When you're a working mom, the question whether you can "have it all" often looms—whether it's in your head, or in the opinions of others. I typically answer that question with a resounding and heartfelt yes! But recently, I got some insight that has challenged my belief in a working mom's ability to be "all things to all people"—and whether she should even try to be.
The advice came during a recent interview with Today Show real estate expert and entrepreneur extraordinaire Barbara Corcoran, who built an entrepreneurial empire (and sold her real estate company for $66 million) while raising two kids. When I asked Corcoran her advice for working mother entrepreneurs, her response was swift, simple and profound: "Build a wall between your work and family life, and hyperfocus on each."
The myth of doing it all
It seems common sense now that I've heard it, but given that I am a prime offender, it resonated. I pride myself on my multi-tasking ability. When my child eats lunch, I sneak five minutes to check email. When I'm waiting for an email response, I'll run to the kitchen and unload the dishwasher. Admittedly, in the past I've questioned how effective my methods were. On good days, I feel like Superwoman. On the exhausting ones, I've literally walked in circles, losing my focus mid-task.
I know I'm not the only one who wears so many hats she could be a hat rack! I've seen plenty of moms checking their BlackBerry while pushing a stroller or sitting on a park bench, holding a conference call while the kids play nearby. I've even had yoga students who glance at their iPhone while holding downward-facing dog. But thanks to Corcoran's advice, I now realize that in the process of trying to be all things to all people at all times, I'm shortchanging every area I'm trying to succeed in.
The Great Wall
What's the solution? As Corcoran said, draw the boundaries—and stick to them with absolute commitment. If your child sleeps from noon until two o'clock, forget about the baby upstairs and dedicate yourself to work. Once baby wakes, shut down the computer and be a mom only. Additionally, stop wasting time on unnecessary tasks when you're working. Ignore emails, stay off Facebook and don't answer the phone unless it's for business. If you want to succeed as a working stay-at-home mom, the power lies with you -- but you have to divide your work brain and mommy mode. Only then will you conquer.
The modern woman is redefining what it means to have a successful career. Rather than feeling torn between climbing the corporate ladder and having a happy family life, many women are choosing to merge the two and transition careers from a traditional role to a more flexible one.
Working Mom 3.0 is reinventing the definition of "working mom," as office hours are held at home and revolve around nap times.
This column begins by chronicling the experiences of Stephanie Taylor Christensen, a former marketing professional turned self-employed stay-at-home mom, writer and yoga instructor, as she strives to redefine "having it all" on her own time and terms.
More tips for working moms
Working Mom 3.0: Proving yourself
Working Mom 3.0: Tech tools for working moms
Working Mom 3.0: Lead by example