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New working moms don't believe in 'work-life balance'—and they're right

Is there any more stressful phrase for new working mothers than "work-life balance"? We're supposed to want it, need it, achieve it on any given day. As the editor of Working Mother, I hated it and would try my best to keep it out of our pages—and yet, every once in a while it would sneak in.


Because who doesn't want a bit of balance in their life?

But let's get real: When do we moms ever have balance in our very real and messy lives? Is there ever a day when everything is in sync? Of course not. And that's okay if only because of all the extra effort it would take for any of us to stay in balance once we got there.

A new research report finds, however, that the days of "work-life balance" may finally be numbered because Millennial working moms just aren't buying it anymore.

Amen.

The report from The Mom Project finds that for today's working moms, the key to making complicated lives work is realizing that everything has to work together throughout the day.

Call it "work-life integration," and you'll be much closer to the mark for this newest generation of working moms. As explained by one of the more than 1,000 women surveyed for the Building a Better Workplace report:

"Work-life balance is kind of an older term. Balance makes me think we work for eight hours, and then we adjust and we don't work after that. We don't work like that anymore. Sometimes it's not about purely shutting it off from 5 p.m. on. I take time for family, but then I'll get back to it at 8 p.m."

That's my life too—and I strongly suspect yours as well.

For new working moms, work-life is about integrating everything into a life that works for you and your career—and, of course, your family.

But what to do if you need more flexibility in your work life?

The first step is a simple one: Ask for it. While the conversation around flexible work is more open than before, it still remains something unconsidered by too many of us (and our managers) until it's too late, we've burned out and are ready to walk out the door… forever.

Of course, making the ask isn't always easy. To help, here are my favorite time-tested tips for making flexible-work work for both you and your boss:

Know that everyone needs some flexibility

While women still carry most of their family's mental load, it's important to realize that anyone with a doctor's appointment, an aging parent, a partner with a chronic illness, and even just a morning Pilates class they're trying to make, appreciate (and likely uses) some form of flexible work. Yes, we working moms rely on it, but we aren't the only ones.

Know what you need

Flex comes in many varieties and what works best for your office mate may not work for you. Indeed, as a long time advocate for flexible work arrangements, what's most interesting to me about The Mom Project findings is the myriad ways flexibility now needs to take shape to work for new working moms.

Beyond the traditional approach of shifting working hours or working from home, today's moms say that flexible work also needs to include options to:

  • Work hours that are convenient (rather than the standard 9 to 5)
  • Work remotely
  • Control number of hours worked
  • Work hours needed to get the job done (regardless of whether or not it results in a 40-hour week)

The dream is a workweek with flexible hours within set days to accommodate family schedules—and women surveyed add that they have no problem putting in the time needed to get the job done. Just give us flexibility on which hours we work.

Consider your boss' needs

It's important to remember that flexible work involves give and take, so make sure to consider (and call out) how it might help your team's needs. For example, will working from home a few days a week allow you to start work earlier? Will a shifted schedule allow you to jump on a late call due to time-zone differences?

Prove it can work

As a long-time manager, I know that many bosses worry that any accommodation will immediately become permanent, even if it isn't working well. To help make your case, suggest your new schedule as a 90-day trial, at which point you can both reassess whether it works for both of you.

I can report that after more than a decade of managing working moms, that the best, most productive, most innovative team you'll ever have is one that feels trusted to get their work done in a way that works for everyone, themselves included.

That's because there are few things more stressful than having to sneak around to cover a family responsibility during work hours.

Allowing working moms the freedom to be where they need to be when they need to be there is just one way managers can support this newest generation of working moms, 42% of whom ranked flexibility as more important than salary.

Allow us working moms the autonomy to do what needs to be done and you'll not only get our gratitude, you'll get our best work yet.

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We've had some struggles, you and me. In my teens, we were just getting to know each other. It was a rocky road at times, like when people referred to you as "big boned." I was learning how to properly fuel you by giving you the right foods. How to be active, to keep you strong and in good shape. I wish I knew then what I do now about you and what a true blessing you are. But that's something that has come with the gift of motherhood.

In my 20's, we became more well-acquainted. I knew how to care for you. After I got engaged, we worked so hard together to get into "wedding shape." And, looking back now, I totally took that six pack—okay, four pack—for granted. (But I have the pictures to prove it.)

Now that I'm in my 30's (how did my 30's happen so fast, btw?) with two kids, I'm coming to terms with my new postpartum body.

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If there are two things a mama is guaranteed to love, it's Target plus adorable and functional baby products. Target's exclusive baby brand Cloud Island has been a favorite destination for cute and affordable baby clothing and décor for nearly two years and because of that success, they're now expanding into baby essentials. 🙌

The new collection features 30 affordable products starting at $0.99 and going up to $21.99 with most items priced under $10—that's about 30-40% less expensive than other products in the market. Mamas can now enjoy adding diapers, wipes, feeding products and toiletries to their cart alongside clothing and accessories from a brand they already know and love.


The best part? The Target team has ensured that the affordability factor doesn't cut down on durability by working with hundreds of parents to create and test the collection. The wipes are ultra-thick and made with 99% water and plant-based ingredients, while the toiletries are dermatologist-approved. With a Tri-Wrap fold, the diapers offer 12-hour leak protection and a snug fit so parents don't have to sacrifice safety or functionality.

So when can you start shopping? Starting on January 20, customers can shop the collection across all stores and online. We can't wait to see how this beloved brand expands in the future.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Many people experience the "winter blues," which are often worst in northern climates from November to March, when people have less access to sunlight, the outdoors and their communities. Another 4% develops Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a form of clinical depression that often requires formal treatment.

If you have the winter blues, you may feel “blah," sad, tired, anxious or be in a worse mood than usual. You may struggle with overeating, loss of libido, work or sleep issues. But fear not—it is possible to find your joy in the winter, mama.

Here are eight ways to feel better:

1. Take a walk

Research has shown that walking on your lunch break just three times per week can reduce tension, relax you and improve your enthusiasm. If you are working from 9 to 5, the only window you have to access natural sunlight may be your lunch hour, so head outside for a 20 minute brisk but energizing walk!

If you are home, bundle up with your kids midday—when the weather is often warmest—and play in the snow, go for a short walk, play soccer, race each other, or do something else to burn energy and keep you all warm. If you dress for the weather, you'll all feel refreshed after some fresh air.

2. Embrace light

Research suggests that a full-spectrum light box or lamp, which mimics sunlight, can significantly improve the symptoms of the winter blues and has a similar effect to an antidepressant. Bright light at a certain time every day activates a part of the brain that can help restore normal circadian rhythms. While light treatment may not be beneficial for everyone (such as people who have bipolar disorder), it may be a beneficial tool for some.

3. Plan a winter trip

It may be helpful to plan a getaway for January or February. Plan to take it very easy, as one research study found that passive vacation activities, including relaxing, "savoring," and sleeping had greater effects on health and well-being than other activities. Engaging in passive activities on vacation also makes it more likely that your health and well-being will remain improved for a longer duration after you go back to work.

Don't overschedule your trip. Relax at a beach, a pool, or a cabin instead of waiting in long roller coaster lines or visiting packed museums. Consider visiting or traveling with family to help with child care, build quiet time into your vacation routine, and build in a day of rest, recovery, and laundry catch-up when you return.

4. Give in to being cozy

Sometimes people mistake the natural slowness of winter as a problem within themselves. By making a concerted effort to savor the slowness, rest and retreat that complement winter, you can see your reduction in activity as a natural and needed phase.

Research suggests that naps help you release stress. Other research suggests that when your brain has time to rest, be idle, and daydream, you are better able to engage in "active, internally focused psychosocial mental processing," which is important for socioemotional health.

Make a "cozy basket" filled with your favorite DVDs, bubble bath or Epsom salts, lemon balm tea (which is great for “blues,") or chamomile tea (which is calming and comforting), citrus oils (which are good for boosting mood), a blanket or a favorite book or two. If you start to feel the blues, treat yourself.

If your child is napping or having quiet time in the early afternoon, rest for a full 30 minutes instead of racing around doing chores. If you're at work, keep a few mood-boosting items (like lavender spray, tea, lotion, or upbeat music) nearby and work them into your day. If you can't use them at work, claim the first 30 minutes after your kids are asleep to nurture yourself and re-energize before you tackle dishes, laundry, or other chores.

5. See your friends

Because of the complex demands of modern life, it can be hard to see or keep up with friends or family. The winter can make it even harder. While you interact with your kids throughout the day, human interaction with other adults (not just through social media!) can act as a protective layer to keep the winter blues at bay.

Plan a monthly dinner with friends, go on a monthly date night if you have a partner, go to a book club, get a drink after work with a coworker, visit a friend on Sunday nights, or plan get-togethers with extended family. Research suggests that social interactions are significantly related to well-being.

Realize that given most families' packed schedules, you may need to consistently take the lead in bringing people together. Your friends will probably thank you, too.

6. Get (at least) 10 minutes of fresh air

A number of research studies have shown positive effects of nature on well-being, including mental restoration, immune health, and memory. It works wonders for your mood to get outside in winter, even if it's just for 10 minutes 2 to 3 times per week. You might walk, snowshoe, shovel, go sledding or go ice-skating. If you can't get outside, you might try these specific yoga poses for the winter blues.

7. Add a ritual

Adding a ritual to your winter, such as movie night, game night, hot chocolate after playing outside, homemade soup on Sundays, or visiting with a different friend every Saturday morning for breakfast, can add beauty and flow to the seemingly long months of winter. Research has suggested that family rituals and traditions, such as Sunday dinner, provide times for togetherness and strengthening relationships.

8. Talk to a professional

Counseling, which helps you identify the connections between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, can be extremely helpful for the winter blues (especially when you are also experiencing anxiety or stress). A counselor can assist you with identifying and honoring feelings, replacing negative messages with positive ones, or shifting behaviors. A counselor may also help you indulge into winter as a time of retreat, slowness, planning, and reflecting. You may choose to use the winter to get clear on what you'd like to manifest in spring.

The opposite of the winter blues is not the absence of the winter blues—it's taking great pleasure in the unique contribution of a time of cold, darkness, retreat, planning, reflecting, being cozy and hibernating. Nurturing yourself and your relationships can help you move toward winter joy.

Weary mama,

You are incredibly strong. You are so very capable.

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