to sit down quietly with your partner when no one else is around and define your roles. This may be a negotiation. Don’t expect dad to have ESP and know what you want him to do. Dad benefits from your working just as you benefit from his work, and home has become a joint effort. Relationships are more complex today than ever, and roles and expectations need to be discussed, not assumed. Don’t get angry because your mate “should” have known what was needed. More than ever, it is essential that you communicate with your mate. After the kids go to bed — and before the pillow talk starts — take a moment to discuss tomorrow’s schedule so you are both clear about the coming day. Also, kids get sick and throw schedules completely off. So discuss possible contingency plans and be ready to accept that the best laid plans go awry at times.
4. Include quiet time in the schedule with the kids. Just sit and talk. Give your younger children a bath and converse with them. Make sure talk time with the older ones means no television, no music and no phone. Just the two of you every night for 10 or 15 minutes, even if it means letting them stay up a few minutes longer than you would prefer.
5. Make every possible effort to not take work stress out on the kids and your husband.
6. If your child’s school will permit you to say hello to them during the day, find a moment to make a call and let them know they are on your mind.
7. Do everything you can the night before to prepare for the morning – pick out clothes, decide on breakfast, make sure book bags are ready, any papers that need to be signed are done and anything else that can be done ahead of time is finished. A little less chaos in the morning goes a long way for a better day.
8. Children like to have lots of family. It makes them feel safe and part of a group that accepts them unconditionally. Try to call aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents at least once a week and let them speak to the kids. For the kids, being connected to family will somewhat mitigate your absence.
9. Hang your children’s work in your office and make sure they see it when they visit. You may be away, but that lets them know they are still a part of your other world.
10. Lastly, there is the issue of taking work home. If you don’t have to, then just don’t do it. But sometimes it happens. I know you will be tired, but do not work while your kids are awake, even if they are busy watching TV or doing something else. You want to be completely available to your kids when you are home, and they shouldn’t have to feel that they are interrupting if they need you. Try to ask your husband to do the same.
You have to accept the reality that your children are a part of your responsibilities. You can’t shirk a responsibility at work, and you can’t shirk a responsibility at home. Human children need to be raised; they cannot raise themselves. Their values and ethics, self confidence and self respect, and how they see themselves in the world, all come from what they learn at home. Teachers work on their intellect, while you work on their minds and hearts. It’s a job you chose to have. And, though it may not pay any bills, it should be seen as an important and essential part of your day.