The mama juggle (or struggle?!), returning to work
I’ve always understood the value of work—kicking off my career at age 12 with my first job, which was quickly ensued by an apprenticeship awarded at age 16. Fast forward to today—twenty years on—and my appetite for work is just as enormous; but I’ve found myself figuring out how to manage the challenge of juggling being a high-level executive, a mother, a wife, a daughter and a friend all at once. Let me serve the truth up to you on a not-so-silver-platter—it’s not easy. Anyone who boasts they’ve achieved balance in this space is either a superhero (hats off to you, mama) or just simply totally okay with rocking up to the office in vomit-stained corporate attire.
I was blessed with my second son, Tom, just over a year ago—he joined his big brother Jed earthside and I couldn’t be prouder to call them my sons—and to tackle my biggest role yet, being a mama to two tenacious boys. I won’t lie, I’ve had my ups and downs—there are days where my heart is absolutely overflowing with love and wonder, and there are the days I’ve lacked clarity, direction and purpose, fearful of the unknown that lies ahead.
I’ll be honest—I’ve suffered my fair share of anxiety about it all and I’m quite certain that there are thousands of other mamas out there sharing this dilemma. One of the hardest things for me has been working out my career direction. Unfortunately, the nature of my job doesn’t accommodate part-time hours—being a senior executive, I need to be committed to full-time. Of course, I love my work, it’s brought me so much joy, satisfaction, and opportunities for professional development… but, it’s also sprinkled with a whole lot of guilt—knowing I’m missing out on being at home with my children. But guess what? That’s totally normal—and it’s okay to ask for support.
I’m the kind of woman who needs to know where she’s headed and what her purpose is—so my husband Scott and I sat down, analysed our lives, broke it all down piece by piece and wrote down our non-negotiables. We even created a pie chart to help us identify our ‘why’, and what we needed to balance the career/family juggle. The outcome? We are crystal clear on what we want to be working towards together: family holidays, purpose driven roles and financial stability.
Having children is the single greatest thing I’ve ever achieved—these little men of mine fill my cup on the daily and have brought a whole new layer of depth to my life. It also comes coupled with a side-serving of anxiety—as I return to the workforce, I realise that I have no idea how to cope with a full-time workload and two small children. Despite my nerves, I’m learning that there are so many other mamas in my position—this feeling, the nervousness, the apprehension? It’s normal, and it will pass.
A mama’s shadow…guilt
Honestly, it’s hard being a working parent. There is so much guilt associated with it—I feel guilty because I can’t be with my sons when they need me, guilty because there are some days when I can’t fully commit to my work (this week it’s facing gastro). So many people have asked me if I was excited to go back to work—to be frank, I’m not sure. I’m torn, I’m confused and I’m a little sad. I’ll never get this time back with my little ones. And to add to the confusion and uncertainty, while I was on maternity leave, my work went through a restructure as well—so I’m learning to let go of my worry and go with this ‘new flow’.
Let’s talk personal care
Other than the anxiety and the guilt, there’s also the multitude of things that need to get done to ensure everything is running smoothly. So how do I manage it? While it may not sound important, personal and physical care is crucial. There’s buying new work clothes, ensuring my hair and nails are done, making sure I look the part of a senior executive at a major Australian bank. It’s also important to make sure you’re looking after yourself. Whether it’s nourishing food or physical movement, it’s always a challenge to fit it all in, but if there is one thing that I believe is essential to stay in control and in a good headspace, it’s exercise and nutrition.
Facing the challenges
I’m a mum, wife and senior executive, and somehow, I need to make all of these jobs co-exist. So, I get organised—I organise as much as I can the night before, from laying out mine and my boys’ clothes to making lunches for us all. The other key way we make all of this work? My husband and I plan together. I cannot stress enough the value of sitting down with your significant other to discuss your roles. For us, Scott and I had to figure out what our roles were within the four walls of our house so we were clear on whose responsibility it was to cook and whose it was to make sure the boys had food in their tummies, among all the other things. That way, nothing slips—and everyone is clear of their responsibilities and can manage their expectations. And, I won’t lie, I have considered putting my boys to bed in their clothes for the next day.
At the end of the day, it all comes back to living a purposeful life. For me, that’s being both a senior executive who provides for her growing family, and a present and dedicated mama. So? I make it work.
What’s your purpose?