A few minutes after I went into my local Starbucks for my morning ritualistic coffee, it started to rain, so I thought it better to stay and sip and read the Wall Street Journal than get my new sneakers wet. Since my normal comfy chair was occupied, I took a place at a table next to two women engaged in a lively conversation. Naturally, my ears became pointed.
I learned that they were each mothers, one new, the other with four years of experience. Their topic: How to balance the demands of motherhood with those of their job, household responsibilities and of course, still enjoy their marriage.
Being an altruistic soul, I intruded by telling them their solution.Get a copy of Erin Flynn Jay's new book, Mastering the Mommy Track: Juggling Career and Kids in Uncertain Times. Erin Flynn Jay tells the stories of everyday working mothers, the challenges they have faced and lessons learned. She also offers solutions from experts on how mothers can overcome current issues in order to lead happy, healthy lives at home and work. I got the book for my friend's daughter, a new mother. I was also lucky enough to sit down with Erin and ask her questions about motherhood.
What did your mother teach you about being a mom?
She taught me the importance of being an involved mom. She was always there for my brothers and me. Looking back, I don't have any bad childhood memories. She was loving, patient and kind. That's who I strive to be for my daughters. She taught me to be kind to others, the difference between right and wrong, and I could go on and on. Today, I continue a close relationship with my mom. I still turn to her for advice and support and fortunately, she is very involved in my daughters' lives.
I strive to be a good enough mother and not a perfect mother. My mom did the best she could for her children, herself and my father. Too many women fall into the 'perfect mother' trap where they expect to accomplish their goals immediately. It doesn't happen that way. I try to take one day at a time, and make each day as special and productive as possible.
What would you tell new moms NOT to do?
Don't overstress yourself when times are tough. Many women nationwide are in a panic mode, afraid of losing their job or struggling to find work and concerned about their family's financial situation. Career moms should realize that the economic downturn is nationwide; millions of others are experiencing the same hardships. The events happening today will turn around in the future. Their spouse will get a job in his field again, it just may take more time. Self-employed women will land new clients if they keep up the prospecting efforts.
Also, don't be so preoccupied with work or your career that you miss out on quality time with your kids. Ditch the smartphone for an hour or two each weekday so you can play with your kids or read to them. Limit the amount of TV they watch, and strive for quality interactions. Make the weekends extra special -- take them on family outings to local parks, museums or excursions. Evaluate their current daycare or preschool program to make sure it's the best fit for them.
What is your biggest Mommy challenge?
The biggest challenge I'd say is finding balance between work and home. I strive for a successful career and to spend enough time with my daughters.
I enjoy working from home and the flexible schedule so I can spend some time with the kids in the afternoon. I end up having to work sometimes in the evenings or weekends. Some clients want material written immediately, so when I'm offered work at a decent rate, I take it even if the deadline is immediate. I don't mind working at midnight if I have an enjoyable assignment.
The hurdle I face at times is replenishment of clients. When I'm busy with client work, I have little time for marketing. When business is slow, it can be frustrating. I remind myself to keep my stress level in check. Need to stay healthy to take care of the girls!
How will being a Mom twenty years from now be differrent than today?
Hopefully, employers will allow working moms more flexibility -- whether that be the option of telecommuting, working flex hours, working a compressed workweek, or going part-time. Superb technology is available today -- twenty years from now it will be even more sophisticated. I am confident moms will have the option to do more work from home to meet their deadlines and thus save time commuting or office dwelling.
With the huge growth in the availability of flexible jobs over the last several years, more working mothers seem to be trading in traditional 9-to-5 workdays in favor of flexible schedules. This will expand in the future. Employers will offer even greater flexible options in order to retain this large segment of the workforce. Let moms meet deadlines on their peak time, whether it be early morning or evening so they can have more time during the week to partake in their kids' activities.
As the mothers left, I felt gratified knowing that my recommendation would help them master the mommy track.