Not everything always goes as planned.
I am neither the exception nor the rule; I’m just a mom trying to be my best self at work and at home. The challenge: being fully present for both. As a mom to a vivacious toddler and as a passionate brand marketer leading the Pepperidge Farm cookies team, I have worked hard to define my own world. I have been relying on these few tips in my roles as a mother, coworker, wife and daughter.
1. Live in the moment.
As moms, we all know the fundamental importance of being present. But when you are stretched, exhausted and have a constant mental to-do list going, it can be challenging to be in the moment. I realized having a cue or a tool to help bridge the now with all the noise in the background can go a long way. For my daughter Anica and I, those moments involve singing! Sometimes this mother-daughter duo is a pair of Adele wannabes singing to the tunes of Itsy Bitsy Spider, Wheels on the Bus and Do Re Mi. Our concert hall is the car or the diaper station and sometimes the bath. We have even tried to add a twist with some dance moves, and might I add it’s pretty ridiculous and hilarious. My husband has been collecting some serious evidence to embarrass me, recording our antics.
2. Find your own work-life groove.
I don’t think the traditional definition of work-life balance, or a 9 to 5 job, exists anymore. As work has become a bigger part of our lives, to me it is more about finding your own work-life groove. You do what is needed and give it your very best. And while “going with the flow” was not something I did naturally, I had to learn it, for my own sanity. I remember presenting to a multi-agency team, with over 25 people in the room, and I saw my phone buzzing—uh-oh, daycare! The baby was running a fever. My husband was traveling, so I dropped everything to go pick up my daughter. I just did what was the need of the hour. Sometimes that means the impossibility of working late at the office, or not getting back to your laptop until 9 p.m.
3. Ask for help; it's OK!
The transition after maternity leave, when I was a 100-percent focused on my daughter, to now also having a demanding job, was tough. You are up all night with an infant and then you spend your day between meetings, daycare pick-ups, deadlines and coffee crash. The only way to survive it was to learn to be transparent, and in many ways, vulnerable at work. It was so counter to everything that I had practiced at work up until that point. But in doing so, I found an amazing support network of coworkers who helped me—sometimes listening, or making me laugh or just telling me that it was going to be OK! And that’s the beauty of working for a company like mine—it has given me the flexibility to figure out what works for me and my family. With my husband and I tag-teaming, we could create the support network that we needed.
4. Focus on the big picture.
Part of parenting is being comfortable that not everything will go as planned. My daughter may not eat her vegetables, I may not have answers to all questions during a presentation, or my house may not be as clean as I hoped. There are so many little struggles that can wreak havoc and bring you down, if you let them. The question I ask myself is “Would it matter five years down the line?” If the answer is insignificant, I try not to spend more than five minutes on it.
5. Feed your “best self.”
As women, our nurturing instinct is to give, to provide and put everyone first. But realize that you can’t be your best self if you are not taking the time to refuel and recharge. For me, my time in the car between home, work or daycare is nothing short of precious. It’s my time to be just ME. I spend it chatting with my friends and family (thanks, Bluetooth). And even if we spend that time talking about the newest words that our kids have learned to say like—“not nice” or “Alexa music,” it is our time to share some laughs.
Written by Shibani Potnis for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.