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6 essential lessons I’ve learned in 3 years as a working mom

I’m slowing learning that less can be more at work. 

6 essential lessons I’ve learned in 3 years as a working mom

Being a working mama is hard—and we all need to learn from one another



“It doesn’t get easier you just get stronger.”

I came across those words on Instagram a few months after my second child was born.

I had been struggling to make everything fit—jugging multiple part-time jobs with not enough child care.

While I knew we wanted to have more children some day, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how.

But once I saw those words, my entire perspective shifted.

It’s not about life-hacking my way through motherhood (though I adore people and products that make my life easier.)

It’s about accepting (and celebrating!) that I am growing and evolving as part of this experience, and that I am capable of so much more than I even imagine.

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Even though I feel like my hands are full now, many women before me have found ways to grow as their families do. I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but I trust that I can start to figure it out along the way.

When I read this hilarious (and #sotrue) essay in New York Magazine about how motherhood can help you get your act together at home and work, I nodded my head in agreement the entire time.

Motherhood—and the demands of being the person that two little people now call mom—continues to be the most transformative experience of my life.

My husband and I need to keep talking about roles

We promised to have an egalitarian marriage (I even asked the priest to take out a standard prayer from our wedding ceremony about women doing the housework that struck me as particularly sexist), but the reality was that after my maternity leave, I began working from home—and I started default-parenting.

My husband is the best dad I could ever ask for my children, but we noticed along the way that things like doctor’s appointments, laundry piles and bedtime were all defaulting to me. And then there were times that he was pitching in around the home in ways that I wasn’t fully appreciating. So we started talking it through—over and over again. They can be emotional conversations to have, but we are better because of them.

After we read “Who cuts the fingernails?” together, we decided to be more intentional about how roles are divided. Sometimes, my job is more flexible and I pick up the slack, but lately, he’s been taking over on the homefront while I work on a big project. We’re still trying to figure out which roles and responsibility work uniquely for us, and it’s a constant conversation that we need to keep having.

Oh, and he now cuts all the tiny little fingernails.

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Eat breakfast

Coffee doesn’t count.

I’m a convert to morning smoothies, which I pack with protein by adding almond butter and chia seeds. I sip them all morning and feel somuchbetter if I just remember to eat food before noon.

This is the whole “put on your own oxygen mask first” philosophy. Fuel yourself, mama for all you have to do.

Encourage others

It’s really hard to feel like you’re never going to fit into your pants again, or that you’ll never sleep through the night again, or that you’ll never get out of the house again.

But once I survived some of motherhood’s trials (thanks to the encouragement, humor and help of dozens of girlfriends who literally flew in to help, or texted encouragement, or found ways to make me laugh), I found myself wanting to be that same support for others.

Now I try to take the time to let new mamas know that I’m thinking about them, or check in on them, or send them a simple note of encouragement.

We make motherhood better for all of us when we create a culture that acknowledges how demanding it truly can be and find small, but incredibly meaningful, ways to help.

Invite a new mom to hang out. Spontaneously care of her kids for the afternoon. Send her a little gift to let her know you’re thinking of her. Be the change you want to see in the world. Be the diaper change?

Know when to push ahead—and when you give yourself a break

Some nights after my children are asleep the most important thing I can do is sprint through emails and try to catch up at work.

But I’ve found that it’s just as important to sense when my overwhelming to-do list is starting to make my head explode, and that the most beneficial thing I can actually do then is take the night off and watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine with my husband—(starring my back-up husband, Andy Samberg. I love you Jake Peralta.)

I don’t need Harvard Business Review to tell me that working too much actually decreases productivity, now I have my own experience as an occasionally-frantic working mother.

I’m slowly figuring out that putting in too many hours at the office actually prevents me from being effective, and that a night on the couch can actually a good choice for my career.



So bring it on, Brooklyn.

Redefine "productivity"

Sure, research (and our own experience) show that mothers can be incredibly productive at work.

We agree that moms can actually get done in three hours what might take others a full day. Nothing like a 5 pm daycare pickup time to make a woman work through her massive to-do list in rapid order.

But don’t let those ideas of what “getting things done” looks like keep you from recognizing the value of being with your kids and doing absolutely nothing “productive.”

When you take your toddler to story time, change her bedding, kiss her skinned knee, cook a nutritious dinner or just simply are present with her—that’s incredibly important work that is too-often dismissed as “unproductive.”

Don’t be deceived. The small acts of caregiving that women do every day are the building blocks of a loving family and a meaningful life. You’re investing in the most precious resource—your little person.

You’re raising a human being. That’s the most spectacular achievement of all.

We’re proud to know you, mama.

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I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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