On and off for the last 11 years I was largely a stay-at-home mom. I did work a few different jobs after college graduation but found it utterly painful to think about how to balance a career and my young, large family. Work was not my focus for almost 10 years, and I loved being home with my boys. The flexibility in my day and chance to be there for every “first” was irreplaceable and I am forever thankful for that time.
But during my last pregnancy in 2018, I found myself feeling different about being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). My two oldest were in elementary and my third was a sassy toddler who was defiant and exhausting. I was becoming more and more frustrated with my stay-at-home role. For almost a year I searched job boards, even brushed up a resume. But I still hoped the feeling of doing something different would go away, and I would find my excitement and passion for staying home again.
Well, I didn’t. I instead found myself drawn to working outside of the home again.
So in March 2019, when my youngest of four boys was five months old, I submitted my resume for a job that peaked my interest. A few interviews later, I nervously accepted a full-time position for the first time since 2014. The first few months were kind of exciting. I got dressed and did my hair more, I had other people take care of my children, and I had income…yippie!
But the excitement and new work/home routine was draining.
And sooner rather than later I was rethinking my choice to go back to work, wondering how sustainable this would be in the long-term. This was further challenged when I began working from home.
But I was able to figure it out and in March 2021, I crossed the two-year mark of being back to work full-time. And I want to share my “why” on what helped me hang on and push through.
Why I Wanted to Return to Work
The best thing that has happened to me mentally and emotionally revisiting my career was feeling valued by other adults outside my family, and being challenged in positive ways.
Y’all, I had a brain! And it worked! I could do things above and beyond butt wiping and meal prep!
Seriously though, I have gained a lot of confidence through my full-time job. It has been rewarding to see people who value my thoughts and the work that I do. And the confidence I built has fueled my motivation to continue. Even though I was exhausted, and many nights still am, I keep going and not just survive, but thrive in my position. This past January I won Rookie of the Year for my Sales team!
I did it, y’all. I proved to my biggest critic (myself) that I could be successful outside motherhood!
3 Tips I Learned as a Working Mom (again)
No matter how much confidence, passion, or motivation mothers feel from working outside the home, we are still pulled in 85 different directions. And the weight of our children and family’s needs can make this balancing act feel heavy. Here are some tips to consider while handling the day-to-day responsibilities at home along with a full-time job:
1. Ask for Help
Whether it is grocery delivery, a house cleaner, a spouse prepping dinner, or kids folding laundry, ask for help. I tried to be superwoman when I first went back to work full-time. It worked for a few months, and then I hit a wall. Feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, I needed to either remove tasks from my plate or simplify the ones that others couldn’t do.
I started ordering groceries online to skip the store trips.
I have also worked to get my family more involved in chores around the house. I’ve started doing demonstrations on Friday nights to get my boys into gear with helping. Here me out, it’s a little crazy I know, but I literally gathered my boys around our dining room table and taught them how to fold their clothes. Now I throw those clothes into a basket and have folding party a few times a week to keep up on laundry for six. Get your kids and family to help. They can do it!
2. Just Say No
Say no to things that do not serve you or that just add too much to your plate. There were lots of projects and groups I enjoyed being part of when I stayed home, that I no longer had time for with a full-time job.
Working full-time and spending time with my family became my two biggest priorities. And I had to let go and say no to things I used to say YES to. Most people understand and don’t take it personally, but it’s important to set up boundaries so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Rest and recuperation is important when it is so limited, so give yourself that grace to relax and unwind too.
3. Adjusting Expectations
Part of saying no also means adjusting your expectations. One thing I needed to deal with was the fact that my house was messier than before. Sometimes I had to grab a to-go dinner instead of a homemade meal. And overall, I needed to adjust my internal expectations and prioritize. I learned what needed to be done versus what I wanted to be done.
I had to just let some things go and this was the toughest thing for me to learn. I really thought that doing it all would fall into place. It didn’t. And I have learned that my mental health is more important than a freshly mopped floor. Get used to imperfection and roll with it. If you are a control-freak like me, it’s icky and uncomfortable, but good to let go of some small details that were a big deal in my world before.
Advice for Taking the Leap
If you are toying with the idea of going back into the world to work outside the home, here are a few things to take into consideration:
- Figure what you are looking for. Find a good fit for your family’s needs and see what’s out there. The better the fit, the happier you’ll be. And worst case scenario: if the fit isn’t right, you can go back to that drawing board!
- Be picky if you can. I realize that this isn’t possible in every career, but make sure you interview your potential employer as they interview you. Do they encourage time off? Do they expect you to answer emails and calls outside working hours? Are there perks for families to support them? See how your potential employer views work/life balance as well. Don’t just look for employers that “okay” with motherhood, find an employer who embraces it.
- Find friends inside and outside of work. One of the best things about my full-time job has been making new friends, especially mom friends. You’re in the trenches together and suddenly this whole job and raising a family things seems less lonely. They get it, you get it. Find friends that are living the same kind life as you, and lean on each other for support and camaraderie.
Getting back out in the workforce is a huge transition and I hope these tips help!