Can Your Job Make You a Better Mom?

Neurosurgery nurse Ashley Walling was exhausted and overwhelmed after giving birth to her son, Connor, with Down syndrome. Already mom to daughter Caroline, she couldn't image returning to work while also managing life at home, especially since her husband is a fireman with 24-hour shifts.

By working out a schedule with her husband, leaning on her sister and mom for sporadic help, and adjusting her work days with her employer, Ashley was able to find a way to make it all work. It also turned out that getting back to work was just the therapy she needed. Here are 5 ways she made it work.

1. I get support from others.
I was scared to go to a support group after Connor was born. I didn't know what to expect. But it was a relief to find other moms of kids with Down syndrome who knew what I was going through; they helped take away my fear. Now, with the stress of Connor mainstreaming into a regular kindergarten, I'll have these moms to lean on again.

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2. I carve out time with my kids.
Fitting in big outings, like ice skating, is tough; I realized that spending special time with my kids could be easier. When Connor naps, I play cards with Caroline or draw pictures with her. On a day off, I might have lunch with Connor at school, where I volunteer. My sister gave me great advice. She said, "When you volunteer, pick jobs that allow your kids to actually see you." So I help out at the book fair, go on class field trips, or read a story in one of their classrooms. My kids' faces light up when they see me there.

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3. I'm open to advice.
I appreciate when someone who knows me well points out something in my life that needs fixing. Last year, my sister told me I wasn't paying enough attention to Caroline because I was devoting so much time to Connor's needs. I was angry at first, but once she broke it all down, I knew she was right.

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4. When I'm working, I give 100%.
I work my butt off: In one day, I can see more than 50 patients, and in between, I try to do prep work for upcoming days. I might come in a little early, and work through lunch. I'm mindful of what needs to get done by the end of the day - I don't want to leave extra work for the nurse who's covering me. This keeps everyone around the office feeling positive about my part-time status.

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5. I put myself first sometimes.
With doing so much for everyone else, I felt like I was falling apart last year. I was always stressed and getting headaches. I told myself, If I want to be the best mom and wife I can be, I need to take care of myself. I started walking for exercise, which made me feel better. And monthly massages ease the tightness in my neck and shoulders and help me sleep. Some people think, That's such a luxury, but with my life, it's a necessity.

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Is a work/home balance something that works for your family? How do you make time to have a career without taking away from valuable family time?

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.