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Making It Work to Work

Helping kids feel connected to you at work.
When you drop a baby or toddler off at childcare, tell him how much he's in your thoughts and your heart while you're at work, and how he can feel your love inside him all day long; in a mysterious way, he may get the gist of what you are saying, and he will certainly sense your care and love.

With a preschooler, make sure he has a photo of you at school (maybe of you working). You could also tuck a picture or note into his lunchbox each day, and perhaps call to check in, as long as that doesn't make him upset. If possible, arrange for him to visit your office, maybe on a Saturday when things are less hectic. He could meet your colleagues at company events, or you could have one or two over for dinner. Explain what you do, tell stories about coworkers, or describe the physical setting of your job; you could even bring a disposable camera to work and take a series of photos, starting with the outside of your workplace, then moving through doors or down hallways to where you work, maybe with pictures of some of your coworkers. At night, have him imagine a glowing, golden rope connecting him to you throughout the day; in the morning, remind him that whenever he wants, he can feel that cord joining you together.

Picking up signals.
Keep your radar out for signs that two parents working is taking a toll at home, like a toddler who's getting increasingly clingy or a five-year-old becoming quiet and withdrawn. Some changes may simply be necessary, like Dad coming home sooner or you starting work later. Both of you might have to give the kids more one-on-one attention every day, no matter how tired you are. For a reality check, estimate how much time daily each kid receives from each parent that's child-centered (following the child's interests, and not task-focused, correcting, or scolding); if it's less than fifteen minutes (the minimum a child needs - and many could really use more), you and your mate should make some adjustments if it's at all humanly possible: besides being good for your child, it will prevent problems that will take even more of your time in the future.

Learning from others.
Over the years, many women have blazed trails for working mothers. At your job, there are probably other moms - perhaps even your supervisor - who can mentor you about the ins and outs of juggling home and work at your company. Some corporations have support groups for mothers who work there. Part-time professionals can link up with each other, like attorney mothers who work part-time having a brown-bag lunch each month at a different law firm.

Using your time well.
At the most practical level, having a job means finding ways to get more done in less time, from shopping later at night, when the supermarkets are empty, to hiring a responsible teenager with a car to run errands for you a few hours each week. This is such a universal problem that just about every issue of a magazine for women is loaded with tips, and you can learn more from some of the books listed under Resources for Working Mothers, below.

Saying goodbye to "Supermom."
It's hard for a working mother to avoid the traps of feeling that she has to go overboard at home to make up for having a job, or to be a superstar at work to make up for having a family. Sometimes the prick of guilt feels more like a knife in the ribs. For instance, one mother said: I'd been buried under a pile of work for a couple of weeks, but finally I had a chance to catch up on things. Then I found an invitation to a birthday party in all the stuff my son brings home from kindergarten - that had happened three days ago. He really liked the boy and I felt horrible about him not going. I started to cry, I was so mad at myself. Sure, it's important to do what you can to stay on top of the details at work or home. But it's almost impossible to avoid some stuff slipping through the cracks. Most of us need to accept the fact that we cannot be outstanding in each of two separate areas, in both our career and our parenthood. Still, a person can be outstanding at the package of the two, outstanding at being a parent who works. When you redefine your overall job description that way, it's a challenge you can actually succeed at. Sometimes an excellent performance in the total job requires doing less at work or at home. Or saying No, even if that means disappointing a coworker, spouse, or child. Or making a special effort to nurture yourself in one setting - such as by slowing down, connecting with others, or focusing on activities you particularly enjoy - so that you can excel in the other one, year after year, throughout the marathon of motherhood.

Resources for Working Mothers

  • The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Gwen Gotsch and Judy Torgus
  • Nursing Mother, Working Mother by Gale Pryor
  • Working-Mothers 101 by Kadierine Wyse Goldman
  • Time Management/Torn the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern
  • Be Your Best: The Family Manager's Guide to Personal Success by Kachy Peel
  • Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern
  • Chore Wars: How Households Can Share the Work and Keep the Peace by James Thornton
  • Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson

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From Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships by Rick Hansen, Jan Hansen, and Ricki Pollycove. Copyright © 2002 by Rick Hanson. Jan Hanson, and Ricki Pollycove. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit amazon.


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