BLOG: 8 tips to help working moms balance work and family

By Assunta Ng

Sen. Patty Murray was a mom in tennis shoes when she ran for the U.S. Senate in 1992. I was also a mom in tennis shoes when I launched the Seattle Chinese Post in 1982, except I tried to hide my shoes, thinking that men would think less of me if I looked unprofessional.

Murray capitalized on her mommy persona when a state representative said that ‘a mom in tennis shoes’ could not make a difference. I wasn’t that smart! In those days, I struggled with two young kids while running a newspaper full time.

People often asked, “How do you do it?”

“It could be better,” I told younger moms. My kids did not play chess or musical instruments like the stereotypical Asian American children forced by their ‘tiger moms’ to do so. They did not have perfect scores on their SATs. They were not that great in math and science.

Fortunately, my kids became fine human beings anyway, even though they did not graduate from Ivy League schools.

Today’s women have a much easier time raising a family while simultaneously working.

Many hire a nanny or a part-time housekeeper if they don’t have grandparents around to help out. Just take a look at the Seattle Chinese Post’s classified section, which is always full of ‘nanny wanted’ ads. Couples who both juggle careers often employ someone to help out at home.

Technology also plays a role in making a working mom’s life more pleasant. You can pay bills online. You can buy groceries without leaving your home. With your computer or phone, you can work while caring for your sick kids.

I was lucky enough to have a relative help me with my youngest son when he was between six months and three years old. It was chaotic after she left because my husband and I worked full time. It was just too much for us to handle in addition to cooking, cleaning, and other chores.

In hindsight, I would have done things differently, to make my life easier and to be able to play with my kids more — they grow up so fast. Here are eight tips to help career women enjoy motherhood and balance life better.

1. Stop saving face.

If you don’t want to invite friends over for dinner because you are ashamed of your messy house, admit it. Warn them that your house is messy. Don’t try to clean it in a hurry before you have a party. My point is, don’t exhaust yourself to the degree that you won’t be able to enjoy the party. Plan a potluck and ask friends to bring the food so you don’t have to cook all night and day. Perhaps they can help with the clean-up, too.

2. Learn to let go.

A working mom cannot do everything at 100 percent, no matter how efficient and clever she is. I made many mistakes as a mother because I was hard on myself. Learn to love yourself. Forgive yourself for not being on time or for forgetting a friend’s birthday. There is no need to feel guilty if you cannot watch all of your son’s games or attend all of your daughter’s soccer practices. Never dwell on the imperfect past or regret things you couldn’t do. Let go. When a mom has a positive and happy attitude, she is much more productive. If you can achieve 80 percent of your goals, you are already a super mom. Always give yourself a pat on the back, even for accomplishing small tasks.

3. Set realistic goals.

“Don’t try to kill yourself,” I advised a young Latino working mom, who was also a student trying to get her PhD in three years. “What’s the hurry?”

Author and TV journalist Maria Shriver taught me that we have a lifetime to accomplish our goals. There is no need to set many deadlines and stress ourselves out.

Slow down. We need to learn to say no, not only to our friends who make unreasonable demands, but also to our own unrealistic goals.

4. Organize support groups.

With social networking, young moms should be able to organize different networks to help with childcare, grocery shopping, and other needs.

5 Groom the male chauvinist in your life to be an ally.

If your husband or partner refuses to do housework, you are doomed. Better train him to share in least 40 percent of the duties, like chauffeuring the kids to activities, cleaning, and cooking. Negotiate with him over the list of things he needs to do. My husband is pretty good about helping with chores.

6. Train your kids too.

One area in which I failed miserably was that my sons never really did much housework when they were younger. The two things they did were wash dishes after dinner and their own laundry. Often, one son would skip dish washing because he had too many school events. Don’t let the kids get away with it! They could make up for skipping a chore in other ways. Everything should be written down on paper, in black and white.

7. You don’t have to do it alone.

Get help. I didn’t hire domestic help sooner because I wanted to save money, but money spent on housecleaning or child care is money well spent. Having someone who can prepare dinner a few days a week is a treat. Back when my kids were younger, I left the office late, so I couldn’t serve my family dinner until 8 p.m. I was constantly tired.

Wouldn’t it be great to come home and see dinner on the table, prepared by someone else?

If I had hired a part-time nanny earlier than I did, I would not have had so many health problems in those days. I was trying to prove that I could do it all! That was silly of me.

8. Take care of yourself.

Love yourself first. A female doctor once told me that the most relaxing time for her during the week was when her kids left her alone to paint her nails. Do fun things for yourself and by yourself. It will make a world of difference for your mental health. Take a weekly yoga, tai chi, or dance class. Carve out your own leisure time so you can have something to look forward to each week.

Dear Moms, may every day be like a Mother’s Day for you. (end)

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