“I'm saving a special moment in this introduction for my daughters, Talia and Leila. Girls, I know it has not been easy as I've tried to navigate the challenges of juggling my career and motherhood. And I fully admit that I did not always get the balance right. But I hope that you've seen that with hard work, determination, and love, it can be done. I am so looking forward to seeing what each of you chooses to do with your amazing lives in this incredible country. I love you so much."
As a first-time mother, Jackson’s words stopped me in my tracks and tears immediately started forming. Only 5 months into this parenting journey and I’ve found the juggling act of career and motherhood to be tumultuous.
In fact, I’m writing this at 10 o’clock at night after a day of breastfeeding my teething daughter eight times within 24 hours and trying unsuccessfully to put her down for a nap all while pitching, researching, and writing stories as a freelance writer; working on my first book; interviewing for full-time staff roles; and preparing to move across two states. And that’s with my sister and mother-in-law helping me with the baby while my husband drives an hour to and from the office three days a week.
It’s enough to make you want to scream and cry. Sometimes at the same time.
Before becoming a mom, I often wondered how I’d balance it all: my career, of course, but also being a wife, a sister, a daughter, and friend. Because my perfectionist tendencies don’t allow me to half-ass anything in my personal or professional life. No, I put my whole ass into whatever I do, giving 110 percent to everything I touch.
In the weeks leading up to birth, I often expressed worry and concern to my husband that I would somehow lose myself in motherhood. I wasn’t necessarily worried about the pain from childbirth (I’d had a C-Section-like procedure to remove nearly 20 fibroids several years ago), but I was worried about losing myself and my ambition.
I’d never been someone who dreamed of becoming a mom. Sure, I saw it in my future, but it wasn’t the *big* goals for me. I knew from day one I didn’t want to sacrifice my career and my ambition for my family. Selfish? Maybe; however, I also knew that I’d personally be a better mom and wife if I had other aspirations outside of raising my children.
But it’s not exactly like this country makes it easy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 3.5 million mothers with school-aged children left the workforce between March and April 2020. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic found these parents “shifting into paid or unpaid leave, losing their job, or exiting the labor market all together.”
And in a study conducted by the University of Southern California, researchers found that “nearly half of all mothers reported at least mild symptoms of psychological distress in early April, after the nationwide school closings, as compared to 41 percent of women without school-age children and 32.5 percent of men.” TL;DR: it’s hard out here for moms.
“There’s no such thing as work-life balance, it’s just life.”
I remembered some words of advice from a CEO I once worked under. A mom to two daughters, she told me, “there’s no such thing as work-life balance, it’s just life.” Since then, I’ve come to realize this balancing act is more of a juggling act... and sometimes you may have to drop a few balls.
It reminded me of a quote from former First Lady Michelle Obama: “That whole ‘so you can have it all.’ Nope, not at the same time. That’s a lie. And it’s not always enough to lean in, because that shit doesn’t work all the time.”
Instead of the perfect balance, I’m striving to live in harmony. Knowing that some days my career will demand more from me than motherhood and vice versa. The goal, as far as I’m concerned, is to ensure the scales don’t tip too far in any one direction for too long, achieving a personal sort of equilibrium.
During another late-night social media scroll, I saw a picture of Jackson’s 17-year-old daughter, Leila, beaming at her mom. I can only hope and pray that my daughter one day looks at me that way–with pride in her eyes and love in her heart. While I know I won’t be a perfect mom, I’ll be able to say I did my best and loved her fiercely while going after my dreams as well. It’s what I want for her so I must lead by example.
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