Motherhood Mondays: On Finding Balance

Last week, I featured seven working mothers who talked about how they try to find balance, while juggling children, marriage, jobs and everyday life. Thank you to all the lovely readers who weighed in on this important topic. I’d love to share four realizations I had…

* Maybe true “balance” doesn’t exist. There are only 24 hours in a day, and if you want to spend time playing with your kids, hanging out with your friends and partner, working at a job you love and having some time for yourself to take a bath or read a book, you might not get to do each of these things, at least for as long as you’d like. Allocating time becomes a real challenge. Maybe it’s less about balance and more about compromise. What I find reassuring about reading these balance interviews is knowing that no one has it 100% figured out—everyone, it seems without exception, is constantly tweaking and fiddling their schedules to make it all work.

* If you want to reach a high level in your career, you may have to work more hours than you’d like (at night, on weekends…) Not all top jobs require long hours, but many do. The recent much-discussed Atlantic article called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” argued that if you want to rise as far as you can in your career, you will have to give up some time with your family, and if you want to maximize time with your family, you will have to ease up on your career ambitions. (It’s a bold statement; do you think it’s true?) Within this balance series, it felt accurate in some ways for most of these moms—many checked email or worked more at night, after putting their sweet little ones to bed. But overall, they enjoyed their careers, and that balance worked for them. It’s a very personal choice about how you want to balance your career and personal life, and what’s worth it to you both short- and long-term.

* Every mother has her own priorities, pressures and philosophies. It was fascinating to hear from readers who thought that a) mothers shouldn’t work, b) mothers should work, c) mothers shouldn’t travel away from their kids, d) mothers should take vacations without their kids, e) moms shouldn’t work at night, f) mothers shouldn’t spend as much money on babysitters, g) mothers should go on more dates with their husbands, etc… And it reminded me how everyone has their own desires, goals and beliefs, and that everyone should try to do what works best for them and their lovely families. There’s no one right way to do it, but instead so many ways to be a great mother (and partner and person).

* Another balance series coming up! Last week’s balance series featured moms who had high-powered careers, lived in cities, were married and had young children. I chose moms who were in similar situations, so that we could see how they all made different choices that worked for them. I also wanted to show that women whom we might assume “have it all” are still struggling with many of the same issues as everyone else. (The first balance series I did last summer also featured seven mothers in similar situations—these moms worked freelance, mostly from home—and again I wanted to show how a similar group of women could each make different choices that worked for them.)

But! I’d love to do another series, and this time, I’d like to feature a bunch of different kinds of working mothers—with different income levels, career paths, family situations, cultures and lifestyles—and see how their schedules are handled in different ways. Please let me know in the comments if there’s any type of job or hometown or lifestyle that you’d like to see! (Down the road, we’ll also do a series on stay-at-home moms, which will be fascinating, too.)

Thank you again for the amazing feedback. I was impressed by the wide-ranging responses to the series; I love your comments and am really grateful to hear your questions, thoughts, ideas and advice. We’re all in it together. Lots of love. xoxo

(Painting is the “Afternoon Stroll” by Pino)

  1. Hi Joanna! I´m a reader from Argentina, thank you so much for your great blog. I started reading it when I was pregnant and keep doing it now with my 2-year-old daughter playing around the house. I´m looking forward to reading your first balance series but I can´t find it on the blog. It says something like UH OH, the post isn´t there anymore. Where can I read them? I also work from home so I´d love to hear how other women manage their time. Thank you once again for your lovely blog!

  2. Chelsie says...

    I find these series very interesting! I am currently on maternity leave with my first baby. I go back to work in January as a special education teacher and these articles have helped me to prepare mentally!

  3. Maggie says...

    Can the next installment still happen? I loved this series and I really want to hear from mothers of different income levels/life situations. Thanks!

  4. Maureen Mauk says...

    Hi there! I just found your website. It is fantastic. I am a broadcast television censor for a major network and my husband also works as a TV producer. We have a 2 year old and a 10 month old and I’d love to share some of my experiences, highs and lows on LA’s 405 (while pumping and driving!) and all the fun that comes with being a new mom and working on set…. and in general! Thank you for all the wonderful pieces so far!

  5. I love this series. I could not agree more with Alexandra. There’s gotta be tons of moms out there that do not have the luxury to work 9-5s and work more like 3pm-2am, with weekends equalling Wednesday/Thursday instead of the traditional Saturday/Sunday…the life of a restaurant manager or chef for instance. Would really be something to hear the latter.

  6. Thank you so much for this series. Reading the stories of these working moms is so wonderfully comforting. The break downs over needing a pedicure, eating out often, putting other things on hold as a result of new responsibilites and so may other things fortifies a sense of this incredible connection that we all have.

  7. My sister is a single mom who works a factory job in rural Indiana. She should be interviewed for this. She just gave up a very stressful, higher paying job to be home in the evenings with her two boys. I’d also be interested in sharing my story. I’m a new mom after building an engineering career for 10 years. I’m basically a single mom during the week because my husband flies for a living and is gone from Monday to Thursday. I have life extremely more easy financially than my sister, but she has more balance, I’d say. Maybe we could be interviewed as a pair. I think her story is the type that is missing in these types of discussions, but is more prevalent through the US.

  8. I love reading all of your mommy empowerment posts! I’m a mom, chef, and military wife. I think it would be interesting for you to feature someone who goes through the special challenges that military spouses go through (husband deployed for 13 mo). Just a suggestion!

  9. I’ve loved looking back at all of your amazing mommy impowerment posts. I’m a mother, chef, and military wife. It might be interesting for you to feature someone that is a military spouse. We have a pretty interesting life with complications that other wives don’t necessarily have to ever juggle (husband deployed for 13 mo). Just a suggestion! :)

  10. I am currently a surgery resident and mom and would love to see an interview by a doctor-mom and how she handled the balance, especially if they had children during residency. I work 80+ hours per week and am in surrounded by males who don’t understand what I’m going through. Thanks! And I loved both series on balancing work and motherhood!

  11. Oh, wow. I’m going to have to read ALL of this series (just stumbled on it via Offbeat Mama). Haven’t read most of the comments on this post, but will agree with the second one I saw: please do a bit on single working moms! My selfish desire, of course: I am one, and am always looking for more balancing tricks.

  12. Anonymous says...

    I’d love to hear about professional city moms with multiple kids. I have a 14 mo old and would like a couple more kids, but my husband thinks even 2 would be crazy.

  13. Anonymous says...

    I would absolutely love to read a series about how men balance it all.

  14. In the wake of news of Marissa Mayer’s appointment to Yahoo!’s CEO and her now being six months pregnant, I began listening to a Computer History Museum event with Marissa Mayer on YouTube and found it fascinating, especially when she talks about “finding your rhythm” and setting boundaries when it comes to avoiding being resentful at or of work (, around 1:19:42). P.S. I also love what Mayer says about being gender-blind. Psychologist Barbara Kerr also talks about this being a quality of successful gifted women in her book “Smart Girls, Gifted Women.”

  15. I’d like to hear from women who move back to their hometowns to be close to their families when the time comes to have children. My husband and I are thinking more and more of doing this. I’d also like to hear from women who continue to work and have their husbands stay at home with the kids.

  16. I don’t really think it is any different for the mother or the father when it comes to career goals. The difference is in society’s expectations of mothers versus fathers. Men must sacrifice time at home with families to reach higher in their career, just as a woman must. The difference is that according to society, it is ok for the man to do this, but if the woman does it makes her less of a mother.

    I don’t have any children yet, but after knowing many mothers and reading your series, I see that balance is different from family to family. It is about balancing expectations between the mother and father and trying to come to an agreement about how they will handle their career lives.

    Thanks for the series. it is very thought provoking.

  17. Hi Joanna,

    I really liked the series and I think alot of great suggestions have been made. While the interviews of successful career mothers were interesting, I’m an under 30 mom STARTING a demanding career. I’d love to see interviews about that.

  18. Dear Jo:

    I love your blog, It’s not only amusing but also inspiring … and different.
    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  19. E Tells Tales! (was that the “Elizabeth” who already commented??) either way, she’s going back to work in rural Alabama, and leaving her recently unemployed dear husband at home. She’s a fantastic writer, and would make a great profile!

  20. i would also love to see how other stay at home moms, like myself do it, especially with not so big incomes. It sounds like in this last series, most of the moms could afford resources like nannies, sitters, or the husbands work at home. I would love to see how mom’s balance their family as well as their creative outlets or interests.

  21. Stella T. says...

    I love these series! One suggestion: have you ever considered doing a series on Fathers? So many of these women mention their amazing husbands and partners… I’d love to hear the male perspective on balancing family/work life, especially since their roles are not as traditionally cookie-cutter as they used to be!

  22. Anonymous says...

    I’d love to see mom’s who are NURSES! Nurses work 12 hour shifts, 4 days in a row, sometimes days, sometimes nights. Scheduling could be crazy and I’d love to see how someone could make it work!