Byline: By Nicole Hudson
Generations of working mothers have been frustrated by the Sisyphean task of trying to balance career and family. After all, working moms-to-be, and new moms returning from maternity leave, want to be there for their families and remain productive on the job. Yet, they often underestimate the demands of motherhood and, unfortunately, many workplaces still do not offer much support for this juggling act.
Here’s a snapshot of two busy working moms whom CAREER MASTERED spoke with about the juggling act.
When I reached out to Scarlette Whyte by phone she was busy but laughing. Once I learned she’s the mother of two toddlers (a son, age 3, and a daughter, 1), and that she’s moved recently from CNN news production into a new role as Director of Staff Development with CBS News, it’s easy to see why.
It’s clear that she loves her Job-and equally clear that she loves her family. “My life is very crazy right now. I’m hoping it will settle down; she said. “But in the meantime, this is how it is.”
Defining her success as a mom happens in the small things. Despite frequent commuting between Washington, D.C., and New York, Whyte makes a point to walk her son to school at least two times a week.
At the same time, Whyte prides herself on punctuality and also ‘being there’ for her Job.
“I’m on a tight schedule, and I am always the first one to a meeting. I simply don’t let my kids be an excuse for not showing up.
It helps that the family has a nanny. Even so, one of the hardest things to reconcile is finding time to focus on her relationship with her husband. “He’s great! He really understands, but we were together for eight years before the kids. Now, it’s hard to find the time or even stay awake for a date night. It used to be dinner and a movie when we went out. Now, it’s just dinner. But we know it won’t always be like this.”
Whyte got a great piece of advice from another female news producer while she was pregnant with her son, and it’s something she holds on to when things get hectic.
“She told me, ‘Life is a juggling act. Some of the balls are glass and some are rubber: For me, the glass ones are God, family, and career. The rubber ones are social life, hobbies, and my sanity. The trick is that you don’t let the glass ones hit the floor. The rubber ones can bounce back later, but the glass ones won’t.”
My own strategy for striking the right balance between work and family life is ruthless prioritization. The deployment of my own business processes and having a team in place keep my attention where it needs to be at that moment. The levity to know the family that I am going to fail a little bit every day reminds me that tomorrow is a fresh start.
When we onboard clients at ILS, we set goals, develop a strategy, and identify the roadmap to get us there. Every client is different, so the solutions are, too. I applied this to my life and brought my family together with my professional team. We created a roadmap when I was pregnant around how we thought this would work moving forward. This helped me find a structure for decision-making, and also reassured me that while my normal may not be normal for anyone else, that’s okay. We still continue to have these huddles on a monthly basis, depending on what’s going on in our lives, the business, and my husband’s career, since things are always changing.
It’s not impossible if you think creatively, knowing it will take time. If you can’t afford childcare, take turns with a friend watching kids or pets. Explore neighborhood Facebook groups, the Nextdoor app, and Craigslist for services like lawn care, handyman services, and snow removal. See if flex or part-time work is available at your job, and think about a side hustle if you need additional finances.
One of the most important life lessons I have learned is to say, “No.” Having a baby and a business has made it even more necessary. This is hard. It never gets any easier, but it works.
Here's what I did to juggle it all
1. Advertised online for a life manager (as I call her). This remarkable woman handles cleaning, laundry, home organization, and store returns for us. She also orders groceries online from a saved list and helps with healthy meal prep.
THE RESULT: I am able to feel calmer and more productive, knowing that these things are in order. I am also able to stick to my health goals for myself and my family.
2. I started my own business, which may not be feasible or desirable for everyone; however, the 9-to-5 is not for me.
THE RESULT: I work hard, but I have better control of my time. I can take an unexpected trip, have a stay-home day with my baby, or work from home when I want or need to.
3. Relatedly, I hire great team members and get out of their (and my own) way. My intention is to make myself obsolete in most of the day-to-day business by setting up systems, processes, and expectations that allow them to produce good work without me.
THE RESULT: This keeps me out of detail. I can focus on the growth of my business and strategic results for my clients.
4. I learned to be more open about some of the demands I face as a caregiver and I ask for help.
THE RESULT: This helps me feel like I am not alone. The support is both for my grandmother, as well as for me, as I navigate the needs of my life and emotional well-being while caring for her.