Organized chaos describes many women who work time and a half or more as mothers and career women. Make no mistake, homemaking is a full-time job, but for some who have mastered the art of the wall calendar/smartphone app planning, adding a career into the mix is natural fact of life.
Starla McDermott (pictured with her three children) works as Field Organizer of Mom's Clean Air Force at the West Michigan office of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. She has balanced a job in and outside of the home for twenty years, and after all that time, she's found the secret to living life as a working mom.
"Communication on everything is going to be key," Starla says. "Second is setting priorities."
Having an open dialogue with her children, their teachers, and other family members virtually erases scheduling snafus, and gives Starla the ability to plan ahead of time.
Priorities are the pillars in her life, and help Starla to keep her to-do list reflective of her goals. But like many moms who work, Starla has felt the pangs of guilt for wanting to have a career.
"When I first worked full-time, I wanted to prove I could do it, and I made the mistake of putting my career first," she says. "I started to feel like a horrible mom and person…I had to really think about what was important to me."
Making sacrifices seems to go hand-in-hand for working moms. April Hadley, co-owner of the Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness, works part-time, for now, while her children are still elementary-aged.
"I don't expect to have a full-time career right now, and that feels like a little bit of a sacrifice to me. I feel like I'm really good at what I do, but my husband out earns me five to one, and if one of us has to stay at home, it makes more sense for me to be the one."
For families who feel like two incomes are essential, there are ways to do double duty.
One stronghold for moms at work, although it may not be easy, is asking for help. April has reached out to family and friends to cover her bases. Live-in nannies and extended family members through the years have ensured her kids are well-cared for.
"I really tried to encourage a lot of creative help in my life," April says. "One of my secrets is live-in help."
Moms can work their careers around their family life. Sarah Jehnzen, Sarah's Deals blogger and owner of Sarah Jane Media, LLC, started her business after her children were born.
"My business was built out of the desire to have a flexible job that allowed me to be around when my children needed me," she says.
Like Starla, she advises other working moms to know what is most important in life, and factor it in when making a schedule.
"If your family comes first, then put them on your calendar first. If you must use the time you've set aside for them for something else, then give them time somewhere else," she says.
A slightly disorganized house, and compromised weekly workout time also find their way into working moms lives,' but can be countered by a sense of self awareness, April says.
"It's really important to take care of yourself because you can't take care of everybody else if you're not taken care of. Give yourself this attention because then you can give this attention to others. It usually doesn't work the other way around," April says.
Written by: Erika Fifelski was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it. Erika enjoys cooking, sewing, vacuuming, and discovering new ways to live sustainably and support local businesses. Photo Courtesy of Starla McDermott.