There seems to be a theme to my blog posts: lessons learned & reflection. My inner critic thinks "how boring!", but honestly, I don't think there could be a more accurate reflection of me. My brain loves going into introspection mode & reflecting on life: looking back on the past, dreaming up the future, and taking lessons from the first to apply them to the latter.
Reflection helps me appreciate my life, it's like taking a break from the social media reel to be thankful for the actual life that is right in front of me. Taking time to reflect on what I've learned helps me remember, and fosters personal growth.
February marks one year of being a full time working mom. It was a hard year and a good year, filled with a few breaking points and a lot of lessons learned. My return to work was more challenging than expected due to some changes that occured over my maternity leave. I had been in the same role for about 3 years, so you could say I was very comfortable. I expected to come back to things just as I had left them, and that wasn't the case. I struggled to adjust to new assignments and new expectations, and as I fumbled my way through I learned quite a bit along the way.
1) Set and communicate boundaries
It was June, and I had been back to work for 4 months. If you don't know, I'm a full time remote employee so I don't sit face to face with my boss very often. I happened to be visiting the office at the time, and I knew I needed to have a conversation. I knew I was falling apart, and unable to keep up with the pace things were going.
I sat down to have that conversation, and communicated that I was concerned for myself. As if that wasn't enough, I left the office in tears that day, so my boss really knew I was not okay.
After that experience, my boss & I had a meeting to discuss my workload. He validated it was too much, and that validation meant everything to me because it was easy to wonder if it was just me that couldn't keep up. We made some changes from there, but the biggest change was in communication.
I realized I needed to set a boundary: I stop working the moment my daughter gets home from daycare. If there is a pressing deadline, I will continue my work after she goes to bed. If there's not a pressing deadline, I'll pick things back up in the morning.
I not only needed to set this boundary for myself, I needed to communicate it to my boss, who has been nothing but understanding and supportive.
Mom guilt is real!
Working mom guilt is also real.
Setting boundaries and communicating them with your boss is incredibly helpful.
2) Accept help & grace
After that June conversation with my boss, there were things taken off my plate. Naturally, to have things taken off your plate can feel like a punishment. I had to remind myself that it's okay to accept help. It's okay that I can't do it all. My first job & top priority is to be the best mom I can be, and if that means I need extra support at work, I'm okay with that.
I also needed to be okay with accepting grace. When I made a mistake because my mind was completely frazzled from all my various responsibilities, new stresses from mom life & lack of sleep, I needed to accept grace. When I had to call out another day because my baby was still home sick, I needed to accept grace. When I lost my cool because I'm a little more exhausted than usual and not on my A game, I needed to accept grace.
As moms, we naturally feel the pressure to be the best mom we can be.
As working moms, we have the added pressure of trying to be the best employee we can be.
We can't do it all all the time, it's perfectly okay to need help & grace.
3) Gratitude goes a long way
In my most stressful moments, I tried to remind myself that a) I am not stuck, and b) I am grateful to have this job.
As humans, whenever we feel less than thrilled with our circumstances, it's easy to feel stuck. Sometimes, circumstances truly are beyond our control. But I find that most of the time, if I'm really unhappy with something, I can do something to change it.
Any time I felt overwhelmed with work, I tried to remind myself that I am not stuck. If this gets to be too much, we can figure something out. I am powerful and resilient, I can make a change if need be. This thinking helped me keep a positive and empowered perspective even in hard and stressful moments.
The other thing that combats pessimism is gratefulness. I know that at the end of the day, I am extremely grateful and blessed. I have an amazing job where I feel valued, challenged, and have great relationships with my coworkers. My job provides for my family. My daughter is enriched and loved in her day care environment. We have so much to be grateful for!
There were many lessons learned in my first year as a full time working mom, and those lessons have helped me get to the place I am now. I have boundaries that help me maintain a rhythm even when work gets busy, I am able to accept help & grace when I need it, and gratefulness allows me keep things in perspective when I feel overwhelmed.
If you're a working mom, I would love to hear any lessons you've learned in the comments section below!