“You can have it all”—it's an adage that has been promised women for decades.
But for those who hold down a fulltime corporate job while trying to raise a family, the words ring hollow at times.
Whitehall Chamber of Commerce executive Laura Long knows that being a working mom is all about grasping for balance.
The idea of having it all “places too much pressure on women. They feel like failures if they don't make it,” she said.
The going gets tough when trying to balance a clean house, children with perfect manners, healthy dinners on the table every night, AND a spectacular career as a high-powered executive.
“You've got to focus on being the best you can be and try to share responsibilities, and not try to be super mom,” Long advised. “You have to learn from your failures and move on.”
Too many women, she said, carry undue guilt for not being perfect. For the 71.3 percent of women with children who are members of the labor force, this scenario may be very familiar.
“As working moms, we are often running forward without taking a moment to think about our lives and develop a strategy that works best for ourselves, our family and our careers,” said Allison O'Kelly, CEO of Mom Corps, a staffing website for moms.
Many of these moms are navigating new waters, many are joining the workforce after their husbands have been laid off, or are working just to make ends meet.
“This generation is much different that the ones (in which) we were raised. A lot of moms have had to go back to work…it's not like our parents' generation, where the mom was stay-at-home and went back to work when we were older,” said Erin Flynn Jay, author of Mastering the Mommy Track (John Hunt Publishing).
Jay, who has two young children herself, said outsourcing everyday tasks such housecleaning or cooking can alleviate pressures, as can organization.
“Prioritize! Moms have to be organized and schedule things in advance otherwise they won't have time to get the things they need. Schedule free time in advance otherwise it might not happen,” she said.
Communication can be the working mom's best friend too. If moms avoid communicating their needs, frustrations or feelings the resulting effect could be feelings of being overwhelmed or bitterness.
Women also have to take stock and decide what's important to them.
Having free time or spending time with the children is just as important as job satisfaction.
“Work-life balance is something that each woman needs to find for herself, and no formula will fit everyone,” said Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs.com, a website that helps moms find telecommuting and freelance work.
“My career doesn't define me; its part of me,” Long explained. “As long as her children know that she's there for them, that's the most important thing.
“You have to be their biggest cheerleader. We're raising the future generation.”