Working Moms: Learn to Delegate Responsibilities


If you’ve got both kids and a job, you’ve likely got a very full plate. Caitlin Friedman, co-author of Happy at Work, Happy at Home: The Girl’s Guide to Being a Working Mom, has some tips for how you can harmonize your sometimes-crazy life.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges working mothers face?

A: The big one is that you’re not to same person you were before you had the baby. I think a lot of women put expectations on themselves that they’re going to return to work exactly the same, and you’re not the same. Your responsibilities have changed, your focus has changed, and maybe your passions have changed. You have to accept who you are after the baby, and how that will impact your work self.

Also, women returning to work face a lot of stereotypes. There’s often an underlying expectation from your coworkers and boss that you would rather be at home with your baby. For us and for most of the women we interviewed for this book, we put so much time into our careers that when we have children, we love being a parent but still consider our careers very important to us.

Q: Do you have to make some sort of work-life trade-off if you’re a working mother?

A: We don’t believe balance is possible, but we do think that harmony is something you can achieve. A lot of women tend to put themselves last on the list, and that always throws harmony out of whack. When you’re filled with that working-mom guilt, it makes it really difficult for you to focus on what’s in front of you at any given time.

Q: Do working mothers have to adjust their expectations – both at home and at work?

A: Yes, but in a positive way. Accept that you’re doing the best you can. And what you owe your family and what you owe your boss is the same thing: that you’re focused where you are. If you’re constantly feeling guilty about working when you’re away from your kids, and you’re constantly feeling guilty about your performance at work when you’re at home, it makes you very distracted in both places. Either you’re at work because you need the money or because you want to be there – either way, you shouldn’t feel guilty about being there.

Q: Do you think women take on too much responsibility and blame?

A: Absolutely. We not only take on responsibility and blame, but we think we should be doing everything. We’re naturally better multi-taskers, but that doesn’t mean you should be doing it all the time. It’s very important to delegate with respect. If someone offers to help you with childcare, accept their offer and respect the job that they do. If someone offers to do your laundry but they shrink your clothes, let it go and appreciate their help. Don’t micromanage.

Q: Do working mothers need to expect more from their partners?

A: We firmly believe in elevating that bar. We need to ask for more help, demand more help and accept more help. Communication and building that awareness of what’s happening at home is the key thing. A lot of partners don’t realize how many details are going into running the house and raising the kids. Open those eyes either by lists, discussions of demonstrations, and then redistribute the responsibilities.

Q: What options can mothers consider if they want to go back to work but aren’t sure they can commit to full-time in an office?

A: A lot of women are very hesitant to ask for what they need – both at home and at work – but if you need a more flexible schedule, make a case for it. Don’t make a case for it when you’re walking out the door for maternity leave, but pick your moment when you come back. Explain what you need and see if you can work something out, like Fridays at home or something else that gives you flexibility.

Q: Any tips for harmonizing work and home?

A: Delegate with respect. Find childcare you can be comfortable with and that supports your work responsibilities – and this is crucial. If you have childcare that you’re at all uncomfortable with, it can really undermine your work performance. I really want women to appreciate how much they do – because it’s usually a lot. Our plates are really full, and the roles at home have changed so quickly. We’re all still adjusting to it, and women are still doing an awful lot.

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