How Really Smart Women Get the Most Out of Work *and* Home Life As Moms

Well+Good co-founders Melisse Gelula (center right) and Alexia Brue (center left) with Tovah Klein (left) and Jenny Galluzzo. Photo: Elena Mudd
The elusive quest to have and do it all. Is it even possible? How do you navigate the shift from total career focus to new parent?

These were the big topics of discussion last night at Well+Good's latest TALK, our monthly series of deep and super-frank conversations with wellness experts.

A sold-out crowd gathered at The Assemblage to hear Well+Good CEO and co-founder Alexia Brue, early childhood expert Tovah Klein, PhD, and founder of career site Second Shift Jenny Galluzzo talk through some hard questions about the delicate balancing act of being career-driven and being a mom.

It was a can't-miss conversation—but we can catch you up! Here's their best advice for living life like a boss, at home and at work.

motherhood work balance
Photo: Elena Mudd

1. Realize there's more to your identity than being an employee or a mom

"[Becoming a parent] is a huge identity shift no one can really prepare you for—even if you always wanted to become a mom," says  Dr. Klein, the author of How Toddlers Thrive and director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development. "Data says that the more ways you define yourself, the better off you will be That way, if one part of your life isn't going so well, you still have those other parts of you."

Remembering that you are more than your job, more than a partner, more than a mom, and more than any of the many labels many define themselves by is a tip parents of kids of all ages can put into practice.

2. Have an honest conversation with your boss about what you need and want

Galluzzo—a former on-air producer for Good Morning America, News 12 The Bronx, and Plum TV—founded Second Shift to give women in high-powered careers that are not traditionally mom-friendly a way to do the things they love at a pace that works for them as a parent. Her advice for climbing the corporate ladder while parenting: Present your dream scenario to your boss and how it benefits the company.

Get real about the reasons why you're irreplaceable and why keeping you on—even if it means a slightly more flexible schedule—will save them money (hey, hiring and training new people is not cheap) and best serve the team.

motherhood work balance
Photo: Elena Mudd

3. A closed door is not a clear boundary between working and parenting

Or maybe you think working from home is the way to go. "We all dream that flexibility is the key to our lives, and there is truth to that," Dr. Klein says. "Having a 9-to-5 job is hard when you have kids. But flexibility is a double-edged sword." One problem? Many women end up feeling like they are never doing enough. "Women feel they have to do double the work to show they are working hard enough," Dr. Klein says.

"By the time a child has a sense of self, around 15 months, they have no concept of you closing the door to work. They don't understand why you don't want to be with them." — Tovah Klein, PhD.

Another problem: Children can't understand why, if you're home, your attention isn't all on them. "By the time a child has a sense of self, around 15 months, they have no concept of you closing the door to work. They just see it as rejection, and that's true for 2-, 5-, and 8-year-olds," Dr. Klein says. "They don't understand why you don't want to be with them."

Her advice: Make the workspace boundaries clear (and no, a closed door doesn't count). Galluzzo offers up several ways to do this: "There are so many different types of office shares and spaces now," she says. Or, do your work at a coffee shop. At least any crying kids there won't be your own.

well+good talks
Photo: Elena Mudd

4. Think of your household like a business

Of course, not all the responsibilities at home should fall on you, right? "A lot of women take on a lot of responsibility without asking for help," Dr. Klein says. If you want your partner to help out, speak up—and be clear when you do so.

Galluzzo recommends thinking of your household like a business. Sexy? No. Effective? Totally. "Responsibilities have to be divided and shared. There are deadlines," she says, when referring to who signs the field trip permissions and who is packing lunches. "It's helpful to say, 'Here's the week. Here's what you're doing and here's what I'm doing.'"

5. Focus on quality time with your kids, not quantity

Dr. Klein revealed a key piece of knowledge that will make every mom feel better: "With the exception of newborns, children don't need you all the time. They don't measure their relationship with you in time."

Instead of feeling guilty for not being home every day when your son or daughter gets home from school, Dr. Klein says to focus on the time you do have with your kids and make it count. Put your phone away and lavish them with your love. "You can build in the message of 'I love you and I'm here for you' without picking them up from school," she says.

Galluzzo points out that there are big, institutional changes that still need to be made. (A start: nixing 5 p.m. meetings and not judging work performance just on who works the longest hours.) The career-motherhood balancing act is precarious and not always going to be walked perfectly—and that's okay. But these tips should make it a little bit easier to navigate. And remember, you're not walking it alone.

Special thanks to our partners HerbivoreAura CaciaWeledaDavids Natural ToothpasteThe Great Lakes Goods, Vital ProteinsThe Honey PotUrsa MajorMoodbeliZOYA Nail PolishMONQUrbana Mala, and HATCH, who provided amazing goodies for the gift bags. 

Speaking of moms who are crushing it, here's how Miranda Kerr practices mindfulness with her son and how Jennifer Garner prioritizes health with her kids.

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