One day last week, I was interviewing someone for an article while in the waiting room at my son's orthodontist. My son came out and was trying to get my attention. I was trying to signal that I needed a few more minutes of phone time. He was aggravated. I was aggravated. This is the kind of craziness that working mothers go through trying to achieve work life balance.
As working mothers our work life balance challenges are similar to those of fathers, but yet, so different.
In celebrating mothers this month, TheLadders.com sent me info on a survey they previously conducted to find out how working mothers feel about their work life balance. Want to know how they feel?
Overwhelmed and guilty.
Working mothers walk around with massive guilt — Guilt that we are not spending enough time with our kids, coupled with guilt that our work may be suffering from not having our undivided attention 24 hours a day.
The Ladders surveyed 250 women and found balancing a career and a family is a huge struggle for 87% of of them, with 55% admitting that “excelling at both is overwhelming.”
On the phone with Nichole Barnes Marshall, I asked her about her work life challenges. Nichole is Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Aon, a job that has her traveling and connecting with thousands of Aon professionals. Nichole is also a married, working mother with three children ages, 4, 7 and 9.
She told me her big challenge is prioritizing work in way that she can be operating at high performing level and be available to go to her kids activities like the recent school Cinco de Mayo festival. "I wish I could be there for all the activities."
"The challenge for me is how I can be my best at work and be the best mother," she says. "I try to manage that by focusing on quality, not the quantity."
Nichole, like many other mothers, works to contribute to the household income but also enjoys her work. "I’m getting lot of satisfaction out of what I do, which makes it (the balancing act) worthwhile. But, that doesn’t take away the twange when I get sad eyes from my kids for leaving for another business trip."
Not only do us working mothers feel challenged by and guilty about work conflicts causing us to miss events in our kids' lives, most of us feel guilty about any detail of our kids' lives that falls through the cracks.
Here's the gist of it:
Sociologists sometimes call the management of familial duties “worry work,” and the person who does it the “designated worrier,” because you need large reserves of emotional energy to stay on top of it all. I wish I could say that fathers and mothers worry in equal measure. But they don’t.
While fathers are helping more with household work and child care, women still keep track of the kind of nonroutine details of taking care of children — when they have to go to the doctor, when they need a permission slip for school, what they will eat for dinner."
So, in addition to our job demands there is tons of pressure on mothers to be the right kind of mother who keeps all the details straight and our families organized. That's our big challenge.
No wonder we walk around worried, overwhelmed and feeling guilty!
To all you sleep deprived, overwhelmed working mothers, you are awesome. Lose the guilt, stop worrying and realize that whether or not you miss an event or forget to sign a permission slip, your children still love you.