They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I am starting to believe it. But maybe not for the reasons you’d expect.
When my daughter was born three and a half years ago, I struggled to find the balance between being a new mom and being a working mom. Like many new moms, I suffered from postpartum anxiety for the first nine months. Not only did I feel like I was going nuts when I was away from my daughter, but I felt guilty when I was with her and not working. It was a trap I didn’t know how to step out of.
The Work-Life Balance Conundrum
While the postpartum anxiety eventually went away, the struggle to find a work-life balance did not. Perhaps it’s because I had built my identity and success around being the hardest working individual in a room. Maybe it’s because the biggest mentor in my professional life had taught me once that there’s no such thing as work-life balance. There’s just 24 hours in a day, and as long as you’re okay with how you’re spending it, it’s fine.
The problem with the later was I had defined “fine” in my book by trying to emulate his definition of success. He often starts his days before the sun rises and is still going strong long after the rest of the world has gone to bed. As we would discuss his work mantra, and as I would look at the success of others he had emulated, I saw they did the same thing.
I adopted the mantra, “Live like no one else today, so you can live like no one else tomorrow.” I became a workaholic in every sense of the word.
By the time my postpartum anxiety had peaked, I was burned out. I decided to take my life in a different direction, and I left the new business I had spent the last several years building from the ground up. The business I had rushed back to build even more successful only 3 weeks after giving birth. The business I thought I was a co-owner of, only to learn too late I was merely a commissioned independent contractor.
I wish I could say that in that moment I learned to put family first. But that would take me two more years.
A Mom with Something to Prove
As I started my new job at a new company, I felt I had something to prove. In some ways it was an uphill battle those first few months. Then life took another turn. Just two months into my new role, my mom got cancer and needed help. My new boss allowed me to work remotely. Between driving her to cancer treatments, caring for a one year old, and working, my days typically started at 3 a.m. and ended around 11 p.m..
Worried about letting my work team down, I often sacrificed time with my family for time in the makeshift office. My husband was a saint. As the then stay-at-home dad, he took care of all the balls I was dropping on the home front. He spent the quality time with my mom and daughter. I plugged away working.
We needed the money, and I was blessed to have a job that allowed me to work remotely. I had to prove to them I wouldn’t let them down. That was my rally cry each morning as I crawled out of bed and started pounding out marketing initiatives.
After a few months of working remotely, my mom started to heal. We headed back to our home, and I headed back to working in the office. As my husband and daughter slept peacefully in their beds, I would tiptoe out the door before sunrise to start my day. Shortly before sunset, I would head back home to the joy of motherhood and the house that desperately needed my attention.
Battling the Working Mom Paradox
There’s no better feeling as a mom then seeing the eyes light up on your baby when you walk through the door after being at work all day.
There are few worse feelings as a mom than the guilt that overtakes you as you leave for work each morning, knowing you’ll miss most of the waking hours and many of the firsts your baby will experience with someone other than you.
It’s one of life’s greatest paradoxes. But overtime, I’ve learned to find a way to balance the emotions that come with the territory of being a working mom.
How do you find balance as a working mom?
That’s the million dollar question without a definitive answer. For me, it came down to redefining what success means in the different roles I play throughout my life.
As a nursing mother, my feelings of success came whenever I was doing something to provide for my baby. During the work day, I felt successful whenever I was pumping. So I pumped a lot. In the car, on every break…heck, I even figured out how to pump from my desk during phone meetings and while I was working on projects. I was a mom on a mission.
But that feeling of success was short lived because babies grow up. I soon found myself feeling unsuccessful again as a mom because I was no longer able to provide for my daughter during the workday. She no longer needed “Mommy’s Milk”, and I no longer felt successful as a working mom.
As the mother of a toddler now, I realize how silly the last sentence sounds. Everyday I go to work, I am earning the money that provides for my daughter. And my definition for success as a working mom is doing things that provide for her. Work provides me the opportunity to save for her college, to pay for our home, to take us on vacations, and perhaps most importantly, to teach her the value of being a working mom.
But deep down, I think I will always long for more time with her. Time is the one thing that really speeds up when you become a parent, and it’s the one thing you can never get back.
Breakfast is the Most Important Meal
So back to how we started this conversation. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
As a working mom, I still leave the house most days before my husband and daughter ever wake up. But sometimes, when my husband works nights, I get bonus time as a mom. I wake my daughter up at 6:30 in the morning, and we cuddle on the sofa for a few minutes.
Then, she reminds me of the importance of breakfast and asks for whatever we discussed we would eat together the night before. As we head on over to the breakfast table for a bowl of oatmeal, or a selection of homemade donut muffins and fresh fruit, I am never more thankful for breakfast.
In those moments, I get to be the mom I long to be on workdays. Through tired toddler eyes and morning yawns, we talk about plans for the day over donuts and milk. They’re short lived moments before we load up in the car and head to the sitters’s house…singing kid songs and spying for school buses. But they’re the best. They’re my mommy bonus moments.