This is the first of a series of three special blog posts by Jo Kirchner, CEO of Primrose Schools. Join her as she discusses the challenges of working motherhood and celebrates the trials and triumphs of working mothers across the country!
Along with many other working mothers I know, I’ve experienced the challenge of maintaining a strong commitment to my family while trying to achieve success in my career. I am passionate about both my family and my work, and over the years I’ve worked hard to give both my very best. Like most moms, I have struggled to handle my workload with the goal of accomplishing each task perfectly. After many years of frustration in not meeting that expectation, I finally realized that it’s not about perfection, but balance. Happiness can be measured in terms of our priorities, and while priorities differ from one mom to the next, being able to identify what’s important in your own life is the key to finding balance. This blog series is a celebration of the Working Mom, and I hope that by sharing my own experiences I may offer guidance and comfort to other women mastering the art of working motherhood.
The number of working mothers is on the rise. According to recent statistics, the percentage of mothers in the workforce has nearly doubled over the last 35 years and women are the main provider in almost 40 percent of U.S. households. This shift in family dynamics puts even more pressure on mothers who strive for perfection at work and at home. I read an article last month that really resonated with me. Elisa Steele, chief marketing officer of Skype, was interviewed about her rise to the top of a “famously male-dominated industry.” When asked about how she balanced work and motherhood, she replied, “The truth is, there is no ‘work-life balance’; it’s just life. A mistake I made for many years was trying to put up walls between each of my roles: Like, I’m a mom when I’m at home, and I’m a professional at work. But it was a constant struggle. […] I’m both of those people every day.” Steele makes an important observation. As a working mom you must find your own definition for “quality of life,” but the inevitable juggle can create an undercurrent of tension. Every mom wants to provide her child with the best parenting and quality of life possible, but striving for perfection is a waste of time. Perfection is an extreme, and if women insist on perfection they will never find balance. Believe me, I’m a recovering perfectionist and even have a “later in life” goal of starting a Perfectionists Anonymous support group!
One of the greatest stressors for me when my children were young was finding quality care that met my expectations as well as my workday. I know from experience that if mothers aren’t comfortable with their childcare arrangements, the stress will spill out into both work and family life. When I toured a Primrose school for the first time, long after my own children had moved on to elementary school, I was so impressed that I felt compelled to get involved. That passion grew and grew, and I began working for the company. Today, I am the CEO of Primrose Schools and I find joy each day in being able to offer working moms the high quality early education experience that I couldn’t find for my children. My grandchildren attend Primrose Schools and I am happy to see my daughter enjoy the peace of mind that sometimes eluded me when she was young.
I have been a working mother (and grandmother) for quite some time now, and I have spoken with many career women who feel guilty about their dual roles. I’d like to impart some wisdom I’ve gathered on my journey to finding balance:
- Be fully present when you are home. Turn off your cell phone when you are with your children after school. Let go of the work day and focus on your family. One of the best ways to connect with your child is by intently listening and speaking with him or her. This is called practicing “serve and return” when reading, playing, or conversing with your little ones. Practicing “serve and return” will draw you close physically and mentally, and allow you to actively contribute to your child’s educational development.
- You must carve out some regular time for yourself if you expect to be effective in either role – at work or with your family. This could be through exercise, time spent with friends, or date nights, but you should consider this an important part of your routine and you MUST schedule these events, just like you would schedule a work meeting or your child’s soccer game.
- Try to take the long view. You can have it all – just not all the time. Your focus will shift as priorities come in and out of your day, and your life. Be flexible, and ask yourself what has to be done, and what has to be done now. Those precious early years with your children will be gone before you know it, and you will never get that time back. Enjoy it now so you can look back on these special years with satisfaction.
Working moms, you are a wonderful, diverse, inspiring group of women. I know you care deeply about your families and your careers. It will be a joy to have a conversation with you over the next few months on this topic.
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