By Shira Scott, GalTime.com
As a working woman with a husband and four daughters, I've spent many years searching for the secrets to having it all... without going a little bit crazy.
I don't think it's possible (at least the crazy part), but I've learned that I can be an extremely happy working mom who embraces those moments of insanity that make family life the most amazing experience ever, and one that I feel blessed to have (despite the constantly messy kitchen counters and the endless loads of laundry that never seem to get done!).
It's probably why I can't wait to see "I Don't Know How She Does It" starring Sarah Jessica Parker, which opens this Friday.
How can we Gals survive the inevitable juggling act? Wendy Sachs, executive editor of Care.com and author of How She Really Does It: Secrets of Successful Stay-at-Work Moms, shares her 7 rules for being a happy working mom.
Rule No. 1: Embrace Your Identity
Know who you are and why you work. Most of us work for the money, but many more also work because they enjoy their careers and the stimulation they get from their jobs. If your job makes you feel good and also helps support your family, then feel empowered about having a career. It may not have been an easy choice, but your kids are thriving. And so are you.
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Rule No. 2: Build Your Infrastructure
The secret to most happy working moms? An organized team. And a little outsourcing. Here's what you need to make work work:
The Right Childcare
You know how you felt when you felt your partner was "the one?" Most moms with nannies or fabulous daycare centers feel the same way when first introduced. It's a connection that needs to be in place for you to succeed at work. It often takes a few tours of facilities or a month of nanny interviews before finding the best fit.
The Right Job
Feeling satisfied in your job is one of the key elements to being a successful, working parent. If your current position isn't working, try to change it. Speak to your boss, or HR director about possibly moving into a different position. Find things that excite you at your job, such as starting a challenging new project or fine-tuning an interest area.
The Right Support
Parenthood is an equal process. Yes, you might have more guilt than your spouse - and more nanny envy - but together, you and your spouse need to develop a strategy for running your household. Evaluate your strengths, your schedules and your preferences. Who does the morning routine? Who's in charge of homework? Who cooks dinner? Who does the grocery shopping, laundry etc.? Who makes the doctor's appointments, signs up for classes, and makes the play dates? If the answer is always you, then it's time to renegotiate.
Childcare isn't the only stress-inducing household chore. Cleaning the house, walking the dog, grocery shopping, planning a holiday meal. What can you outsource to ease this load? Look into the cost of a bi-weekly or monthly cleaning service, a dog walker, an errand runner. Sometimes spending money helps make life easier. Care.com will even allow you to name the price that works for your family and see who bites.
Whether it's Packing the bottles or lunches the night before, buying diapers online or creating a homework plan, Staying organized helps keep you sane.
Rule No. 3: Re-prioritize
We've all had that feeling. The minute we hold that baby in our arms, something changes. Your executive dreams get replaced with getting your baby to sleep through the night. But eventually he does sleep (and you do too) and your ambitions get back on track. They might be more on the Local Line than the Express Train. And that's okay.
Let's face it, you cannot work 15-hour days, six days a week and give your children the time they need. At the same time, you cannot be at your kids' school every day and give your clients and colleagues what they need either. It's time to list your priorities: solid job performance review? Promotion and raise within 1-2 years? Happy, well adjusted kids? Seeing the school play and all home soccer games? It sounds good to us.
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Rule No 4: Stay Focused on Who You Are and Where You Are
When you're at work, focus on your work 100 percent and when you're at home, focus on your children 100 percent.
You'll feel less guilty about the time you spend away from your children if you truly have quality time when you are with them. And be realistic. You are not with your children all the time. You will miss stuff. The fabulous nanny you hired or your superstar mom might be handling day-to-day band-aid applications and sneaking veggies into their mac-and-cheese while you're climbing the corporate ladder. But you will make sure to be there for the important stuff.
Rule No. 5: It's Okay to Take Shortcuts
You don't have to bake cookies from scratch in order to participate in the school bake sale and you don't need to coach Little League or be the president of the PTA to be involved in your children's lives. Taking shortcuts doesn't mean you have to shortchange your kids. Whether you become a weekend warrior - cramming your Saturdays and Sundays with activities and family adventures - or you start an email correspondence with your child's teacher, you can stay connected, engaged and essential in your child's life. Be creative, use technology and cut yourself some slack.
Rule No. 6: Let Go of Perfect
Realize that you may not always be the perfect spouse, parent or employee. Things will probably slip through the cracks. Being a working parent is challenging for all of us. But so is being a stay-at-home parent. And those moms aren't perfect either. In fact, no one is, even if they pretend to be. You will have good days and bad days or even good or bad weeks.
Don't compare yourself to others. Everyone else's lives always look easier than our own.
Related: Stop The Perfectionism In Your Kids
Rule No. 7: Find a Community
Having an emotional support system in place is critical to the happiness of a working mom. Care.com has an active working mom online support group, and many cities and regions have local versions. Having others to lean on and share the day-to-day conflicts with is extremely helpful when it comes to keeping you sane and happy. Know a few moms near you? Email them to see if they'd want to have dinner out one Tuesday night - after the kids go to bed. It's funny how easily the woman behind the mom can come out when the kids aren't around. And it's important to celebrate that woman too.
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