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Sunday, February 21, 2010

How We Do It Series: Making Time for Yourself

By Jenny & Tracy, Charlotte Smarty Pants

To work or not to work is a choice all new moms are faced with. Everyone has different circumstances that drive them to that decision. As the two Smarty Pants bloggers who did decide to go back to work, we thought we’d team up to share our perspectives and tips on “How We Do It”. We’re not here to say if one way is better than the other but we do think it's possible to have it all, or close to it anyway… it’s just a matter of finding the right balance, asking for help when you need it, and prioritizing. Here is our third blog in our series. Please visit our other two past blogs: Redefining Our Priorities, and Flexibility at Work. So here is our third blog on Making Time for Yourself...

Jenny Says:

As I have mentioned before on CSP, I work a four day work week. But that wasn't always the case. When I went back to work after my first, I went back full time. And it was hard at first, but I got back into a groove quickly. Then when Zoe was about 18 months old, Brent started traveling weekly and I again found it very difficult to keep everything together. I approached my boss with the idea of working four days a week. I came fully prepared to support this proposal. I assured him that my work would not suffer. My goal has been to make sure that this works for both my employer and myself.

My original intent of having my Friday’s off was to join my stay at home friends in playgroups and outings.. I quickly found that I was trying to do too much in one day. Instead, I have changed my approach to this day. I now plan one outing with the girls and just me, versus trying to coordinate with others. I work to get prepared for the weekend, so that when Saturday comes around, I can be wide open for my family and friends. I typically use my Fridays to run errands, go to dr. appointments, prepare for the weekend and get quality time with my girls.

It has been a wonderful situtation for me. I realize that everyone has different work situtations, but here some advice and realities for a reduced schedule at work:

I still work on my days off and evenings. I have remote access so I am able to be productive out of the office. I have fewer hours in the office, so I have less time to socialize. My priority is to be a productive as I can while I am in the office. Plan your time wisely and you can get it done. Don’t be hard on yourself; you can't do it all, all of the time. Sometimes something has to give. I am amazed by the full-time moms who seem to have it all worked out. I know it can be done, but I have found that having one day off at work really works for me.

Tracy Says:

The decision to work is not an either work full time OR be a mom situation for me. It’s really important to find the right balance between having a fulfilling career as well as being the best mom I can be. Therefore I need to have a job that affords me the ability to also be a great mom. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t miss out on any of those special moments because I had to work. I am very lucky to have found that kind of job – my boss is super supportive of anything I need to do during work hours that involves my son, whether it is enjoying lunch with him, volunteering at his school, taking him to the doctor, or working from home when I need to. I’m also able to enjoy the special activities that his school does specifically for the kids and parents like family picnics and social events or the performance of a class play. That is not to say I don’t make up my work at other times, like after Jake goes to bed, getting in to work early or working through lunch. Like I said – it’s a balancing act! It was also important for us to choose a daycare that is close to work so that we can easily pop over there during the day.

One tip of advice that I would recommend to working moms is this: Don’t be afraid to have a frank discussion with your boss on your needs and expectations as a working mom. This was really hard for me at first because I felt like I had more to prove coming back to work. I didn’t want to feel like anyone thought I was taking advantage of the situation. But the truth is, it wouldn’t be worth it for me to be in a job where I wasn’t happy and send my son to daycare. And if I knew upfront that my manager was not okay with it, then that becomes my decision if that is the right job for me and my family. So I felt much better having had the conversation with my boss and therefore knew where he stood on things and I wouldn’t have to feel as guilty for leaving early or ducking out for an hour. However – that’s certainly not to say that you don’t still have to get your job done and done well, otherwise you will risk being perceived as a slacker. I just think it’s possible to do both as long as you lay the appropriate ground work with your manager.Tracy Says:

The time I spend with my family is undoubtedly very special and important to me. However, I know that if I don’t also find time for myself – either alone or with girlfriends – that has a huge impact on my overall sense of self and well-being. So I try very hard to find these nuggets of time and make the most of them. It also gives my son and husband quality one on one time to spend together … so really, it’s a win/win for everyone!

Unfortunately, I have found that I am much more selective now in the things I do. My weekday evening activities are fairly limited, but there are a few I put on the calendar and make a priority … and more importantly, my husband also respects those as important to me and never objects to “Jake-duty” on those evenings. I try and do one monthly neighborhood girl’s night and a monthly supper club. I also use my lunch time for catching up with friends so I don’t impede on family time in the evenings.

I still have yet to find a way to make time for exercise??? Yes – I try to get some cardio in by chasing after Jake on his bike, or a brisk walk through the mall but the reality unfortunately is that that’s the one thing I really miss! Ok … maybe I don’t really miss it, but I know its something I should make a better effort to incorporate into my life. I tried taking the stairs every day in my parking deck, but that only lasted a couple months!

Jenny Says:

I have a tendency to feel guilty for taking time for myself. Like Tracy, I have become more selective. I take my girls on walks with me so that I can get exercise. I try to meet my girlfriends at the pool or park so that I can see my friends and be with the girls. My time with Zoe and Annie is so precious that I want to make every minute count. My husband often reminds me to take time for myself. He knows that when given the choice, I choose to be with the kids over friends or just myself. He encourages me to get in my “girl time.” I find that after taking the time, I am more engaged with my children and we have more fun. So we can’t feel guilty for thinking about ourselves every once in while. In the end, our families will appreciate our refreshed state of mind for having done so. We also need to remember the importance of taking care of ourselves. Jen P. wrote about this in earlier posts, but we aren’t doing our families any good if we are not taking care of ourselves. Every mom (whether stay at home or working) should try to put herself first or at least second every once in awhile, don’t you think?

So, you know the drill – share your thoughts on this topic and let us know how you find time for yourself in the midst of our busy, busy lives!

For the working mom's out there, let us know how you strive for balance between a career and being mom. Thanks!


Deanna said...

I think that having that talk with your boss is so important. I did the same thing and felt so much better afterward. We knew where we both stood, and I also was able to know his expectations of me.
Great article today, ladies!

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