I’m thrilled to introduce you to our latest Featured Working Mom, Jes, from Jes’ Delights! She’s a long time reader and a huge supporter of LWM. She, her husband, 2 year-old son Liam, and Goldendoodle Sailor reside in the Washington D.C. area, where they make time between their busy schedules to get back to their roots of traveling before baby arrived. Currently they are planning a trip living on a sailboat!
Jes’ blog isn’t just about all things working mom, but she’s got gobs of fun sharing how she makes time for creativity and crafting. Just check out her post about her son’s Dr. Seuss inspired birthday party and you’ll see what I’m talking about! (NOTE: I totally know what Abby’s 4th birthday party will be themed now. So easy and fun!) So when you are done gleaning insight from my interview with her below, make sure to stop by her blog, or send her a tweet, and let her know who sent you!
How long have you been a working momma for and what do you do for your profession?
I’ve been a working momma for two years, since our son was born. I work for a non-profit in DC and my background is in industrial organizational psychology.
Is your company family friendly? How so?
Yes! I’m so fortunate to work for a family friendly company. We have great benefits like fitness classes that encourage me to exercise during the workday, I have a flexible work schedule that allows me to commute before rush hour, and if I have a family emergency or need to take my son to an appointment, my boss is supportive. Focusing on the quality of my work, instead of the when, where, and how I do my work not only helps me maintain a healthier work-life fit, but also results in greater productivity and creativity.
I read an article you were interviewed for about being a working mom and guilt and how it’s all about perspective. Can you share with us what this “perspective” means to you?
To me, perspective is about maintaining an optimistic attitude and considering the “bigger picture.” When I think about what I want my life to look like it helps me feel less guilty about taking steps to make the dreams I have for my family’s future a reality. It’s like training for a marathon – you set goals and work hard to reach them and that vision mitigates the pain of training.
When I was pregnant with our son, I wanted to have a healthy pregnancy (who doesn’t, right?) and work until I went into labor (so I could save my leave time for our newborn) and I feel like keeping perspective helped me achieve those goals. So I would have morning sickness, but still go exercise, and then go to work with a smile on my face because in the grand scheme of things, I felt lucky. I didn’t take any sick days during pregnancy and it made me feel empowered to just keep going. This isn’t to say I never had bad days or an “easy” pregnancy.
I have great examples in my life of working moms who keep it all in perspective – they talk about the “joys” of pregnancy, pumping, and raising kids like they are writing a magazine article – realistic and funny, not full of negativity (who wants to read that?). I feel more connected to those friends and co-workers because even when we have more demands than is possible to accomplish, we lean on each other for a good laugh and get through it.
As a working mom, I feel like the adage it takes a village rings true, especially as we don’t have family close by. Who is your village when it comes to helping with your son?
My sister and brother-in-law live about an hour away and they are incredibly supportive. The rest of our family doesn’t live near by, but we connect almost everyday. Even though we are distanced physically, we have so much support in our lives. My other sister practically taught our son to use FaceTime from 2,000 miles away. We also have kids about our son’s age in almost every house on our block (don’t drink the water!). It’s always nice to rely on neighbors when you’re in a pinch.
He does! He’s my anchor and we work together to run our household as smoothly as possible because we feel it’s the best method to being successful at work, and it makes it easier for us to spend quality time with our son. When you wake up to an organized house with clean clothes and folded diapers, lunches and bags ready-to-go, dinner prepped for that night – it starts the day off right. Of course we are not perfect, but I feel like my husband and I do “equal” amounts of everything. Even if it’s not technically 50/50, I can depend on him to do almost anything just as well as I can.
I know it can be hard for moms to ask for help and give up control of how household tasks are done, especially when they go back to work after being on maternity leave, but I promise, even if your spouse doesn’t do things exactly the way you would, it’s better to let go and appreciate the help. Eventually, with encouragement, I feel like most husbands do get the hang of it. I’m pretty lucky that my husband sees running the household as maintaining a lifestyle, not necessarily “chores”. It goes back to perspective in that he views washing the dirty nappies as a task that just needs to be done. Stinky? Yes, but completely doable without too many grunts and complaints.
What is one piece of advice you have for expecting working mommas?
Plan ahead with your company/boss/work team. So, create your maternity leave plan way in advance (2nd trimester), put everything in writing, and negotiate a return-to-work plan before you go out on leave (early in 3rd trimester). I completely understand that it’s hard to plan when you don’t know what will happen with your delivery and what the temperament of your baby will be, which can certainly impact how long you are out on leave and what type of childcare arrangement you make, but your stress level and the impact on your work team (and career) will be significantly improved if you plan ahead. You can always adjust course if you need to, but for starters, consider what type of maternity leave you would like to take, what steps you need to make it a reality, put it in writing, and discuss it with your boss and co-workers before they even throw you a baby shower.
Most importantly, plan your return-to-work before you leave. Know your rights, research your company’s policies, and confirm with HR, but also consider what you as a mom will need. And then propose that to your boss with support for why it’s important. For example, if you wanted to return-to-work gradually by working fours day a week, or working remotely, then talk about how you will do that and be productive, how it will reduce your commuting time, help you establish a routine with your baby, thus leading to less days of missed work, and how it will improve your focus. There are ways to make it happen, even if it’s just for a month or two upon your return, every little bit will make it easier on you and your family, as well as your employer. No one wants a burnt out, sleep-deprived employee working for them, so figure out what you need and the best way to ask for it. Sometimes asking for a flexible schedule on a trial basis and proving yourself can be effective.
What does balance look like to you? I’m convinced balance is a sham and my scale leans to the side of my life where my attention is needed the most at the time. Do you feel the same?
I would definitely agree! The terms work-life merge, fit, or flex seem to be better descriptors for me these days. It’s about competing demands and a desire to live your life a certain way, which is different for us all. Especially in large metro areas where commuting can suck up 3 hours or more of your day, it can be hard to maintain a healthy work-life fit. One tip I have for keeping organized is to manage your email and to-do lists well, instead of letting messages clog up your inbox, and to sync calendars with your spouse. I put everything on my calendar, which I can access from my phone and it helps me stay on top of all the different things I need to manage.
What does “me time” look like for you? How important is this time for your soul?
These days “me time” is an hour at the gym where I can sweat without interruptions. Nothing revives my soul better than an adrenaline-pumping workout. Nowadays if I can do this 2 times a week in addition to my fitness classes at the office, then I am one happy momma, and I’m pretty sure my family is happier to have me around too. Right now we are planning for a sailing trip where we will be “living” on a sailboat in bathing suits all day, so I’m even more focused on getting fit. I feel like being comfortable with your body is so much harder after pregnancy, so exercise is more important than ever for my emotional health too.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
If you want to make a change in life, try taking small steps in manageable chunks. Tell yourself that you’ll try meal prepping just one or two days a week until you get the hang of it. Or try adding 15 minutes of exercise until gradually you build up more energy, and then add more. Essentially, making small changes gradually will help you achieve your goals. There is no “crash diet” for sustainable behavior change and as working parents we have to continuously adapt and change course based on our kids and competing demands. It’s okay to change course, just don’t lose yourself in the process – stay anchored, keep perspective, and never lose sight of who you want to be.
Join in the conversation and leave some comments below for huge LWM supporter Jess!
If you’d like a chance to be a featured working mom, check out this post to see the details.