When a woman, who happens to be a mother, works outside of the house she has to compromise. She has to accept she won't make every school event, won't be able to volunteer for the PTA, won't chaperone school trips, and won't pick her kids up after school. She acknowledges missed appointments, forgotten activities, and late arrivals. She schedules doctors appointments months in advance due to inflexibility. She is aware of it all. Yet while many know pursuing a career in addition to motherhood is often a trade-off, there are things you shouldn't compromise as a working mom, either. You shouldn't have to settle for whatever it is society is claiming to be necessary.
When I started working outside of the house, I felt smothered. I felt completely overwhelmed and struggled with trying to find a balance. After months of beating myself up over not being able to do it all, I accepted there is no "balance" and only a very methodical juggle. A juggle during which sometimes every piece crashed into the ground. A work-life balance seemed like a myth, created by those who want to sadistically watch women try and fail. Calling something a balance makes it seem peaceful and serene. There is nothing calm about trying to juggle a career and motherhood. There is only hectic compromise.
Like I said, moms who work outside of the house have to settle for so much it sometimes feels defeating. But no matter how much you work, there are some things that should not be compromised on, up to and including the following:
Breastfeeding And/Or Pumping
By now we all know how beneficial breast milk is for children. Among its many health benefits, breast milk contains antibodies that protect infants from getting sick. Additionally, some studies suggest that nursing reduces the risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer and other reproductive cancers, and decreases sugar levels in mothers with diabetes. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only about 16 percent of mothers breastfeed exclusively after six months postpartum.
If you're breastfeeding your baby or pumping for your baby, you should not have to stop. Yes, mothers stop nursing for many reasons, but the second biggest culprit after pain is going back to work, and that reason is heartbreaking. In 2010, President Obama amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 (29 U.S. Code 207) to "require an employer to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk" and to "provide a place, other than a bathroom, for the employee to express breast milk." However, even though the law is technically on the side of breastfeeding, plenty of loopholes make it difficult for women to pump at work.
Paid Time Off
If you have the time, take it. While Americans are known for not utilizing their paid time off (PTO), this isn't some sort of virtue. Mothers who work outside of the house are working nonstop, first at work and then at home. There are no breaks. So, when it comes to taking time off, that should not be a compromise.
Your Career Goals
If a woman has a career, she should not compromise on attaining the career goals she had probably before she even became a mother. If there are things she needs to accomplish in order to meet her career objective, then those things should not be up for compromise. There should never be a compromise for our ambitions and desires as professionals.
Women already make less than men in so many fields, and many women hesitate asking for a promotion. They should not. A mother who works outside of the house deserves the same salary as her male counterparts. A working mother should never settle for what someone is offering, and should always require a proper salary for her work.
Your Mental Health
This shouldn't need to be said, but I will say it anyway. Women tend to agonize about going back to work after having children. It's painful, not being able to be there for your kids' milestones and everything else that involves our kids. It's heartbreaking missing all of the school activities and events and it stinks not being able to attend recitals and performances. At the same time, however, some things just cannot be changed and if you find yourself in one of those situation where your work isn't as flexible as you would like, you should not compromise your emotional wellbeing. In the end, both you and your children will be just fine.
Time Spent With Kids
You should not compromise the time you spend with your kids. If you have to leave early to pick up a sick child from school, or if you have to take a day off to attend some sort of important event with your children, that is something you have to do. That should not be up for discussion. The same can be said about just simply spending time with your kids and your family. Leave work at work and be present with your kids at home.
Your Evenings & Weekends
Leave work at work. On a rare occasion you may have to work in the evenings and weekends (especially if that's part of your career goals), but for the most part, you shouldn't compromise on your time off from work. When work is over, we should spend all of that time being a full-time parent and enjoy spending time with our families.