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How to Make Working + Mothering Feel Less Like a Circus

Topics: Career Advice
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Originally published on Fairygodboss

Reva Busby, a senior manager at West Monroe Partners, has some killer advice for working moms: “If you don’t tell people what your ambitions are, they won’t be able to help you achieve them.”

She’s a mother of three who’s always prioritized her career — and while she’s been fortunate enough to work at a consulting firm that’s doing some incredible things for working parents (BTW, they’re also hiring like crazy!) she gets that juggling working and parenting can sometimes feel like a circus.

She recently filled us in on her journey as a working mama, which began when she returned to work full-time after having her first child. She realized within a few months that in order to feel satisfied at home, she needed to spend more time with her daughter.

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“Maintaining my career at West Monroe was also a priority for me,” she explains, “so I decided to move to an 80% schedule.”

While West Monroe now has a formal policy on flexible working, Busby was able to negotiate her schedule even before this policy was in place.

Advice for moms worried about being seen as less ambitious at work: communicate and be candid regarding expectations.Click To Tweet

“This support structure was invaluable in getting my bearings with this new lifestyle, and I certainly pay it forward to all the other working parents I meet at West Monroe!” Busby says.

Other women at West Monroe feel similarly: one writes on Fairygodboss, “I am constantly in awe of the women I work with. I’m lucky to be surrounded by very strong, supportive, intelligent women mentors and peers!” Moreover, 100 percent of the employees who have reviewed the company on Fairygodboss would recommend it to other women.

Busby admits that even though she felt well-supported, the change in her schedule did come with its fair share of pros and cons — but ultimately it was just what she needed to feel personally satisfied both at home and at work.

She suggests that finding a support system among other working parents is crucial.

“Largely based on my client project at the time, I ended up bonding the most as a new mom with … new fathers!” Busby tells Fairygodboss. “They saw what their wives were going through as new moms (both in the workplace and at home) and could relate to things like unplanned doctor visits, ad hoc remote working days, baby feeding schedules, sleep deprivation, etc.”

For new parents who are struggling to find the right balance between their family life and their professional life, Busby emphasizes the importance of being patient and flexible while keeping an eye out for opportunities that “could be hiding in plain sight within your organization. Communicate with your leaders about the opportunities you see within your workplace and how it could be a win/win for both you and your organization.”

Busby also has some spot-on insight for mamas who are worried about being mommy-tracked, or treated as less ambitious in the workplace because of their choice to have kids: communicate well and be candid and transparent about your intentions and expectations at work.

“One thing that has been very helpful for me is writing a three-year letter – essentially what you want to achieve both personally and professionally three years from today,” she says.

“Don’t just keep it to yourself, share it! In this way, you plant the seed on what you are trying accomplish in [your colleagues’] minds and if they see an opportunity that could help you, they will know not to pass you over for it. There are a lot of assumptions made about new moms – what they can, can’t or won’t do in the workplace. Break the cycle by communicating clearly what your intentions are.”

“There are a lot of assumptions made about new moms – what they can, can’t or won’t do in the workplace. Break the cycle by communicating clearly what your intentions are.”Click To Tweet

Busby has penned a super poignant piece about “the working mom’s juggling act” — and below, in her own words, are six lessons for all the mamas who are struggling to make it work:

1. Don’t compare yourself to others.

No one’s personal life is exactly the same, especially once you introduce kids. I found myself looking at peers and getting disheartened that they were passing me by at work. But when I talked to my mentors and trusted career advisors, they reminded me that my life is completely different and it wasn’t a fair comparison. I had to look holistically at my life versus separating personal and professional when assessing my overall happiness.

2. Find role models and supporters.

It doesn’t need to be a formal reporting relationship. Find people that you look up to and want your life to be like. There are so many strong women in leadership positions at West Monroe that I am privileged to know and to call my working mom advisors. There are also men that have fought hard on my behalf to land the roles and projects I wanted at the firm. Ask them about their experience and what they do to maintain their satisfaction at work and home. You’ll be surprised how candid people will be when you open up the dialogue, and how much they will want to help you.

3. Eliminate the word “balance” from your vocabulary; it is all about satisfaction.

Work-life balance as a working mom (or parent for that matter) is just unrealistic. I would describe it more as a constant juggling act. There are days I only make it home for the tail end of bedtime and there are days I am able to spend three-plus hours in the evening with my kids. The “balance” can swing wildly in either direction, but at the end of the day you have to ask yourself – Am I satisfied across all aspects of my life? If the answer is no, then reevaluate your priorities and what you can do to make yourself happy and be the best possible version of yourself. A great read to help understand this philosophy is Off Balance, by Matthew Kelly – a quick read and personal favorite.

4. Protect your boundaries.

Just like your toddler, your colleagues will also test your boundaries.  Once you start to stretch them and make yourself available, the precedent becomes set. Turn the auto-reply on and train your colleagues what an urgent issue looks like. I can only recall one client issue that was so dire it required a phone call on my weekly Friday off at home in over a year. People understand rules and they will learn to respect your boundaries and work around them. Be clear about your timelines and over-communicate. After some time, your colleagues will get used to your new normal. The only person who can protect your boundaries is you.

5. Outsource everything you feasibly can.

The best piece of advice I have received is to think about what you feel most strongly about doing yourself and then find ways to outsource the rest. A friend of mine said she felt strongly about elaborate birthday celebrations complete with a chocolate cake from scratch for each of her family member’s birthdays – but she could care less about weekly grocery shopping. So she used PeaPod and Instacart to get groceries delivered.

On the other hand, I feel very strong about weekly grocery shopping and wanted to spend time doing that myself. So I hired a cleaning service. Just like you would at work, prioritize all the day-to-day tasks and get as much help as you can on the things that matter less if you physically do them yourself. This applies to the workplace as well – if there are tasks you are doing that don’t directly relate to your role or others could do them with a little guidance, find ways to delegate. The great byproduct of this is that is creates opportunity for others.

6. Compromise is part of the gig.

You aren’t going to be at every happy hour and you won’t be able to attend all the evening networking events. Be selective in how you spend your time and what you choose to do. Just because you want to do it doesn’t mean you have to. A time will come that you won’t have to worry about this trade-off, but in the meantime – embrace it and move on.

I still wouldn’t say I feel 100 percent at peace with this change every day in my, previously very linear, career path. Maybe I never will. But what I can tell you is that on the days and evenings I am off work and home with my three little ones, I feel so grateful that I still have a career that I love and am able to spend so much quality time with them – regardless of what my title is at work.

How To Make Working + Mothering Feel Less Like A Circus originally appeared on Fairygodboss.

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