10 Strategies for Working Moms

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Yesterday, I attended the Massachusetts Conference for Women and listened to Samantha Ettus (personal branding expert, bestselling author, media personality, and mother of three young children) give a presentation on balancing work and motherhood.

I was probably the only person in the room without a child, but since I’m thirteen weeks pregnant and run my own business, I figured that I should attend and try to get a clue.

Here are my notes from the session.  I’m curious to know what strategies you agree with, as well as what techniques you use as a single parent, since many of Samantha’s tips assume you’re in a relationship.

1. Turn you spouse into an equal partner: One of the things the group discussed is how you must expect your partner to be equally engaged in childcare. If they don’t ‘get it,’ try swapping schedules for a week (for example, if you usually rise early to get the kids ready for school and your partner sleeps in but works late, switch schedules for a week and see how it goes).

2.  Be present when present: Samantha has a rule that she won’t look at her Blackberry from 5 PM – 9 PM, which is family time. After the kids go to bed, Samantha and her husband have an hour of work catch-up and an hour of together time.

3.  Make a set schedule for family time: Although Samantha acknowledges this is difficult to do if your work schedule varies, she says it’s important to establish some sort of set family time. If you can’t always count on being home for dinner, make breakfast extra special.

4.  Go to bed at the same time as your partner: One word – SEX! If you only go to bed at the same time on the weekend, this creates too much pressure to have sex on those nights and takes away spontaneity.

5. Stay in the game: Somewhat controversially, Samantha suggests that it’s very important for working moms to maintain employment while their children are young. She argues that it’s not wise, in this horrible market, to check out completely for five years. Staying employed, even on a part-time basis, keeps your skills and contacts fresh.

6. The Maintenance Years: That being said, Samantha says it’s important not to put too much pressure on yourself to achieve great career goals while your children are young. Instead, view this time period as ‘Maintenance Years’; it’s not necessary to gun for three promotions in five years when you’re juggling diapers and bottles.

7. Get sleep: “Don’t mistake sleep deprivation for depression,” Samantha advised. Too often, working moms are an emotional and physical wreck because we simply don’t sleep enough. From nighttime to dawn, our ‘job’ is to sleep, she says.

8. Know your A-Team: Know the parents, doctors, babysitters, and service providers that you can depend on. Keep them all on speed dial. Make friends with two other parents at your child’s school and lean on them when work and family collide. Do favors for them so they will do favors for you when you really need help.

9. Focus on your personal brand: Remember that it’s important for your coworkers and employers to see you as a valuable asset, not just a new mom. Take on projects that people wouldn’t expect you to volunteer for. Work late every now and then. Cover for coworkers when they need help. Answer questions about your children but then switch the topic back to work.

10.  Gain support from other workings moms: Samantha told us that she, very sadly, had to miss her daughter’s musical to attend the conference (the conference was booked way before the musical). She was so worried that her daughter would be upset and felt tremendous mommy guilt. Samantha and her husband racked their brains, trying to think of a way to make it work, but couldn’t think of any solutions. She called up a fellow working mom and asked what she would do. The other mom suggested that Samantha attend the dress rehearsal and her husband attend the show. Her daughter was thrilled that her mom got to see the dress rehearsal when no other parents came. Samantha advised us all to join a support group/social club for working moms so we have this type of support, too.

Are you a working mom?  What advice rings true for you?  What other advice do you have?

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