Striking a Balance: Stay-at-Home and Working Moms – Part I

Posted on November 1, 2017

A friend sent me an article in The Wall Street Journal, which was based on psychoanalyst Erica Komisar’s book The Politicization of Motherhood. Komisar points to recent research and strongly advocates that mothers should stay home during their child’s formative years of 0-3. As much as I concur with this, we can all understand that for some moms this might not be realistic and may even be burdensome, especially if they are single mothers or the primary breadwinners of the family.

As I have noted in my parenting workshops and private consultations, moms fall into three main categories: the mom who has to work, the mom who chooses to work, and the mom who consciously and willingly decides to stay at home. Regardless of one’s situation or choice, however, there is clearly one single focal point when it comes to our kids: connection.

With today’s fast-paced parenting lifestyle, no mom—stay-at-home or working— has it easy. Demands are high, schedules packed, and time a precious commodity. Yet we all know that we need time to create connections with our children. When it comes to relationships, no other investment offers the return that time does.

So let’s look at each of these types of moms individually and see what emotions they face and what they can do to simply, practically, and effectively to build connections with their children.

In this two-part blog, I’ll first address the mothers who are already stretched and who may, after reading about Komisar’s work, have to deal with underlying emotions about leaving their children to go to work.

If you’re a mom who has to work, you may be saying to yourself:

“Am I spending enough time with my child?”

“There aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done.”

“I didn’t even see my child today.”

“Will I screw up my child?”

“Am I a good mom?”

Yes, more often than not you are ridden with guilt, doubt, and worry. As a single mom or the primary earner of the family, much of this arises from the insecurity of not being able to spend enough time with your child and your personal expectations of what your family life should look like. Parenting from guilt, doubt, and worry only adds to the emotion commotion. Our kids pick up on it, and either they start mirroring the emotion back to us in their behavior and/or they play on our weakness. This directly affects our connection and our relationship with them. So what should you do?

  1. Accept the situation as it is, and forget about living in an imaginary world of what things “should” or “could” be like. When we accept things as they are, we take the pressure off ourselves and respond—instead of react—to life without resistance and with clarity. In other words, if you can’t change the situation, then face it. It is what it is! This internal shift alone will jumpstart you into making the best use of the time that you do have. Sure, your children will still continue to complain—that’s their job—but in the long run this will teach them resilience, build their grit, and give them an example of how to live life responsibly.
  2. Make the best use of the time you have with your child, and choose your responses consciously and mindfully. Taking the guilt, doubt, and worry off your plate will definitely free up internal space to make more meaningful connections with your child, despite your limited time. Discuss confidently and openly with your child—age appropriately, of course—your role in providing for the family. This is real life. We have to roll up our sleeves and exemplify productive, realistic leadership for our kids, so we don’t raise a generation of children who lead their lives resisting what has showed up on their plate. I’m including a video (link) of a Facebook Live session that I did for a recent parenting summit. In it, I advocate a simple, time-saving, emotion-balancing, connection-building tool called Take 5. Do this every single day—no excuses—for two weeks, and watch for the transformation in your relationship with your child!
  3. Know when to stop and smell the roses. There’s no question that if you are stretched thin, the spillover on your children will be instant and constant. If you can commit to Take 5 for yourself as well once a day, you will come away rejuvenated and bursting with energy! It will take some practice, but if you invest the time in it – just 5 minutes a day – you’ll be amazed at the result. Research tells us that when we take time to care for ourselves we are more effective at communicating and connecting with our children. Once you’ve mastered Take 5 to dial into your internal compass and rhythm, explore other fulfilling ways to satisfy your soul from my friend and self-care expert, Suzi Lula, the author of The Motherhood Evolution: How Thriving Mothers Raise Thriving Children.

The truth is when moms are overloaded, there is emotional leakage that shows up in our behavior with our children. This will affect the air that they breathe and will shape their personality and then be expressed in their relationships with their peers, friends, co-workers, and their own families.

Remember, you are raising the next generation, and every single step you take toward connection and building a relationship with your child is a step that contributes to their well-being and that of our families and society at large. One thing I can promise you: If you commit to Take 5 every day, within two weeks you will transform your internal emotion commotion, and it will show in your relationship with your kids.

Next week, I’ll home in on what challenges other types of moms face.