As I reentered the workforce in a substantial way this past year, I experienced tremendous personal growth in balancing the demands of work, family and community. I was laying the foundational elements of my business that meant that I had to focus more on work than the other aspects of my life – children, spouse, family, community engagement, and most importantly myself. In my heart it was something I knew I had to do in the short-term.
My solution to this was outsourcing as many of my responsibilities outside of work as possible. I hired a service to clean my home every two weeks. I hired a wonderful young lady to take care of my children after-school. I signed my children up for many activities to keep them busy outside of the home. I hired caterers for the few gatherings we hosted. Over time, I learned that there was one responsibility or rather love of life that cannot be outsourced and that is called “mothering”.
I knew my children felt the impact of my increased “work”. They often complained as to why I needed to work so much and they longed for the good old days when I picked them up right after school and volunteered in their classrooms. As all parents know well, this pained me and it created enormous guilt within me because I felt that I was not there for my children. I traded time with my children for the opportunity to build financial security for their future.
I realized over time that “mothering” is what my children missed most but they did not know how to express it. I define “mothering” as simply being present with my children. It is not necessarily quantity of time but more the quality of time we spend with them no matter how little of it we have. Children are the most intuitive little souls and can sense when their parents are distracted and stressed. This distraction and stress is what children are jealous of and not necessarily the work and other demands of our life.
I learned long ago that being present in life (minimizing distractions and stress) requires a certain focus on self-care. Optimizing my own well being meant to make time for the things that nourish my soul. This is where most of us working parents fail – we don’t think that we have the time any longer to take care of our own deep desires. Being the optimist that I am, I knew that there had to be a way to bring well being back into my life as a working mother.
I returned to my 6:15am boot camp exercise class a couple of mornings a week asking my husband to help with getting the children ready for school. I volunteered as an assistant coach to my daughter’s cross-country running team as a way to spend time with her and exercise outdoors. I arranged my work schedule so that I can pick up my children after school 1 or 2 days/week or join them on the occasional field trip. I involve my children in my business asking them to make copies and file papers. I realized that rather than treat work as a stand-alone island, it was important to weave my work together with the other aspects of my life. As we all know, nothing is perfect but by asking for help, focusing on my own care and involving my children, I am able to “mother” which nourishes me as much as my children.