Being a working mum: A balancing act
Written by Tola Mbakwe
When I became pregnant with my first child, at the back of my mind I was worried about how I would balance raising a child and working. As much as I’ve always had the desire to have children, I’ve always known that being a stay-at-home mother was not for me. I really enjoy my career as a journalist. It’s one of my passions and I knew I didn’t want to give it up for more than the year I was going to take off for maternity leave.
My son recently turned two and I’ve been a working mum for a little over a year now. I’ve learned some things along the way when it comes to having a great work-life balance. Here are four things that have helped me have a fulfilled life as a working-mother.
1. Let go of the guilt
“Mum guilt” visits us all. We feel guilty when we realise our child spends more time in childcare or school than with us, we feel guilty that we can’t even drop them off or pick them up from school, we feel guilty when we want a break and just put them in front of the TV, we feel guilty for not having the energy to make dinner and give them their favourite cereal for dinner instead (or is that just me?). The list is endless. The guilt stems from us wanting to be the best parent we can, but the truth is, if you are having these thoughts, you are probably an awesome parent! Try not to feel guilty. I know it’s easier said than done, but trust me, our children really don’t mind. As a child, my parents both worked long hours, a child minder dropped me to school and I went after school clubs. But honestly, I never once thought that my parents weren’t prioritising me and my siblings. I just saw a mum and dad that were working hard to provide for us. I still knew I was loved.
2. Request a work schedule that works for you
Before having a child I worked a 9 to 5 job in the central London. It was an hour commute each way. I absolutely love my job, but I knew something had to change regarding my schedule in order for me to spend more time with my family. I requested to be able to work from home one day a week, but that was denied because of the nature of my job responsibilities. My employer then agreed that I could work from 6:30am to 2:30pm. This meant that I could get home earlier and have enough time to spend with my husband and son and make dinner before it was time for my son to get ready for bed. Usually people run away from working earlier shifts, but it works perfectly for me. I also requested to work more weekends. This way, my son can spend time with his dad while I’m working, and then I have two days off in the week to spend with him. Since March, because of the coronavirus pandemic, everyone in the office has had to work from home and that has been a massive blessing in so many ways.
3. Have your “me time”!
For quite a while, I decided I was not going to take a day off work while my son was in nursery. I’m so glad I’ve changed my views on that! Mums, we need our personal time. We need a day to do things when we want, not when our child wants. We need time to recharge. When we have a day to ourselves, we have the energy and capacity to pour more into our families.
4. Make parts of your routine fun
Spending time with your child doesn’t always mean taking them on a fun day out to the zoo or going to your nearest park. Normal, everyday routine activities can be fun also! For example, when cooking I sometimes get my toddler to join in. I’ll ask him to take out pasta from the pack one by one and put them into the pot. It may sound like torture, but he loves it and we practiced counting along the way. When I’m making eggs, I give him the bowl and whisk and get him involved. Another part of our routine that my son loves is bedtime. Every day around 7pm I say “Ok Max, it’s time to brush your teeth”, he goes straight to the bathroom with excitement. We play with water during bath time, he jumps on the bed and runs away from me when I’m getting him dressed, I squeeze body lotion on his hands and tell him where to rub it in and we do bedtime stories. Bedtime is almost always filled with giggles. Try and see which part of your time you can squeeze some fun into.
I’ve only just recently figured out how to be working mother and have a fulfilled family life. I know different stages bring different challenges and all families are different. We will always have to adjust. But as soon as I start to worry, I remember I’m not the first working mother and I won’t be the last. We’ve got this ladies!