For a mom, the job is always on, and these days, seven out of 10 mothers are also career women. So it’s no wonder “balance” is a hot topic among the maternal workforce. But has anyone ever really found that perfect work-life balance? The answer is no, and surprisingly, they’re happier for it.
The truth is mothers have been stepping up to the breadwinning plate long before the 80s made it the norm instead of the exception. The Great Depression and World War II liberated even more women from the kitchen and into the office. For instance, does the name Rose Monroe sound familiar? It should.
Better known as Rosie the Riveter, Rose became the iconic symbol for women at work everywhere in the 1940s. And, today her infamous “We Can Do It!” propaganda poster has helped idealize the idea that women can “bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan.” Similarly, TV moms like Diahann Carroll’s Julia – a 1968 show about a widowed nurse raising her young son – Elyse Keaton from Family Ties and Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show all made balancing successful careers and motherhood look easy.
Truth is, it’s not.
But have you ever wondered if the ideal “supermom” is just that – a propaganda poster or a Hollywood fantasy? If so, you’re right. And, your mind and body will thank you for knowing better!
A recent study found that while working can be good for a mother’s mental health, there is a catch. Mom’s who expect the as-seen-on-TV perfection in all areas of life are in for a disappointment and may actually be more likely to be depressed. But, somewhat ironically, “women who don’t expect to be able to balance work and family have better mental health,” says Kristina Leupp, who led the study.
And, some of the most successful business moms know it. Lisa Price, founder of the beauty line Carol’s Daughter says she knows it’s okay to not be great at everything: “The first step is admitting that you cannot do it all.” And real estate icon Barbara Corcoran admits perfect balance is “a phantom case.” But she does turn off her business line every night at 6:30 to spend the evening focused on being a mom. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, has an incredibly demanding day job, but still tries to leaves work every day at 5:30pm to have dinner with her family.
What’s the trick?
Counter balance is the real-world power these stiletto-clad supermoms possess. And they’re not the only ones finding the force. In the role of business leader, husband and father, Gary learned he couldn’t do everything. There will always be some sort of imbalance. So be prepared for things to be out of balance. His advice is to acknowledge this as a fact of life, and react quickly when something important goes by the wayside. When you get out of balance, counter balance.
For example, if you have to stay late at work on Tuesday night and miss reading to your kids, make sure to be home early on Wednesday. Not next month, or even next week. Tomorrow. This is where your true super-strength will be rewarded.
Marci Fair, a long-time mom and real estate agent, says working mothers need to realize the importance of being able to make tough decisions to lighten their load. “We may not be able to lead the work ‘special projects’ committee; we may only be able to be on the team. And we may not be able to keep our home as clean or organized as we would like,” she explains. “Find a way to ignore the dust on the hanging pendant…that really doesn’t matter anyway.”
So, as a thank you to all supermoms across the universe, here’s a quick tip list for value-added time with your family.
The nine wonders to added family-time fun
1. Teach your kids to help in the kitchen so dinnertime prep becomes a family event.
2. Stock up on make-ahead recipes for the freezer and Crockpot to shorten prep time.
3. Add the cost of house-cleaning to your monthly budget to get some extra help. Those extra hours at the office should pay for something.
4. Force yourself to unplug from work by turning your phone off when you get home from work.
5. Create a game out of household chores that involves the whole family’s participation.
6. Plan everything for your family’s day the night before for an efficient morning that allows for family breakfast.
7. Leave the kids at home once a month (with a babysitter, of course) and schedule a special night for just you and your partner.
8. Make a point to eat dinner with your family every weeknight.
9. Sign up for Cozi, an online calendar that keeps the whole family updated on important events. Have scheduled family time at least three times a week.