How many hats do you wear? Do your roles include: mother, wife, career woman, organizer, negotiator, taxi service, psychologist, cook, lover, friend and role model? To refer to you as “multipurpose” is a vast understatement! A mom faces a delicate balancing act, one that she will never perfect.
When your many responsibilities get too far out of balance, you are likely to develop “symptoms.” These signs include: irritability, tearfulness, sleep problems, appetite changes, poor concentration, and feeling overwhelmed or hopeless. You also may experience physical symptoms, such as headaches, backaches or digestive problems. We all have bad days, but if these symptoms persist, it’s time to implement the following action steps. Doing so will significantly improve your attitude, and that of the people closest to you.
- Establish structure. Your family will run more smoothly if your kids know what to expect. Create rules and routine, and make sure that you and your partner are in agreement on these. Family meetings can make your kids feel a part of the decisionmaking process and thereby encourage their cooperation.
- Develop networks. Create a cadre of trusted caregivers for your children. Share transportation and other services with other moms.
- Insist on family time. Go out for a family dinner, or have a weekly “take-out food night.” Have a family day on weekends. These rituals will create memories. Most important, they will establish a bond that will get your family through the rough times.
- Learn to transition. The transition from work or school to home is difficult for most of us. Find an efficient way to decompress before spending time with your children. A shower, a walk, a cup of tea, meditation, or some soothing music are all helpful ways to shed work stress. If your day has been particularly difficult let your kids know it. That way they will not personalize your preoccupation or grouchy mood.
- Enlist help. Giving your kids age-appropriate chores will lessen your load, and help them to understand the concepts of responsibility and teamwork. And if your budget permits, pay for periodic household cleaning — an indescribable morale boost.
- Communicate. Routinely talk with your partner. What suggestions does he have for making things better between the two of you, or with the kids?
- Keep the relationship bond strong. Don’t take your relationship for granted. Regularly get a sitter and go out with your man. If funds are tight, share a candlelit dinner. This will benefit every member of the family.
- Support his efforts. All too often I see women undercut their partners’ attempts to help with family members. So what if he doesn’t do it exactly the way you would? A lopsided ponytail won’t do long-term damage to your 3-year-old’s self-confidence.
- Just say no. It’s OK to refuse additional outside responsibilities that will overwhelm you. The home front is your priority, and there’s no need for apologies.
- Take control of your career. Get creative. Are telecommuting, flextime or job-sharing possibilities for you? And don’t rule out self-employment. An increasing number of women are finding this an attractive option.
- Insist on time for yourself. Please don’t feel guilty for devoting some attention to yourself. Exercise, hobbies and friendships all provide healthy outlets. “Time out” will leave you refreshed and feeling better about your role as mom and career woman.
There is no instruction manual for multipurpose moms. Balancing home and career is an enormous job, and one that involves continual reevaluation. Gradually implementing these action steps will have a positive effect on you and your family.