In 1950, women made up 29.6% of the U.S. workforce. Only 19% of mothers with young children worked outside the home. Now, with 57% of all women and 70% of mothers with children under 18 participating in the labor force, life for the typical American family looks a lot different than it used to.
You might think that kids are getting a bad deal out of all this. However, despite the fact that moms now are devoting more hours to earning a paycheck than they might have 50-60 years ago, they’re actually spending MORE time with their children, not less. There aren’t more hours in the day than there were in the 1950s, so how do these modern supermoms do it?
It turns out that there’s no magical formula for maintaining work/life balance, but we’re here to offer a few tips to help busy working mothers get a little bit closer.
You can’t do it all…
First of all, “balance” is kind of a misleading word because it implies you’re just weighing two factors. Juggling might be a better analogy…and if you’re a working mom (or any mom, for that matter), it’s a good idea to go ahead and learn to live with the fact that you’ll drop a ball or two here and there.
Think about all the things you’re trying to keep up in the air right now. Bills. Bedtime stories. Business cases. Homework. Home improvements. Laundry. Lunches. Presentations. Play dates. Date nights. Deadlines. All that—and so much more—while trying to drink enough water, exercise, not use any words you wouldn’t want your kids to repeat at recess, and make it to your first meeting without a Cheerio stuck to the seat of your pants.
Despite the fact that 42% of American mothers are the primary or sole breadwinner for their families, women typically still take on the bulk of domestic tasks such as laundry, cleaning, cooking, and grocery shopping. And on average, moms are TEN TIMES more likely than dads to stay home from work with a sick child. If you and your partner have a system that works for you, by all means stick with it, but you might want to take a minute to ask yourselves if the way you divide up responsibilities is based on intention or if you’ve been unconsciously influenced by a long history of gender stereotypes.
If you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed, take a long, honest look at your life, and decide what’s non-negotiable, what needs minor adjustments, and what you could potentially let go of completely. Maybe that means finding a go-to spot to grab healthy takeout on the nights when you don’t have time to cook, but you don’t want to order pizza again. Maybe it means a family-wide decluttering initiative. Maybe it means setting stronger boundaries at work. Maybe it means scheduling more time for self care and/or more time for you and your partner to grow as a couple.
Compromise. Delegate. Simplify. Keep what’s important, and get rid of what’s not.
…but neither can anyone else
From the outside looking in, it might seem like all the other mothers out there are managing just fine. But chances are, you’re not seeing the whole picture. Think about your most “together” working mom friend. Have you ever cleaned frantically before she came over and then still apologized for the “mess”? Well, guess what…she probably has, too. Or maybe the absence of little fingerprints on her windows and giant dust bunnies under her couch is due to the fact that she has a housekeeper who comes in once a week, but she’s never mentioned it because she’s afraid she’ll be judged for spending the money or needing the help.
Have you ever looked at lunchbox photos on Instagram and wondered how the heck anyone has time or energy to sculpt pandas out of sticky rice or hand letter heartfelt notes five days a week? Before you label her an annoying overachiever, though, consider the possibility that packing those over-the-top lunches might just be a way for that particular busy mom to express herself and feel more present in her kids’ lives. And most likely, there are days that the apples are not carved into whimsical shapes and Goldfish crackers are standing in for the organic edamame…but those lunches probably don’t make it onto the ‘gram.
Have you ever left for work in a cloud of dry shampoo, thrown on some mascara and lipgloss in the parking lot, then felt a twinge of envy as you stepped onto the elevator next to your colleague who always looks like she spent the morning at a salon? Chances are, she kind of wishes that her hair and makeup routine left a few minutes to snuggle with her kiddos and enjoy a cup of coffee in her pajamas like you do most days.
Choose your adventure
The bottom line is, no one is actually doing it all. We usually have to choose between a.) not getting everything done and b.) asking for help. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with either of those options.
If hiring someone to clean your house once a week or once a month is in your budget, there’s absolutely no shame in choosing to do that. There’s also no shame in choosing to live with a little dust. If laughing over boardgames with your kids means you have to skip obsessing over baseboards with a toothbrush, don’t say sorry…play Sorry!
If making Pinterest-perfect bento boxes for your children brings you joy, don’t let anyone tell you that string cheese isn’t a valid artistic medium. But if SunButter and jelly sandwiches are more your jam, pop one in a brown paper bag, and know that your little one feels your love in a thousand ways no matter what you pack for lunch. Oh, and if you’d rather just let the school cafeteria take care of it, that’s fine, too!
If taking time to do your hair and makeup in earnest is part of your self care plan, do it! There’s nothing even a little bit wrong with feeling empowered by your own appearance. Does it mean you might sacrifice 45 minutes of sleep in the morning? Maybe, but that’s what your fancy under-eye concealer is for. Does it mean letting your kids watch an episode of whatever made-for-Prime show they’re currently obsessing over instead of sitting around the breakfast table together and chatting about your aspirations for the upcoming day? Maybe, except one of those things was probably never going to happen anyway, if we’re all being honest.
A woman’s place is…wherever she wants to be
Before we wrap things up, it’s worth noting that while there are many, many more women participating in the workforce than there were 60 years ago, the number has actually been slowly falling back down since 2000. There are a lot of things that could be contributing to that decline, but the persistent wage gap, the continued issue of workplace gender discrimination, the rising (and sometimes surprising) cost of motherhood, and the fact that the United States remains the only developed country in the world that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave could all be factors.
This means that, in addition to our careers and our role as mothers, we have another job to do: we must keep advocating for changes that support working moms and help make work/life balance a more accessible goal.
At Our Life Covered℠, we strive to empower women by providing engaging education about life insurance…because we know that no matter how much you’re juggling, the opportunity to help better protect your family is one thing you’ll never want to drop.
So over your next cup of coffee, spend a little time at ourlifecovered.com. Learn more about how life insurance can help provide a more secure financial future for your family and greater peace of mind for you, and get a free quote to get started.