Being a working mom can feel like a constant balancing act. Between the demands of your career and the responsibilities at home, it can seem like your to-do list never ends. When trying to fulfill these competing priorities, working moms often sideline a key player: themselves. Too often, working moms end up prioritizing everything and everyone above their own mental and physical well-being.
At Manhattan Wellness, we recognize maternal mental health as a priority. We believe that you are just as important and often more important than what is on your plate. We know that in order to show up in your job and at home, you need to pour deeply into yourself. Caring for your mental well-being is our priority.
Here are eight strategies to help you safeguard your mental health as a working mom:
After a hard drop-off at daycare or trying to log on after your baby was up all night, it can be hard to stay motivated. In these moments, try to anchor yourself in your “why.” Remember why working makes sense for you and your family. Recall the pride you get from modeling a working woman for your children. Think of the financial benefits you are bringing to your family each day. Bask in the aspects you love about your job and the professional achievements you are working toward. Most importantly, trust yourself. You made the decision to go back to work for good reasons and those reasons are still there even on the hardest of days.
When your family life and work life come into conflict, it is completely natural to throw your hands in the air at how impossible the situation feels. However, this kind of mindset can actually make a hard situation even worse. Balancing conflicting work and life demands is stressful enough, and telling yourself things like “This is impossible” or “I can’t do this” makes it harder. Pay attention to what stories you are telling yourself. Shift to a narrative that helps propel you forward. A growth mindset does not deny reality. It acknowledges that this challenge is really hard but it orients you toward a belief that you can overcome hard challenges. A growth mindset can move you from dwelling on the difficulty of your situation into focusing on what actions to take to get through your day. It can give you the confidence you need to tell your manager a deadline won’t be met because your child is sick or to log on when your mom guilt is creeping up. Maintaining a growth mindset helps you see that you can and will get through it.
The concept of work-life balance pits work and life against each other. This subconsciously tells us that if we don’t achieve a perfect balance, one will lose and the other will win. However, studies have shown that this isn’t the case; having conflicting roles and responsibilities positively impacts our physical and emotional health. By switching roles, we can restore our motivation and energy levels for the other. Shift to a focus on work-family enrichment. How can the skills and resources you gain in one role in your life help you grow in the other? Parenting is a master course in patience and slowing down to notice the little things. How can you apply this to benefit your career? Similarly, pay attention to how the stress in one role of your life is eased by the other. If you’ve had a tough day at work, notice how your stress levels are soothed by a hug from your child after you log off. If your child is having a rough time with potty training, notice how switching into your work role can give your brain a much-needed opportunity to use other problem-solving and adult communication skills.
Being a working mom means you are constantly juggling lots of different priorities. Between your to-do list at work and your to-do list at home, it can seem like the tasks never end. Instead of working toward unrealistic expectations of accomplishing it all, embrace that not everything can get done. One exercise to help you do this is by visualizing that your tasks are glass or rubber balls. As you are juggling many balls at once, some are bound to fall. If you drop a glass ball, it could break. If you drop a rubber ball, though, it can bounce back (i.e., letting go may not be to your ideal standard but doing so won’t be a dire situation and you can revisit this task another time). Knowing which balls are rubber or glass can help you know where to narrow your focus. Having a family meal together might be a glass ball for you, but making sure that dinner is home-cooked instead of takeout could be a rubber ball.
While setting boundaries with work is always important, it is especially critical for working moms. Decide which boundaries work for you and your family and communicate these with your employer. If someone tries to cross your boundary, empower yourself to hold it. Do you need to leave at 4 p.m. to make it in time for daycare drop off? Then that is the time you need to leave. If someone requests a last-minute meeting, they have three options: they can either wait until the morning, try to cover it in an email or walk with you as you leave the building. Crossing your boundary is not one of the options available to them. When family time is happening, consider it protected time. Try turning notifications off or putting your phone in another room when you are with your kids so you can fully disconnect.
Coming back to work after having a baby is a huge adjustment. It is an even bigger adjustment to understand that work habits that made sense pre-baby may not work post-baby. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. If more remote (or fully remote) workdays make your job as a mom and an employee easier, ask for it. If leaving early so you aren’t rushing for daycare pick up helps your schedule, tell your employer. Recognize that you aren’t asking for special treatment, but rather just setting up the conditions under which you can show up best as an employee.
Working moms can feel a great deal of guilt about taking time for themselves. With work and family commitments taking up nearly all of your day, it can be hard to take time for your own self-care. Remind yourself that self-care is nonnegotiable. Pouring time into yourself allows you to keep giving at your job and at home. While there are great ways to implement micro self-care moments into your day, other activities may very well cut into your work or family time. It might feel hard to miss bedtime or skip a work happy hour, but the time you take for yourself is worth it. Making time to recharge your batteries by getting dinner with a friend or attending a workout class will fuel your parenting journey.
Being a working parent is a journey filled with lots of joy and lots of challenges. It can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and no one can ease your mental load. Consider engaging with therapy to support you as you move through your days. Therapy can give you a safe place to process complex emotions that come up, empower you with tools to make your days easier and help you break free from negative thoughts and behaviors that hold you back. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a declaration that you are deserving of the same love and support that you constantly give to others.
Being a working mom comes with challenges but it also comes with opportunities for growth, resilience and purpose. By tapping into these eight strategies, you can begin to add yourself back onto your priority list.
Remember: you are not alone. Our providers are specialized in maternal mental health and are here to support you on your motherhood journey. If you are ready to make the changes you want in your life:
We offer a diverse range of individual counseling services and couples therapy. Our dedicated therapists can help with stress management, symptoms of depression, self-esteem challenges, and college student counseling. Additionally, we specialize in offering support for addressing body image concerns, and navigating the unique challenges faced by women, among other aspects. If you need support reach out to connect with a therapist.