How to Balance Work and a Baby
Before I had my baby I thought balancing motherhood and my career was not going to be a problem. But, I was a bit nervous about what would happen to my business the first year while I took some time off. So I got advice from a number of women who were successful in business and somehow managed to keep the momentum going through Motherhood. They all encouraged me that it is possible to balance both and that having babies doesn't mean that part of your life is over. One even told me that she had become more successful after the birth of her son because it forced her to be more focused with her time, working more intensely in less hours so she could come home on time to her baby.
This is what I have been trying to do in the last year. But I have learned that it is very difficult to do two critical things well. My six year old business and one year old boy both need a lot of my time and when I focus on one, I'm not giving full attention to the other. I have had to accept that I was better at my job a year ago than I am now. Where I would have stayed late to complete a pitch, I have now traded for being home on time, or walking late night laps around the neighbourhood to soothe my teething boy. I have rescheduled meetings for sick days and sleepless nights. I have taken the day off and delegated important tasks to team members when I know he needs me.
I'm not saying I haven't found some measure of balance but I have repeatedly had to make choices where something has to give. Some days I feel like I did a terrible job at both, some days I think I've figured it all out.
I know I could leave my son with the nanny for the sick days. I could hire a night nurse so I can still sleep when he can't, but I feel it is my responsibility. I want to be the one that holds him when he has a fever or has pulled the nightstand down on himself (yet again). I want to be the one to see his first steps, hear his first words and be the one he reaches for when he's sad. I want to be the one that raises him, and not just on evenings and weekends.
If the decision to stay home full time was purely based on emotions, I imagine most Mothers would prefer to stay home. It's really hard to leave those chubby cheeks, the toothy smile with drool dripping from the chin and the doughy, dimpled little hands reaching for you to stay.
But there are many other things to consider. Financially, most families need two incomes - especially in cities like Toronto where an entry level home starts at $500,000. Going back to work isn't even a question. It's that or go broke. And even if you do have a choice, should a woman who enjoys her career or has achieved a certain level of success just shut that all down for five years? It's good for kids to see their mothers happy and thriving, right? And having more money creates more financial stability for the family and a better future for your child.
Ultimately though, I believe it's important for kids to be raised as much as possible by their own parents. I think it makes them better human beings. I have come to the conclusion that the best way for me to manage work and a baby is to work part-time. I make less money and have had to offload some of my former responsibilities, but I think this is the best of both worlds. I'm extremely focused at the office but when I'm home with my son, I'm all his.
I am very lucky that I own my own company and my husband is the co-founder. A friend of mine with a one year old was able to negotiate with her employer to become a part time contractor working 2-3 days per week instead of a being a full-time employee. She is even able to work some hours from home, which is really great for her. She is very happy with her arrangement because it has allowed her to keep up with her career and spend valuable time with her daughter until she is old enough to start school. Some of my other baby mama friends have negotiated for Fridays off so they only work a 4 day week.
I plan to continue working 2-3 days per week at the office and checking in from home the other days. It's been a huge blessing to be able to be part of both wonderful worlds, even if I haven't exactly figured out how to stay on top of it all.
I'm curious about other moms out there. What did you do when you had babies? Did you stay home full time, work part time or go back full time with child care?
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The problem with the debate is that there are 2 distinct issues here: what's best for baby and what's best for the parent. It's not cut and dry either, because there is a great deal of overlap.
@roadee - that's exactly it! I think the age of the child is the most important factor. If I had children in school I would definitely want to work full time, but having children under 4 or 5 years old who are dependent on you being there is quite different.
What a great article Ali. I really appreciate how you have addressed both sides and how you set clear boundaries for yourself and you make decisions they are based on your convictions. This is a topic that most (if not all) women struggle with. I think it really depends on the person and also the stage of the child's development. I've heard that many mom's stay at home for the first several years (makes sense) but once they get older (and start going to school), they go back to work. But juggling everything in the meantime, is quite a magic act!
This is really funny.
I have made the choice to stay home. My husband has a great job with only an OK salary, so we've certainly had to make some sacrifices and count our pennies to make it work. Sometimes being at home makes me crazy, but I really wouldn't miss it for the world.
I am so blessed that my hubby has a great job! I'm a stay-at-home mom of 3 and (mostly) love every minute of it :) I think it totally depends on the person. I have lots of friends who are great SAH mom's and others who love to work and don't even want to be at home. I also have ones who wish they could be at home, but just need the extra income. In essence, you need to do what's right for you, and I think you've got a great situation where you can decide how much you want to work. Plus, I don't think I'd be able to stay away from that cute little button all day, either ;)
We're having the conversation ourselves, we're trying to save up as much as possible before baby in the hopes to be able to make the stay at home dream happen. We were in Toronto as well and have relocated to Ottawa to give us a chance... To be continued!
I stayed home.
I couldn't stand the idea of not being home with my daughter. I was dreading the idea that I might miss her first steps, first words, or just not be there if she wanted her mommy.. She's 3 now, and I have been a stay at home mother since she was born. In order to do so, I actually created my own business. I became a wedding photographer, which allows me to be out of the house one-two days a week - and the rest of the time is working at home. It's absolutely amazing! It was the perfect choice for me.
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