Three Tips for Managing the Mental and Physical Load of Being a Working Mom

written by Katy Hope.

Having a new baby is hard. Going back to work after maternity leave can be even harder. Whether you are excited to go back to work or dreading it, don’t tackle the transition of becoming a working mom on your own.

After I had my first child I was excited to return to work. I loved our new baby, but I was honestly bored during maternity leave. Three-month-olds aren’t that exciting, or so I thought. I looked forward to the challenge and interaction that work would bring. What I didn’t anticipate was how hard it would be to juggle it all. Managing childcare, maintaining a household, and excelling in a full time, demanding career was more difficult than I thought. The hardest part of it all was not what I expected either…

My partner is my best friend. He is super supportive of me being a working mom and tried to help in whatever way he could during those first few months. What I didn’t realize was how challenging going back to work would be on US, and on our communication.

There is a funny comic strip about the mental workload of motherhood… It depicts all the thoughts that run through a mother’s mind whether it is the to-do list, grocery shopping, keeping track of bills, or when their kids will outgrow stuff. There is a huge amount of mental energy that goes into motherhood that (most) fathers don’t bear. The comic strip shows the mom running through all these thoughts while the dinner boils over and the dad asks, “Why didn’t you ask for help?”

My personal answer was always, “I don’t want to have to ask, you should just know.” This is the crux of the problem of returning to work.

Unfortunately, the reality is often that your partner will not know, and you will need to ask. This becomes most apparent when you return to work from maternity leave. Time is limited; you have a mile high list of things that need to get done, and a million things running through your head. It is a high-stress time and you need to have a plan. This goes beyond just finding childcare, but finding a truly sustainable plan for how to manage being a working mom, and how to share the responsibilities.

I didn’t have a plan. I managed it all and asked my partner to help as needed, but it didn’t work. After kid number two the stress was too much. I was handling all the mental load of motherhood and household management and ended up hospitalized for a chest infection from pneumonia. It was a wake-up call. I should have planned better, prepared, and shared. Instead of trying to be super-mom, I should have realized that I could be more of a super-parent if I would just share the load. And, I mean really share the load – the mental and physical load.

So, without further ado, here are three tips that can help you transition smoothly into your new role as a working mother:

  1. Get rid of the “Should’s” on your to-do list. If it is a should and not from your own heart, it’s not worth doing. Ask yourself, is this particular “to-do” really necessary?
  2. Talk with your partner about what they can own on your list of household management, and then let them own it. They probably won’t do it the same way you would, but let them do it in their own way. This is also good practice for parenting!
  3. Outsource, outsource, outsource. With so many apps out there, you don’t need to do everything… get groceries delivered, have your laundry picked up – whenever you can, outsource! Then spend all that extra time with your growing family, sleeping, or on self-care. Whatever works for you, just do what you need to do!
  4. Bonus Tip: Remember to laugh and smile. Real life can have its ups and downs, but it is better for everyone if you are smiling through it all. Don’t let the to-do’s take you away from being present for those you love.

Want to dive deeper into this topic with me and other working moms? Sign up for my upcoming course, “How to Successfully Return to Work After Maternity Leave” on June 5th.

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