WORK/LIFE BALANCE FROM A MOM AND NURSE PRACTITIONER

Finding balance as a mom

12/31/16

No matter who you are or what you do for a living, being a mom is tough. A common theme I see written about on blogs and talked about among women is "Can you have it all?" This is usually in reference to having a family, career, staying fit and fashionable. I devoted several blog posts on finding balance with a career and family, and have taken advice from many others in the medical field I follow on social media. This is an important topic to me, because as a new mom starting a new career, finding balance was a huge challenge for me. I know that I am not the only one facing this challenge, as I hear about this struggle from many other women in my life and on social media. I would like to share what I have found to be true in work-life balance.

1. Find Inspiration from others, but don't compare
I see some working moms on Instagram, etc. that seem to have it all figured out. Laura Scott the woman behind the blog A Little Bit of Lacquer is an immensely successful blogger, mom of two with one on the way, married to another successful doctor both in the competitive residencies, all while she manages to stay fashionable and positive. Her posts are wildly popular for the fact that she seems to have found a perfect balance. I find women of this caliber immensely inspirational, but I also know that everyone's situation including mine, is not hers. Everyone has their own threshold for stress and academic ability. Everyone has different levels of support systems. What has worked for her, may not work for every person. What I'm saying, is to not compare yourself to others, because all our situations are unique.

2. Find a mentor
I have heard this from several successful women , in particular Laura Devigan a plastic surgeon and mother of five. In her session on medtakovers on snapchat she explained the importance of mentor-ship, and how it's important to find someone in your field 5 years ahead of you on your projected career path. When I started the BSN program, we were assigned a seasoned registered nurse as a mentor. My mentor was an experienced PICU RN, that was in the process of applying to graduate nursing programs, and also newly married. She was very helpful in guiding me in the BSN program, but also in terms of answering questions about work-life balance. In my first year as a NP, I found another NP that I worked with, who not only helped me develop my skills, but also was especially helpful as someone I could talk about issues as a mom. It's important to have a mentor, whether it be formal or informal that you can relate to and seek advice from both professionally and personally.


3. Accept your limits
As I mentioned before, everyone has their own threshold for stress. I have found I don't always know mine until I have exceeded them, which has happened many times during my pregnancies and first years of being a new parent. It's also important to know that your threshold for stress can change at different times in our lives. I've also  had to lower my levels of stress due to pregnancy and becoming a parent. This was hard to accept at first that I had to scale back some responsibilities and other activities before I had a child, but does also not mean I was a failure. This also in big part was accepting what my support system was, which leads me to my next point.

4. Be aware of your level of support
As a working mother outside of the home, your support system is huge. This is not to say a mother who works at home does not rely on support systems, however when you work outside the home especially in fields with long hours, on-call hours, or variable shifts your support system is crucial to your ability to perform your job. In my honest opinion,  those whom succeed in demanding professions almost always have in-home help with their children, although we as women don't always talk about this. In her book Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes talks about how there is some stimga among working women about having in-home help. She writes "I don't think powerful, famous women hide the fact hat they have nannies or some kind of help at home because they are being unkind to other people. I mean, these women aren't at home laughing and laughing at how everyone in America is tring to do it all all and can't because they don't know that the secret is that NO ONE CAN DO IT ALL! HA! HA! We foolded you! SUCKA!. " She goes on to explain that women don't always disclose the help they get at home, because we have been shamed into thinking we have to be able to do it all at work AND at home. After my son was born I broke down and got a housekeeper once a month. I felt guilty about this at first, but what I paid for this service was equivalent to eating out a couple times a month, and saved me a great deal of stress trying to keep up with deep cleaning our house. What assistance you have a home is not only important, but it's also important to know the amount of support you have at work. Some employers have on-site child care, allow for flex time, long baby bonding times, and  breast-pumping stations. Having a "family friendly" employer can make all the difference in the world. I personally hate when people say "Don't be afraid to ask for help." as if women are these timid creatures that don't know how to do that. I have in my past years definitely asked for help, but realistically sometimes you have to accept you are not going to get 100% of the help you need. I had to make changes with my work schedule and even change employers after evaluating what resources I had to help me as a parent. Being realistic about your level of support is crucial, because trying to do it all without an adequate support system will leave you feeling burnt out and feeling like a failure.


5. Let go of the guilt
As a mother, someone is always trying to make you feel guilty, whether it be your kids, your parents, your employer, your spouse, your child's daycare, or your friends and peers.  There will never be enough of you to go around, and someone will always have something to say about how you parent. You will fail some people at some times, but that doesn't mean you are a failure, and you are not a bad person. Feeling guilty will do nothing to help you, so you have to put it aside. It's also extremely important not to feel guilty about setting aside time for yourself. It's unrealistic to say that you will ever be able to have the same leisure time as you had before children, but not taking any time for yourself is a hazard not only to your own health, but that of your ability to be functional as a mother, partner, and employee. I have a fraction of the free time I used to, but I do make a point to make time to work out at least three times a week, an occasional monthly date with my husband, and time to read or blog by myself a couple times a week. Furthermore, let go of feeling guilty of not having it all together all the time.

6. Let go of negativity
This one is hard for me. I frequently throw myself pity parties when I feel overwhelmed. In the past year I have worked hard to keep a positive attitude and mindset. I try to vent out my feelings in healthy ways. I make time to work out, which really helps me stay positive. My family started attending church, which I find gives me a more positive outlook throughout the week. I have trimmed down a lot of contact with negative people, and incorporated more contact from those that inspire me. I also am guilty of holding on to negative thoughts and interactions. I have had to learn to try to deal with a conflict or negative emotion head on and then let it go, or realize it's not worth it to deal with it, and move forward. Letting these emotions fester only takes away from your ability to be present for your family, job, and self. Instead, I try to focus on what a privilege it is to have both the family and career I do have. There are so many little joys I experience on a daily basis, and I try to make these more significant impacts on my mood than the set-backs.

In conclusion, no one can "have it all", but you can find a balance. Everyone's balance is unique to who they may be, and their is no perfect formula. I am continuing my journey on finding this balance in 2017 and with the arrival of our new baby! Stay tuned!
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