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Saturday, March 06, 2010

Balance Work and Motherhood

The best day of my life wasn't when my future husband, Roland asked for my phone number, or when I defended my master's thesis. I thought nothing could be better than the day I said, "I Do!" and jumped the broom. Surely, it was the faithful day that I gave birth to our son, Roland Jay.

Now, almost two years later, I think back to when I was in the hospital sending text messages just moments after giving birth. I'll admit that I was a workaholic. I worked over 10 hour days and responded to work-related emails on the weekends. My life was my job and work came first. I skipped family functions and sorority meetings to work. I sacrificed my social life.

Being on maternity leave was truly a blessing. I had time to collect my thoughts and prioritize life. I struggled with returning back to work, but enjoyed my job and wanted to fulfill my dreams. Before returning, I did the following: 1) Changed my work hours to 8am - 5pm, in order to pick up our son from daycare, 2) Found a daycare where I could view our son online, and 3) Promised myself that I would leave work on time every day.

I had fears of returning back to work. Fears of not being able to juggle my new life. Although an extremely good multitasker, having the responsibility to take care of another human being was a huge deal. Sleep deprivation and pacing up and down the same hallway ruled my whole universe. The arduous task of juggling work and motherhood probed me to ask the same question to other working mothers.

Ann Serrano, Associate Director at a nonprofit organization states, “My job has given me a flexible working schedule. I telecommute two days a week, which really helps me maintain my milk supply. It also lessens the amount of time that I'm separated from my baby. My job has also created a space for me to pump.”

There are several options that can help women balance every day life. If your job does not require regular face-to-face communication, then telecommuting may be a great option. Certain companies may allow various start and end times for salaried positions. Sometimes, employees have the option to choose to work a compressed work week, in which they work longer hours during the week and have a full or partial day off. Colleagues may also be interested in job sharing, in which they share the same job and each work part-time.

The key to balancing work and motherhood is creating boundaries and making sure that your family is first priority. Diana Hernandez, Human Resources Consultant at a west-coast university, changed positions at the university shortly after returning back from maternity leave. “I felt comfort in my community of friends/mentors at the university, who encouraged me to consider transferring jobs. They helped me find a position in Human Resources that fit my skills and goals. I transferred in January of 2008 and have been very satisfied; my work ends at the end of the day, and I can go home to my family.”

I think it’s also important to take time out of each day to get centered. Below are several tips to make your day more enjoyable.

• Personalize your space. Make your workspace a place that makes you smile.
• Take a (virtual) vacation. (I close my eyes are pretend that I’m 21 years-old again, vacationing in Jamaica).
• Try to get the annoying things off your to-do list before lunch.
• Take a walking break in the afternoon and get some fresh air or visit a friend in another department.
• During lunch, pray, exercise, take a nap (rest), play some tunes, or meditate.
• Add a fountain in your office, the sounds of running water can be soothing.
• Dress up! Wear something that makes you feel and look good!

There are more than 83 million moms in the United States, and 61% are striving in the work place. Everyday mothers are successfully accomplishing this great balancing act: work and motherhood.

The women’s movement suggested that mothers can have it all. From a personal experience, I would have to agree. The topic and discussion of stay-at-work moms is profound, yet it is our living within the presence of these moments that tremendous accomplishment and self-confidence are gained.

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