Every morning I start my day by getting breakfast started while my kids brush their teeth. Once they are settled and satiated, I sit down to start my work day. Because I work from home, it is vital for me to pre-plan my day to best maximize my efficiency and avoid burnout. The biggest part of that plan always seems to be “stay flexible.” Sometimes I even write on my to-do list as a reminder to myself throughout the day. Between two kids and a new business, there are a lot of fires to be put out, issues vying for my attention, and constant interruptions (the greatest understatement). There are days when I can’t seem to get anything accomplished, but at least I’ll always be sure to check one thing of my list: stay flexible.
Since 70% of mothers with children under the age of 18 participate in the U.S. workforce—75% of them working full-time—I know most mothers can relate. No matter how efficient we become, it always feels like we’re swimming against the tide. We’re constantly juggling, multitasking, changing hats. We are all doing so much, and it never seems to be enough, or it’s not done as well as we’d like. At work, we think about our kids. At home, we can’t always give our undivided attention because we’re thinking about work. And for those of us who work from home, there is no clear boundary at all as to where our work ends and our family life begins. Everything can easily feel blurred together.
So this question is always on my mind: Can I be a good mother and a successful professional? Is it even possible to find a balance?
I don’t know if I believe in balance. I think of that word as another difficult-to-attain ideal that just adds to mom guilt. We begin to feel stressed because we think we should find balance, but then when we can’t, we feel badly about how messy life is as a working mother (and as a stay-at-home mother, too). Find time for self-care. Lean in. Don’t forget to prioritize your marriage. Don’t lose yourself and your interests along the way. We’re trying to encourage moms to pursue their own happiness and let them know that it’s ok to put themselves first sometimes, but what we’re really doing is creating additional pressure. In reality, none of us can score a 10 in every aspect of our lives while raising kids. Sometimes, we’ll be doing better at work than at home, and sometimes the opposite. The word “balance” seems inaccurate.
I think being a good mother and successful professional isn’t about balance at all, but the ability to be flexible and accepting of yourself. It’s about knowing you won’t accomplish everything on your list, but being proud of yourself for doing what you could. And let’s face it, what mothers are capable of doing is always close to superhuman, anyway.
I won’t lie. I have my moments of guilt. When I can’t be interrupted while working, and I hear my little ones calling “Mommy!” repeatedly, whether it’s to serve them a glass of water or accompany them to the bathroom, I feel like I’m neglecting them. When I’m away and return home and they tell me, “I missed you, Mommy,” of course it warms my heart, but underneath, there’s a deeper pang of sadness. Trust me, I do feel the pressure of handling all of my responsibilities—household, business, maternal, marital, personal—all at the same time. It doesn’t mean I’m not happy with my life exactly as it is. Sacrifices are just hard.
With that said, I’ve learned to look past the guilt and see things from my daughters’ perspective. They love when I’m present, but in reality, they are still having fun when I’m not around. I don’t think my daughters would ever wish to see me give up my passion, and I know that isn’t the example I’d like to provide them either. If I didn’t pursue my passion, I believe I wouldn’t be the best mother I can be. What I do in my career is just as important and valuable to be as being a mother. I hope they’ll feel inspired to pursue their passions later on.
I’ve also learned to be less hard on myself. I know very well the pressure to “fit” society’s preconceived definition of a modern mother. It’s really not worth listening to all the noise out there. Someone will always have something to say anyway, so you might as well do what you feel is best for you and your family.
For example, I started off as a stay-at-home mother—a choice I felt was almost looked down upon at the time. My intuition told me it was the best choice for our family, and I’m glad that I followed it. During this time, I not only had the chance to experience every moment and milestone along with my daughters, but I had the opportunity to experiment with hobbies and reflect on my career in a way I hadn’t before. When you’re working long hours in an office, it’s all about the routine—commute home, make dinner, eat, lounge, and sleep. When you’re at home with kids (most likely busier than ever), just being out of the workforce prompts you to think about what you want to do next. And nothing feels off-limits because you have nothing to lose. You aren’t leaving your job security or a paycheck behind. You’ve already done that. Anything you do during maternity leave is more than you had ever expected. For me, it was a rebirth.
I think of stay-at-home motherhood as a career, and I believe it to be just as valuable as any other career. I think of myself as having two full-time jobs: that of a stay-at-home mother and that of an entrepreneur. I feel equally proud of both. Both are of equal value to me (though my family will always come first).
I’ve already talked about how motherhood has shaped me in my career, infusing me with confidence and the audacity to dream big. Part of that dream is not just about building my brand and creating formulations, but being able to do it all from home with my daughters. That is what flexibility means to me: to be able to pursue my passions while also being the best mother I can be.
I want all mothers to feel empowered to pursue their passions. Even more than this, I want our children to feel empowered. We can tell them they are valuable and important, and we can point out all the ways they are, but we also need to lead by example by showing them that we are. And that, I believe, comes from not only pursuing our passions, but sharing them with our children.
Whether that passion brings you financial gain or not is irrelevant. If you’ve decided to stay home, share your unique hobbies, interests, and talents. Let them see you practice an instrument, paint, or go out with your friends. Show them you—the wife, the mother, the individual, the friend, the artist, every part of you.
If you’re working, show them what you do and share your passion. Explain what you love about your job and celebrate your successes with them. Take them into the office, and show them your work. My daughters know my workstation and see me formulating. They enjoy watching me and getting involved in my creative process by smelling the raw ingredients and giving their first impressions when an aroma isn't pleasant for them. They’ve come to understand what I do and why. Throughout the process, they’ve also learned to care for their skin and even know what each product is used for. And yes, they love using my facial serums, and I need to keep an eye out that they leave some for me, too! It’s been so fun seeing them learn and grow right along with me.
I believe that by sharing our passion, we’re teaching our children that they should pursue theirs. Rather than feel guilty, we should feel like we’re empowering our children. You would never want your child to push aside his or her passion, so you shouldn’t either. Share it instead.
How have you juggled your passions and motherhood? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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