What being a working mom is *really* like

Motherhood is all encompassing, for better and for worse.

What being a working mom is *really* like

Fifteen months ago, after our baby joined our family, I wrote about how I was so “in it,” so in the middle of figuring things out, that I had trouble articulating my thoughts in a succinct blog post.

I still feel like that.

Parenthood is a train that keeps moving, no matter how much you want it to slow down, to relish a fun new stage or simply catch up on sleep. It barrels forward while you work and travel and live, and because you don’t want to miss a single smile or cry or milestone, you hang on as tight as you can.

Becoming a mom has been the most joyful transition of my life—and the most challenging. I used to think about my past as a series of stages, often based around where I called home—childhood in upstate New York, college in Maine, working for the newspaper in Houston, traveling in Africa, running my own business from DC, enjoying life as a newly married couple.

Now I see it far more simply, as two distinct stages—before and after my baby was born.

Motherhood is all encompassing, for better and for worse.

I dislike the term “mommy brain” because it makes women sound weak and forgetful, instead of acknowledging the million pieces they juggle every day. But I now, as I struggle to keep up with my tiny human and my full-time job at The Penny Hoarder, I understand why people say it.

Imagine taking your already-full brain and stuffing it with two or three times as many things to understand and remember—oh, and those new things are more important than what you had in there previously, because they involve taking care of a tiny baby you love and adore.

Would all that information fit? Would you remember it all? Hell no.

And yet somehow, your heart is able to accomplish what your brain simply can’t. Having a baby means adding more love than you’ve ever felt before, piling all the new love right on top of the old love, and then piling more love on top of that…and your heart still doesn’t explode or overheat or fail.

You feel something indescribably wonderful when your baby laughs, when he cuddles up to your chest, when he explores grass for the first time with his tiny fingers and you can see the wheels in his head turning. It is a beautiful gift to nurture another human being as they grow.

So how is it possible, with all that love and so much good, that this transition could also be so darn hard?

I sometimes wonder if it would’ve been easier if I’d had kids when I was 25 instead of 35. Would I have been less used to having time to myself, if I hadn’t taken that decade to focus on me? Would I be less ambitious at work, if I hadn’t already seen what I could accomplish when I work hard? Would I be less tired? Less sick? Less grumpy?

Of course, there are positives to having kids later in life, too. My career is more established—my company was acquired just a few month’s before my baby’s birth—which means I have more flexibility and choices at work. My finances are more established, too. I earn enough that I can afford to keep working, which isn’t the case for a lot of mothers because of the crazy-high cost of child care. I know myself well and what I want out of life. My husband and I are more mature in our decisions than we were in our 20s, and I think that makes us better parents than we might’ve been a decade ago.

For the last year, I’ve thought about what I would do if I could do it all over again. How would I prepare myself? And my household? And my career?

Now I have the opportunity to do just that—because we are expecting baby number two—I honestly don’t know how we’ll do it with two young kids, but I’m grateful to grow our family. Both my husband and I have siblings close in age, and we wanted to give our kids that gift of friendship, too. Tons of working parents manage families. We can too, right?

Here’s what I didn’t know when I first became a (working) mom—and what I’ll remind myself the second time around.

1. It will be harder than you expect

Lots of little pieces will be hard, but the hardest part is something that’s difficult to truly understand until you experience it—not getting enough sleep.

I’m not talking about the I-couldn’t-fall-asleep-last-night tired. I mean the kind of tired where you’re only getting a few hours night after night after night and it all adds up and you’re constantly trying to claw yourself back to feeling “normal,” and you tell yourself everything will be fine as soon as you catch up…except you never do.

While I figured we’d be tired during the first few months, I didn’t expect that zombie-like phase to last for as long as it did. It took us until month 14 to get our baby to sleep through the night, and many parents deal with sleep issues that last even longer.

That tiredness bleeds into everything. It makes it difficult to focus on work. It makes it difficult to exercise. It makes it difficult to not snap at your partner when tiny things go wrong. When you are that tired, it’s simply impossible to do all the things you did before at the level you’re used to doing them.

I remember a long run I took maybe 10 years ago. It was a 12-mile run through the woods—I was training for a marathon. Around mile eight, I got a rush where I felt like I was flying. I ran effortlessly, fast and smooth for at least two miles before starting to feel human again.

That run always sticks with me as a reminder of what’s possible when I’m in fabulous shape, when I’m rested, when my head is in the game. And it feels so far away now. So unattainable.

But each day I inch closer to feeling like me again. Of course, we’ll hit the reset button when baby number two arrives, but here’s what I keep reminding myself—the exhaustion is only temporary. The awake-all-night stage is temporary and the up-every-day-at-4:30 a.m. stage is temporary (and hopefully shorter this time around.)

The cuddles and baby squeals and peek-a-boos are all temporary, too. While I want to wish away the tiredness, I want to hold onto the good bits as long as possible. And those moments? They are worth all the exhaustion.

2. You won’t be able to do it all

Did I mention you’ll be tired?

Scale back now, before the baby arrives, instead of later.

Be OK with letting go. You’re making room for something wonderful.

3. Breastfeeding is hard

Really hard. And even harder when you work full time.

I could write an entire post about this one topic, how badly I wanted to breastfeed and how short I fell of my own goals and how many things our society could do to make this easier for women. Just know that every mother and baby has their own challenges, and what you envision might not become reality. And it will all turn out OK anyhow.

4. Taking care of yourself will help you better take care of your family

It will also help you maintain a happy and healthy relationship with your spouse when you’re stressed and exhausted.

For me, taking care of myself means exercising. I don’t exercise nearly as much as I used to or as much as I’d like, but I always feel better when I manage to get out for a bike ride or yoga class or simply a walk.

While you probably won’t be able to immediately get back to whatever that thing is that keeps you sane, get back to it as soon as you can.

Which brings me to…

5. You are doing the best you can

I suspect I’m not the only working mom who feels like I’m not doing as much or as well as I’d like, both with my career and with my family.

I feel guilty every time I leave my family to travel to Florida for work, and I feel guilty when I leave work to spend time with my family. I wish I could do more in both camps. Not to mention all the other things I would like to make time for. Things like blogging and cooking and biking and relaxing that used to be daily priorities and now rarely get done.

That’s why at the end of every yoga class, when I lay on my side after Shavasana (the resting pose at the end of practice), I say to myself—You are doing the best you can.

If that’s completely true, if I’m being honest with myself that I’m truly giving it my all, if I am doing the best I can, that is enough. No one can do better than their best.

When I answer that question honestly, I feel relief. I am doing my best, and while some things are challenging in this new phase of life, so many things are good.

Having a healthy baby after a scary pregnancy is good. Waking up in the morning to a huge grin from my child is good. Watching my husband laugh with our baby is good. Seeing our baby do things for the first time is good. No matter how exhausted my husband and I feel, life is good.

This article was originally published on

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We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!

A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.


A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.


A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.


A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.


A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.


A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.


A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.


A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.


An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.


A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.


And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

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

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