When I started my career at 25 years old, becoming a mother was the furthest thing from my mind. I didn’t have any experience with children and I wasn’t even sure that I wanted my own. Fast forward a little more than a decade and we are now growing Baby #2. This article is about learning how to balance motherhood and career.
Up until I had my daughter, my career was a huge part of my life. I really love my job and enjoy the work I do as a government attorney. In a sense, my occupation was a large part of my self-identity.
After my daughter was born, my focus shifted tremendously to her. My main goal became raising a happy and healthy child with my husband. This shift definitely changed my outlook on my career and affected my perspective in many ways.
When I was first learning how to balance motherhood and career, it was hard and I walked through many struggles. I went through some phases where I had to take it day by day. Even if you have all of the help in the world, there are still inner challenges and changes that new mothers face.
So, here’s my experience in learning how to balance motherhood and career.
Struggle in the beginning
No matter what, there will be a struggle in the beginning. Maybe there are some people who don’t struggle and get it right immediately, but I was not one of them.
After my maternity leave was over, I went through that excruciating period of being separated from my infant. Not one person could prepare me for what it was like to drop off my daughter at daycare for the very first time. To say that it is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching is an understatement. Leaving her at daycare was the first time I truly felt what it was like to have my heart outside of my body.
The first time I took leave from work as a new mother was 3 weeks after my daughter started daycare. She had her first daycare bug and it was also the very first time she was sick. I struggled with the guilt of taking off work so soon after maternity leave. My boss’s comment of “Already?!” didn’t make matters any better.
I realized halfway through my daughter’s first year that I might be suffering from postpartum anxiety and depression. Apparently, these symptoms can develop up to one year after giving birth. (Source) There were times when I felt so alone in my postpartum depression, yet didn’t know how to talk to anyone about it.
Eventually, I sought help and got on medication, which was the best thing I did for myself that year. By far, the struggle to balance motherhood and career was hardest in that first year postpartum.
- Related reading: Signs of postpartum anxiety you may not know about
Becoming a mother made me a better attorney
There are times when I reflect on my work as an attorney before I had my daughter and after I had my daughter. Before I had my daughter, I approached my work and job as very black and white. In my world, there was a tendency for perfection, rigidity, lack of empathy, and low tolerance for mistakes.
That tendency to think in black and white changed after my daughter was born because parenthood is seriously unpredictable. You can always have a plan, but there are strong chances it won’t go the way you expect or want it to. So, that black and white thinking, along with the perfectionist tendencies and unmoving rigidity, went out the window for me. Believe it or not, I eased up at the workplace!
Since my work is in the realm of family law, having that shared life experience of motherhood really changed how I related to my caseload. There was a lot more understanding and empathy on my part. My passion for my work actually increased and made me a more compassionate and zealous advocate. There was also more purpose and resolve in the work that I was doing.
Balance isn’t just about finding time
Finding balance isn’t just about physically being able to do everything. There are some parents who look like they do it all on the outside, but it doesn’t mean anything if they’re running on fumes all the time. I have to be cognizant and aware of my own needs, or I will be the parent who is running on fumes.
Balance is not just about finding the time to get everything done. It’s also about tending to your and your family’s emotional, spiritual, and mental health needs.
While caring for my daughter and putting her needs first constantly, I started to neglect my own well-being. Recognizing this was the key to opening the door to a more balanced lifestyle as a career woman and a mother.
When my daughter was around 18 months, I started to do things for myself again, like going to the gym, getting back into therapy, and pursuing my own hobbies. In fact, my blog Native Mommy Lawyer was born from this pursuit to find myself again.
I learned that focusing on myself didn’t detract from my duties as a mother or an attorney. Instead, it helped me to become a more well-rounded individual capable of handling the ups and downs of parenthood and career.
Inner growth is the real work of art
Becoming a parent forces you to grow and change as you take on the responsibilities of caring for another human being. If you also have a full-time career, time is limited, so prioritizing and making sacrifices become part of the norm.
Even though I’m only two years into balancing motherhood and career, there has been tremendous growth on my part. Although I can still get nervous and doubt myself in tough situations, I also have a new sense of confidence that I will get through the challenging times.
How to balance motherhood and career
This topic came up for me because I was recently promoted in my department. Although I was really happy about the promotion, the new position has a lot more responsibility and can be quite stressful at times.
Naturally, I started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to handle my new work responsibilities, my toddler, and being pregnant with Baby #2. There’s a lot on my plate right now.
So, this has been one of those times where I’ve been taking it day by day because that’s all I can do right now. I know that, with time, things will change and there will eventually be ebb and flow. My recent stress about my job reminded me that it can be a struggle to balance motherhood and career at times.