Work comes in many forms, and for some that means having responsibilities both at home and at a job. I only work part-time, but even that is enough to leave me Googling "how to balance work and motherhood" with bleary eyes at three in the morning while my little one thinks it's play time. Sometimes I wonder if my late nights playing games on my phone while pregnant somehow predisposed him to being a night owl! Yet I've found that no matter how much I work, any time spent away from my son is heart-wrenching and requires a significant amount of planning.
One of the first things I had to do upon returning to work was get organized. I don't mean I had to keep my desk clean; I had to relearn how to manage my time and develop a system. Just as "location, location, location!" is the motto of real estate agents, "routine, routine, routine!" should be the mantra of every working mother. From the minute my feet hit the floor to the minute I walk out the door, every second counts. It helps tremendously to get into the flow of a routine. I can't tell you how many times I do things without needing to think (making a bottle, packing my work bag) solely because I've gotten so accustomed to it.
I thought I was off to a great start after adopting a routine, but I learned very quickly that planning required pre-planning. When I get ready to start the week, I need to have a game plan for all the upcoming meals, both mine and my son's. If I don't make sure I have all the necessary groceries by Sunday, then I'm cutting into my time for Monday morning. A simple checklist can save me hours of busy work and wasted trips to the store.
Once I'm (finally) off to work, it's hard to change gears. Motherhood is a switch I can't turn off, and that's okay. I still find myself thinking about my son and worrying if I remembered to tell the sitter his eating schedule. This is why good communication is key. Whether it's my husband, mother-in-law, or sitter, keeping an open line of communication with them gives me peace of mind. During the times my son has been sick, I've asked whoever is watching him to check in periodically so I know he's okay. But when it's business as usual, it's understood that they would only call if it's an emergency. Having an established communication foundation is comforting when I'm away at work.
The drive home can have its own problems. They say in deep sea diving, divers must slowly transition when returning to the surface in order to avoid sickness due to changes in pressure. This seems to be a strangely accurate way to describe shifting between Work Mode and Mom Mode. I've found a significant improvement in my stress levels if I allow myself a few minutes to "decompress" when going between work and home. A surprisingly easy way I do this is to listen to one or two songs on the radio in the car and let myself breathe before exiting. It works wonders!
In the end, I've learned that there's no "finish line" in life. Being a working mother doesn't mean I have to play some impossible balancing act. It's about discovering my rhythm and finding what works for me and my family. Once I let the pressure and expectations go, everything started to fall into place. Motherhood: it's a work in progress.
This piece was originally published on Mamalode.