How I hit a record performance in my first year as a working mom
My colleagues and friends will tell you that compromise has never been my strong suit; I’ve always believed in either doing something to the absolute best of my ability or not doing it at all. Throughout my career that has led to working 60+ hour weeks, never taking a full day off, and consistently pushing myself to be the best I can be.
After my first born, I continued to find success. I actually (shocking even myself!) had my highest earning year ever. All it took was an exhausting amount of dedication, sleepless months, a very careful balancing act, and a well-established support system. Simple enough, right?
Of course sacrifices had to be made, but I decided that neither my career nor my relationship with my daughter would be compromised. Instead of sacrificing my job, I expanded my life.
I’m now pregnant with my second child and struggling to prepare for the demands of two children, a challenging career, and a husband who travels 24/7. How can I best take care of my daughters, excel professionally, and continue to support my family? Here’s what has helped me survive the past two years and I am open to suggestions about how to survive with two kids!
1. Find yourself a trusted caregiver
When I first returned to work I had only one thing on my mind – will my child be okay without me? And in absence of a trusted nanny or partner, I’d have continued to experience that stress and uncertainty indefinitely.
The #1 thing I did for my career was hiring a loving, trustworthy, competent nanny to help with my child. When she left my family for a short while, and we had to manage with a series of replacements, I found it almost impossible to focus on my job. I’d spend the entire day thinking about my daughter, wondering about her well-being. With “Maria” around, I have the peace of mind necessary to succeed at work.
That’s what a great caretaker does for you – they give you the confidence you need to fully devote your time, energy, and mental capacity to your job during the day, and to fully engage with your child in the evenings and weekends.
2. Use sleep deprivation to your advantage
Yes, waking up multiple times throughout the night isn’t ideal. Had I the choice, I would likely forego this part of child rearing. Yet it’s also an opportunity; as someone who would struggle to fall back asleep, I took advantage of those extra waking hours to complete my work undisturbed by outside influences.
It turns out you can be incredibly productive in the dead of night. I could finally focus without the interruption of coworkers or babies. Thinking about it now, I’m sure I ended up working more hours that first year than I had the year previous.
3. Advocate for flexibility BEFORE your maternity leave
Even in this extremely tight labor market, finding a new job with ample flexibility is next to impossible. No company is likely to hire a brand new employee and trust them to function immediately unsupervised.
That’s why it’s so critical that you find a company and team that trusts you before you take any leave. Once you’ve developed a reputation of reliability and success, they’ll be much more likely to grant you leeway upon your return. Start by requesting one or two days working from home and see how it goes from there.
Flexibility is what has allowed me to continue working 60-70 hours/week while still being home for my daughter as needed. I work evenings after she’s gone to bed and during her naps, and I even make calls while walking to/from the park with the stroller. Plus having the flexibility to sneak in an occasional lunchtime workout or even a mid-morning Orange Theory class without having to watch the clock helps me to relieve stress and makes me better at work and at home. My flexible schedule and exceptionally supportive team has minimized much of the anxiety I’d anticipated when returning to work.
4. Outsource, outsource, outsource
If you can outsource any mundane task that is crowding your to-do list, do it. There’s no shame in it; you can’t physically do everything as a working mother.
Focus on what you do best – for me that includes my job and spending time with my daughter – and outsource anything that can be better or faster done by someone else. This can include cleaning, cooking, laundry, dog walking, whatever will help you most.
5. Reconsider your priorities
I used to swim in the ocean three times a week – it was something I always loved about living in San Diego. I’d also bike to work and run marathons regularly.
It’s amazing how much you can get done in a day when you focus on efficiency. That being said, it’s also amazing how little you can get done when compared to your endless to-do list. Especially with a newborn or toddler in tow.
Swimming and biking are sacrifices I’ll happily make, if it means spending more time with my daughter and succeeding in my field. I’ve learned to be protective of my time. To make sure that my actions and decisions are bringing me closer to what’s most important.
My workouts have somewhat changed these days; I work out like crazy in my 50-minute Orange Theory class and enjoy long group runs on the weekends. That usually does the trick! This year I still managed to squeeze in a few half marathons between playdates, and I know I’ll eventually get back to marathons and triathlons – but for now, I am content with shorter workouts for the sake of time and efficiency.
6. Let motherhood into your work
When you return to work, don’t try to hold on to the professional you once were. Having a child gives you a new perspective on your job, your life, your relationships, and that new perspective can be invaluable to your career.
Being a mother has helped me to relate to people – my coworkers, my clients, my family – in a deeper, more authentic way. I’m not as fast to judge, not as critical as I once was. This isn’t something I had expected, but I’m happy for the change.
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