One Saturday in mid-September, my younger son, Ezra, and my daughter, Adeline, were playing with building blocks together on the circle rug in our living room. This rug sits in front of a bay window and some bookshelves and is where the kids spend many hours playing with their toys. A few Cheerios were sprinkled on the rug, spilled from breakfast a few hours earlier, and the washing machine was churning in the nearby hall closet. I was sitting on the couch, responding to a few work emails and catching up from being out of the office the Friday before. As I glanced over at them playing, I took a breath and smiled, not wanting to forget the beauty and simplicity of the moment.
To outsiders looking in, the scene would have appeared to be an ordinary one in the home of a very regular family. And they would have been right. But to me, I saw something more.
My kids . . . playing and happy. Chores . . . getting done. A few moments free . . . to do what I needed to do. That scene captured, in part, what thriving looks like in my own life. Your scene likely looks different, but the feeling is the same. You know the feeling I’m referring to — the one when everything (or almost everything) feels right in your world. You feel at peace. You feel happy. You feel alive.
A few weeks later, with Halloween around the corner, I called my husband, Matthew, on my lunch break to talk about the upcoming weekend. On deck was a postseason soccer party for my eldest son, Elias, and book writing for me (I had ten days until my deadline). I also really wanted to go to the pumpkin patch, but doing so was going to be difficult because the farm was only open on Saturdays from 10 to 5 and Sundays from 1 to 5. Our littlest napped during the afternoon, and the soccer party was going to run during most of the pre-nap time prime hours. As we wrestled with our options, I started to cry.
Yes, I was crying over wanting to go to the pumpkin patch. For me, the pumpkin patch represented family (something we could all do together), the kickoff to fall and Halloween (one of my favorite times of the year), and tradition (we go every year). Because of my work schedule, I had already missed many traditions and activities, and that realization left me weeping on the phone with my husband while sitting in the parking lot of Panera. In response to my breakdown, my husband gently and patiently assured, “We can make this work, honey.” And he was right. We did. I wrote early in the morning. Then we went to the pumpkin patch and the party, my toddler got his nap, and I completed my work. I even had time to craft in the evening.
These two examples reflect the yin and yang of being a working mom. Some weeks we have flexibility, and all seems right with the world. Other weeks we are crying from stress and “missing out.”
As working moms, we are constantly making choices about how and in what to invest our time. The more we can do that’s not rooted in guilt and comparison but is instead an output of joy and love, the better life is.
Working motherhood is not easy, but it has taught me a great deal. When I take time to practice intentionality, really listen to my family members, take care of myself and love the work I do, I find myself thriving. Sure, dishes may be left on the counter and the laundry baskets may never be empty, but that’s okay. I have systems in place to ensure we never run out of diapers and toilet paper, and eventually, all the projects get completed — even if the timeline isn’t always what I’d like it to be.
Thriving as a working mom involves knowing who you are and loving the people closest to you well. And that’s what I want you to find too.
I believe work and motherhood can coexist in a positive, invigorating manner. Yet for too many women, that’s not the case. For the past eighteen months, I’ve explored what it means to be a working mom by talking with moms all over the country to learn what brings them joy and struggles. The resounding refrain I heard over and over again was this: I’m stretched too thin. If that sounds like your story, this book is going to help you make positive changes. I want working moms to be able to say with pride, “I love my family. I do great work. I’m thriving.”
Excerpted from Stretched Too Thin: How Working Moms Can Lose the Guilt, Work Smarter, and Thrive by Jessica N. Turner (September 2018). Used by permission from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.