Working mothers could face more negative effects from hybrid work models than their single male counterparts. Experts say the solution is to make remote work the default.

Mother working from home with child
A child plays while his mother works remotely.

  • Partial remote work could create a two-class system where workers in the office are rewarded.
  • This system could benefit unattached men and harm working mothers who need flexibility.
  • Experts say the solution is to make remote work the norm, not the exception.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In some form or another, remote work is here to stay.

While some US workers are adamant that they’ll never return to an office, others just want flexibility – the option to stay at home when they want to and come into work when they need to. In corporate America, this has been dubbed a hybrid model of working, and everyone from Google CEO Sundar Pichai to JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon have decreed that their companies will adopt a new, flexible way of working.

On the surface, this type of flexibility will be crucial for workers whose lives no longer revolve around commuting five days per week, or for working parents who need to adjust their schedules to support childcare duties.

But experts warn that there could be a hidden downside to hybrid models of working if employers don’t handle it properly – one that could harm the careers of working mothers, and hamper diversity efforts for years to come.

A two-class system

Zillow CEO Rich Barton was one of the first executives to publicly question what flexible working arrangements could mean for workers. While Zillow has fully embraced the hybrid model of work, Barton has voiced concerns about the challenges his team could face.

“We must ensure a level playing field for all team members, regardless of their physical location,” he said during the online real estate company’s fourth-quarter earnings call in February. “There cannot be a two-class system – those in the room being first-class and those on the phone being second-class.”

Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, told Insider that he’s worried about a hybrid future because of the impacts it could have on employee morale, diversity, and company culture.

“Frankly, I think it’s unsustainable to have a gigantic headquarters and then a whole bunch of people dispersed around the country, around the world, and expecting that the dispersed community is going to feel equal to the ones who are at the headquarters,” he said.

Unless companies make substantive changes now to hire more women and people of color and to support people who require flexibility, he said, company culture, particularly in tech, could easily become a sea of homogeneity: mainly white, unattached males who are willing and able to commute into an office every day.

Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economist who’s an expert on remote work, took it one step further. In an interview with Bloomberg’s Olivia Rockeman published this week, Bloom warned that this system could lead to at-home workers missing out on promotions to their peers who show up to the office, which could eventually lead to a diversity crisis in six to seven years and “a legal minefield of quite justifiable lawsuits.”

According to a survey of over 1,000 US workers from employee analytics firm Perceptyx, four out of 10 employees who work remotely at least part of the time said they felt impacted by a “perceived absence” from the office compared to their peers who reported to work every day. They reported feeling like their work was evaluated less often, they received less recognition, and they were less likely to receive a raise or promotion than their peers.

And according to Bloom, the population that chooses to stay home most of the time will not be random going forward.

“For people with children under the age of 12, you find almost 50% more women than men choose to work from home five days a week,” Bloom told Bloomberg.

Women have already been beaten down by the pandemic, economically speaking

A report from the International Labour Organization from January found that women, as well as younger workers, experienced the greatest employment losses during the last year. Last September, nearly 900,000 women reported that they were no longer employed, compared to 216,000 men who said the same.

A survey by McKinsey and Co. from last fall found that that one out of every four working women was considering scaling back their hours or leaving the workforce altogether, citing the challenge of juggling their work with childcare and other household tasks.

Read more: We’ve failed working mothers (again). This is how we build a better world for them.

Now that life is slowly returning to normal, women – who are more likely to shoulder the childcare burden – will require the flexibility to stay home a few days per week or adjust their hours to handle pick-up from school or daycare. This flexible future should be a blessing. But over time, inequity could rear its head, said Raafi Alidina, a consultant for diversity and inclusion consultancy Frost Included.

Alidina said he’s worried the hybrid model could also change the behavior of the employees who feel they need to keep up with their colleagues.

“You’ll end up having the people at home, noticing that they’re being treated as second-class and they’ll either leave [their job] or they’ll try to come back to work like they used to, they’ll try to go to the office,” he said. “And when they do go to the office, they won’t be at their best because they’ll be thinking, ‘Oh, I wish I could be at home with my kid,’ or they just won’t be able to work the way that works for their lives best.”

He added: “You’re not going to get the best version of them as a worker, you’re not gonna get the most productive version of them.”

Make remote work the norm, not the exception

So what’s the solution?

Alidina said there are a few ways to curb the rise of a two-class system. One way is to be proactive about helping employees feel connected to their workplace by driving home the value and importance of their work – and explaining how all employees are connected to their workplace, regardless of where they are.

He said companies also need to make employee recognition a priority, and ensure that that recognition is inclusive of every role.

“The accomplishments that you’ll feel are worth touting are going to be based on your own biases,” he said. “Credit isn’t always given as often or as easily to people of color, people with disabilities, and other members of marginalized groups.”

And finally, it’s all about how a company messages the work arrangement to employees. Rather than asking workers to request remote work, make remote work the default – and make managers justify why an employee needs to report to the office.

“It’s the same kind of thing that needs to happen for any kind of inclusion: If you’re the person who has more power and privilege in society, it’s your job to adapt to to help that other person feel like they can be their entire selves,” he said. “It’s the same way with managers the people who report them.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

I took an entire weekend to myself away from my husband and kids – here’s why every working mom should do the same

Melissa Petro with her youngest child.
Melissa Petro with her youngest child.

  • Melissa Petro is a freelance writer based in New York with her husband and two young children.
  • In early May, she took a weekend to herself for a “strategic absence” vacation, or “momcation.”
  • Petro says the time off allowed her to feel connected to herself as well as appreciative of her family.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A lot of moms spend their “day off” just like any other: cleaning up messes and watching the kids. In year’s past, I’ve been that worn-out momma.

For example, there have been many Mother’s Days when after opening my gift and shoveling down breakfast in bed, life would go back to normal, with a deluge of diapers to change and dishes in the sink.

But not this year.

This past Mother’s Day, I skipped the subtle hints and gave myself the one gift I wanted more than anything else: an entire weekend by myself.

No shouting toddlers. No waking up in the middle of the night. No endless list of chores. Just utter quiet and complete solitude. Hour after hour to do whatever I desired.

Fellow working moms, can you even imagine?

Even though Mother’s Day has passed, it’s not too late to coordinate your own escape. While many moms find it difficult to justify leaving their families, taking time and space for ourselves is not only good for us – it’s good for our loved ones, too.

A ‘strategic absence’ is more than a vacation

Citing the work of researcher and motherhood experts Petra Bueskens, Amy Westervelt, author of “Forget Having It All: How America Messed Up Motherhood and How to Fix it,” calls it a “strategic absence,” which she defines as an intentional period of time when mom is not around.

Maybe you’re at a conference for work or maybe it’s a girls’ trip. Or maybe it’s a trip orchestrated solely for the purpose of being away. The point is that you’re not physically there to make dinner or help out with bedtime. You’re mentally unavailable to figure out why the baby is crying or carry the load of remembering to reorder wipes.

Not only does a strategic absence give the primary caretaker a much-needed break, but according to Bueskens, it can generate a “structural and psychological shift in the family” by redistributing some of the work that falls onto one parent by default (typically mom) and requiring the second parent (usually the father) to step up.

Now more than ever, families need to shake up their dynamic

Melissa Petro
The author with her kids.

I first wrote about strategic absence back in January 2020 in an article for Elemental, where I bemoaned the fact that the most time I’d taken away from my then-two-year-old were the 24 hours I spent in the hospital giving birth to baby number two.

I was long overdue for what some call a momcation – and was in the works of planning one – when the pandemic hit, adding another 14 months onto the two years I’d already essentially been sheltering in place.

A 2018 survey found the average mother ends up with a mere 30 minutes to herself a day. During the pandemic, you can bet alone time was at an even greater premium – at least it was in my household.

Now that people are vaccinated and travel is a bit safer, I could finally have the time off from mothering that I richly deserved.

The thought of just being in a space by myself for an extended period of time sounded magical: Imagine no one is touching you, shouting in your face, demanding snacks, and crying when you give them exactly what they asked for.

Give yourself a (modest) goal

Beyond leisurely bubble baths and uninterrupted sleep, experts say a strategic absence is time away to pursue other dimensions of yourself.

If you’re a type-A working mom like me – you love your job and don’t get enough uninterrupted time in your everyday life to focus on it – there’s nothing wrong with using your strategic absence to tackle a work project.

My goal for this past Mother’s Day weekend was to make a significant start into a new idea for a book proposal that’d been rattling around my head for months – exactly the kind of thing that requires significant “maker” time.

You want a plan – but don’t feel pressured

No one wants to come back from a vacation feeling like they need a vacation, and a momcation is no different. While you may use the time to be productive, it ought to be restorative as well.

After arriving at my destination, I spent an hour in line at Whole Foods. It started raining, I was cold – I’d forgotten to pack a sweater – and so instead of exploring a new restaurant like I’d intended, I went back to the apartment, zapped a microwave burrito, struggled with the beginning of my book proposal, and went to bed. It was pretty uneventful.

Fortunately, I woke up with a clearer head and zero distractions (the beauty of a strategic absence!), and I got straight to work. By day two, I knew I wasn’t going to end the weekend emailing my agent the 30 perfect pages of prose I’d promised her, but that was OK.

Ignore your buzzing phone

The most important part of a strategic absence is to protect yourself from intruders. Trust me, they will intrude.

A good friend will need to process the fight she’s having with her husband. Your cousin will want to know how your strategic absence is going or talk about where your moms went wrong when you were both kids. If enjoying phone conversations without screaming kids in the background was part of the plan, allow it, but if not, send those calls to voicemail.

The second I arrived and before I even put my bags down, I got a text from my husband complaining I’d overfilled the garbage can. It wasn’t a conversation we needed to have right then, and so I didn’t respond. I checked in with my family every night before bed, but other than that I ignored his messages.

Sure, I felt a little guilty, but they were never an emergency and I knew I wasn’t obligated to respond.

When I got home, my husband admitted that he’d actually enjoyed his time solo-parenting and said that, in some respects, it was easier. This isn’t unusual: Often without the primary parent’s micromanagement, the secondary parental figure develops competences and confidence. Do it often enough, and a strategic absence teaches your kids they can rely on both parents, not just mom.

In the end, I came back feeling more rested, connected to myself, appreciative of my family, and eager for my next escape.

Read the original article on Business Insider

5 working moms on what they really want this Mother’s Day, from quality alone time to family-friendlier employers

Lekeshia Angelique
Lekeshia Angelique and family.

  • The pandemic has created even more challenges for many already over-burdened working moms.
  • Author Melissa Petro spoke with five working mothers to ask what they really want for Mother’s Day this year.
  • From a better work-life balance to more quality time with their kids, here’s what they asked for.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

If you Google “Mother’s Day gift idea,” you’ll be inundated with tacky jewelry, personalized trinkets, and sugary treats. It’s a sad compensation for the relentless stress that comes with mothering. And this past year has been particularly exhausting.

Even before the pandemic, working while parenting was a challenge, especially for mothers. Post-pandemic, the struggle remains. To give just an idea, my husband and I spent last weekend in tears, struggling with the fact that New York City is reopening and he is being called back into the office, separating him from his children and forcing me to reduce my already limited work hours and parent our two toddlers alone.

Forget bubble bath and breakfast in bed; this Mother’s Day, I want quality, affordable childcare to compensate for the options permanently lost due to the pandemic. I want return-to-work programs to reintroduce those of us who’ve fallen out of the workplace, and family friendlier employers that put an end to secret parenting once and for all.

On Mother’s Day – and every day – I want recognition for the incalculable value of our unpaid, invisible labor, including the mental load that weighs disproportionately on moms.

While I’m always appreciative of a homemade card, a little common courtesy is the gift that keeps giving. To my husband: Put your bowl in the dishwasher. Pick your damp towel off the bed. To his employer: Please don’t make him come back into the office when this doesn’t work for our family – especially considering studies have found employees are actually more productive when you let them work from home.

I spoke with five working moms who got real about what they’ve been through this past year, and what they’re truly hoping for this Mother’s Day.

‘Leave me alone’

Shoshana Fain
Shoshana Fain and family.

People are realizing during the pandemic that health is more important than everything. Moms reach a point where they’re doing everything for everyone else and neglecting their own self care. But at the end of the day, no one’s happy when mom’s skipping meals or forgetting to properly hydrate.

After giving birth in May, I struggled with my weight and gestational diabetes. Even though I had a newborn to care for, I started prioritizing myself and lost 50 pounds with the help of a coach. I was so inspired that I started coaching others.

For Mother’s Day, I want to lock myself in my room for the day and only be interrupted with deliveries of snuggles and coffee. I feel like it sounds horrible, but the thought of ignoring my family and just staying in my bed for as long as I want would be bliss.

– Shoshana Fain, 34, Chicago, IL, health transformation coach, married with 3 boys ages 11 months, 4, and 5

‘I need a real vacation’

Lekeshia Angelique
Lekeshia Angelique and family.

Last March, I quit my full-time job as an HR specialist to start my own business. I run workshops and mentor staff at all levels, teaching people about unconscious bias, microaggressions and other barriers to inclusion and diversity. When it comes to things like race, gender, sexuality, and other individual differences, people are overwhelmed and afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. That’s where I come in.

Being an advocate for change and a minority during this year’s social justice movements and in the midst of a pandemic was simultaneously exciting and terrifying. It brought on a lot of new feelings that were felt by the entire family. But we thrived.

For Mother’s Day, I’d love a vacation out of the country. I haven’t traveled since the pandemic began, and Greece has been on my vision board since forever. The blue roofs, beaches, and cuisine make it the ultimate relaxation destination. I’m ready for a well-earned break.

– Lekeshia Angelique, 39, Clarksville, TN, diversity coach and consultant, engaged with five kids ages 9, 9, 19, 19 and 23

‘A little kindness would be nice’

Cat and her son.
Cat and her son.

I’ve loved working in politics news the past three years. It’s felt like a public service more than ever. This past year especially, I poured my efforts into getting it right and amplifying a diverse group of wise and credible voices. My son splits time between me and his father, so my parenting is 24/3.5. I love that I’ve gotten the intense time with him this past year – we’re closer than ever – but I hate how often my attention is divided when we’re together. I’m always at the mercy of my work phone.

For Mother’s Day, I want my son to make me a card, which is a painful challenge for single parents; who’s going to oversee such a thing? I confess that I want flowers. I want the day off, but I work on Sundays. I want democracy and kindness. I want forgiveness to be cool. People can be really mean and unforgiving – especially on social media. I want to never see the Michael Jackson eating popcorn meme ever again.

– Cat, 38, New York City, journalist, divorced with one son, age 5

‘I want a better work-life balance’

Nicole Phillips
Nicole Phillips and her daughter.

Trying to work from home with a two-year-old and no childcare was not easy. Sticking my daughter in front of a screen and depriving her of the attention and social interaction she was begging for – I felt like such a bad parent at times. And at work, everything felt like an emergency. I was giving 100% at everything, but constantly falling short.

When I was let go in February 2021, I was shattered. I realized that as much as I’d loved my work, it wasn’t worth my sanity. I found a job freelancing in my field, plus size fashion.

My wish for Mother’s Day is simple: I don’t want to go back to what life was pre-pandemic.

I miss being in the office, and collaborating in-person with my coworkers, but I don’t miss the expectations put upon me – and that I put on myself. I don’t want to sit in a car for three hours a day battling traffic and then missing dinner or bath time. From now on, I want to define my work schedule. I’d also love for all our laundry to be done.

– Nicole Phillips, 37, Los Angeles, CA, freelance writer, married with one daughter, age 3

‘I need quality – not quantity – time with my child’

Lydia Elle
Lydia Elle.

The hardest part about working and parenting this last year was throwing out the idea of what I thought everything should look like and becoming compassionate with myself about what life actually was and who I was in it. I was not prepared for a racial and health pandemic that forced me to become so much for my daughter. I had to be OK with not always being OK, and create a space that freed my daughter to admit when she was struggling so we could process through our feelings together instead of getting stuck in them.

For Mother’s Day, it would be glorious if I had some quality time with my daughter. A night or two somewhere close by for us to reflect and have fun together – and maybe a little time for me to just be, and sleep.

– Lydia Elle, 40, Southern California, self-employed, single with one daughter age 11

Read the original article on Business Insider

How employers can better support working moms with in-person and hybrid work options after the pandemic

working from home virtual learning
Moms may report more anxiety and loneliness while working from home.

  • Working moms face a particular disadvantage when it comes to balancing remote work with domestic duties.
  • A Yale University study suggests moms are more likely to feel depressed, anxious, and lonely while working from home.
  • When deciding on continuing remote work after the pandemic, employers should consider making accommodations for working moms.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Many employers have found to their surprise that remote work offers productivity and savings. Why return to the office, and continue paying that pricey lease, when your employees are just as productive from home? I can already hear the groan of discontent from parents around the country – particularly mothers. Indeed, studies have found that mothers suffer a gender disadvantage in the remote work environment. They are more likely to work with their children present. Their household chores increase when they work from home. They are more likely to report depression, anxiety, and loneliness than their husbands.

Regardless of how attentive their husbands are to the gender imbalance in child-rearing, the fact is that mothers of young and school-aged children tend to be the primary caregiver. They have found it more difficult to manage their maternal and remote work responsibilities during the health crisis.

Employers who decide to continue the experiment with remote work after the global health crisis must avoid contributing to this gender disparity. My research and discussions with mothers reveal a singular finding about how to close the gender gap from remote work: Remote work should be an option, not a requirement.

A case for in-person work

Just as parents realized they relied on school as a form of daycare, mothers have come to realize that they rely on in-person work as a break from their domestic roles. A study by Yale University found that mothers suffered the most due to the clash between the domestic and career roles while working from home. Going to work creates a clear demarcation between these roles.

One friend, I’ll call her M., recently took mental leave because she found the demands of remote work and child-rearing too overwhelming. “I found myself scolding my kids simply because they wanted to spend time with me. They are still too young to realize that they were interrupting my work.” M. is fortunate enough to have the option of paid leave. Now she’s afraid that her firm might decide to require remote work post-health-crisis. “I cannot wait to go back to the office, and I’m not sure if I can stay at home if we go full remote.”

The allure of going remote for some businesses is obvious. Firms can save significantly on fixed overhead costs if they downsize or even eliminate their office space entirely. Indeed, many firms are considering going hybrid – placing some of their workforce in-person and the rest remaining at home. Employers are conducting occupational analyses to determine who will stay remote and who will return to work.

Pressures on mothers

Employers should also consider the gender factor. Some accommodations should be made for mothers (and anyone else, frankly) experiencing difficulties with remote work. They should have the option to return to work even if their positions have been deemed suitable for working remote.

It’s important to note that this problem will not just go away when children return to school after the health crisis. Mothers of young children will continue to care for their children at home. Many parents will decide, regardless of the distress, to save on the costs of childcare and aftercare if at least one parent is working from home.

This is not just a matter of accommodating subjective preferences. The research shows significant mental health problems for many mothers working remotely due to the health crisis. Remote work has altered the work-life balance for many mothers in ways they never envisioned, and employers considering a permanent or hybrid remote work approach must keep mothers in mind.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I overcame the fear and stigma of giving my kid extra screen time during the pandemic. Here’s why he’s better off for it.

Melissa Petro
Petro with her husband and kids.

  • Experts used to urge parents to only allow up to one hour of screen time a day for kids.
  • As a working mom, Melissa Petro says she overcame the stigma that allowing extra screen time made her a bad parent.
  • She says more parents and experts are softening their stances on screen time — and many kids are happier for it.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

After going through a very public and humiliating job loss in my early 30s, I considered myself impervious to other people’s opinions. Then at 38 years old I became a mom, and I got a sort of shock. When it came to parenting, I learned, everyone has an opinion on everything, from breast versus bottle to how much personal information to post about your kids online (if any), to whether or not it’s traumatic to let a baby “cry it out.” 

But one of the greatest issues up for debate, I learned, was screen time. 

In 2017, the year my son was born, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) was recommending no screen time for children younger than 18 months and up to one supervised hour of screen time a day for kids ages 18 to 24. Children over the age of two were also encouraged to limit their screen time to under an hour. 

For the most part, the parents I knew followed these recommendations – or felt guilty when they didn’t.

But since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered childcare centers and schools, kids are spending more time than ever in front of their devices, and experts are walking back their super strict screen time guidelines and even hyping the benefits

The news that screen time may not be as evil as once feared – and could even be beneficial – comes as no surprise to my husband and me. Like most parents, we were initially ambivalent about giving our young toddler an iPad or setting the baby up in front of the TV. But for some time – and well, before a pandemic forced our hand – we came around to the idea of allowing our young children to explore technology, and began recognizing the benefits immediately.

These days, screen time is a given. But not so long ago, it was taboo.

Melissa Petro kids
The author’s kids.

As a consequence of the pandemic, children’s screen time has soared, and attitudes towards the technology has softened, and so it feels almost nostalgic to remember a time when it was taken for granted that any screen time at all (let alone too much) would have a deleterious effect on our kids.

In Facebook mom groups I gravitated to as a first time mom, anti-screen time screeds were an almost daily occurrence. Moms posted dubiously sourced articles suggesting screens were to blame for a host of physical and mental health issues, everything from obesity and eye strain to anxiety, depression, and even suicide.

Most moms kept vigilant track of the amount of time their kids spent in front of smartphones, computers, television, or video game consoles, while others banned devices entirely.

While the moms encouraged one another to follow experts’ ‘better safe than sorry’ approach, they were never harsh.

When every so often, someone would guiltily confess how she occasionally permitted a little Daniel Tiger in the background while she prepared dinner – or that she handed her kid a tablet so that she could shower in peace – other moms would jump in to reassure her and confess their own transgressions.

Rarely would a mom admit how she personally relied on screens as a habit, but I saw them out in the world. In the grocery store and on the subway, parents occupied their babies in strollers with smartphones. Toddlers, obviously familiar with the technology, huddled over glowing tablets in restaurants while their parents enjoyed a quiet meal. 

Even less visible were the parents who – without reliable, affordable childcare – felt no choice but to put their children in front of a screen while they attended to professional responsibilities. 

Long before COVID-19 shuttered daycares and in-person learning, there have been moms who couldn’t afford to eschew screens.

Melissa Petro
Family lunchtime.

From the beginning, it was our instinct that screens weren’t all “bad” – after all, both my husband and I both work in digital media. Still, debates over screen time made me doubt my maternal instincts, and I probably wouldn’t have given our son a tablet if it hadn’t become necessary.

My son Oscar was still in his mini crib when we introduced him to Bi mmi Boo, one of countless of educational apps designed specifically for young kids. By then, balancing motherhood and a career had proved impossible. 

It wasn’t enough to work while my baby napped. My career was rapidly tanking, and I was not making ends meet. The apartment was a disaster. I was exhausted, burnt out, and depressed.

Within no time, our son had figured out the basic mechanics, navigating from the app to the home screen and back again. He smiled in delight as he figured out how to make the cartoon bear dance. 

Screen time was more than convenient – it was clearly beneficial to my son.

From then on, Oscar explored his tablet independently for at least an hour or two every day. While I completed assignments or did housework, my son learned his letters, numbers, colors, and shapes. Within weeks, Oscar was navigating the internet like a pro, having fun and hitting developmental milestones – not in spite of technology, but because of it.

By the time the COVID crisis began affecting us last March, my son’s tablet had become just another toy. He masters educational games just as fast as we download them, and explores content and develops interests free from my influence. Sure, in the beginning he got sucked into a lot of videos of tires crushing stuff. But eventually, he’d gravitated towards videos about horses, and had learned the names for at least two dozen construction vehicles (two subjects I might not have thought to introduce on my own). 

All the while, he’s grown increasingly competent and confident with technology. My husband and I joke that, at three years old, he is already more tech savvy than we are. Not surprising, given that before his first birthday, he’d already taught himself how to skip ads.

Thanks to COVID-19, it’s no longer a scarlet letter to say your kid gets a little – or even a lot – of screen time in a day.

Melissa Petro
Screen time with dad.

In the past year, some experts have revised their positions on screen time, walking back warning and offering practical advice as opposed to arbitrary time limits. One expert who literally wrote a book about setting screen time limits went so far as to apologize for being so out of touch. 

It’s a step in the right direction and undoubtedly a relief for parents who agonize. Still, I can’t help but feel dismayed, and more than a little vindicated. As other writers have articulated, screen time limit ‘rules’ were rooted in classism and racism, and I agree with those who declared it a feminist issue.

Using screens to help my household to function didn’t make me a negligent mother – nor did it make my kid “moody, crazy, and lazy“, as one particularly offensive headline suggested. 

Instead, introducing technology early was an act of resourcefulness. As for my son: When he’s not building Lego boats, drawing underwater scenes, or pretending to be a oceanographer, he’s usually online, researching everything there is to learn about fish, oceans, and boats. Typical toddler obsessions aside, he’s well-rounded and intelligent, creative, clever, and kind.  

I’m not immune to mom shame, but it doesn’t control me like it used to. And when it comes to screens, I’m clear: My kid’s alright – and even after loads and loads of screen time, your kid will be alright, too.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I was a type-A mom trying to ‘have it all,’ and I suffered a breakdown. Here are my 5 tips to help any working mom prioritize self-care on a daily basis.

working mom
Prioritizing alone time is key for working moms to de-stress.

  • Jessica Milicevic is the owner of Maven Media, a strategic branding and marketing agency in North Carolina.
  • She wrote a list of ways working moms can practice self-care without sacrificing too much time or money.
  • Disconnecting, enjoying quiet time, and practicing self-compassion are easy ways moms can prioritize their wellness.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The term self-care has become one of those buzzwords so overused by bloggers, marketers, and influencers that it almost has no authentic meaning left. Everyone from major brands to the mommy bloggers encourage us to use self-care, usually by partaking in one of their products that promises to bring us calm, peace, and mindfulness. Rarely do we get true serenity from a candle or a cookie, but the idea that we need to practice self-care still pushes us to do whatever we can to attain it. 

Self-care in its most basic form are things you do to take care of yourself. As working moms, we’ve become conditioned to do everything for others, so the idea that we should do something for ourselves can seem entirely selfish and foreign. But the practice of self-care for working moms is easier said than done. Besides, what is self-care anyway, if not a way to escape? 

Time and finances are often factors in any working mom’s decision to take time for herself

When we think of recharging using the self-care method, we often talk ourselves out of it because we don’t have the time or the money to take a spa day, or any other luxury image that’s become synonymous with self-care. And because the meaning of the term has become so trite, we often dismiss the practice entirely. 

In an effort to redefine self-care for the working mom, I’ve created a list of ways that we can all practice true love for ourselves, without sacrificing major amounts of time or money. These practices can be incorporated into your everyday life so you can easily take the time to reset your mind, body, and soul, and refill that empty cup.

1. Breathe 

I know I’m not inspiring a ton of confidence by starting with something so simple, but stay with me. 

There was a time in my life when a maternal mental breakdown sent me to the hospital for a week. In the midst of the chaotic moment, I began to have a panic attack as I contemplated what was really happening to me. 

The thing that saved me from completely melting down was breathing. In yoga, I’d learned to block out the rest of the world and simply count my breaths as I inhaled and exhaled, and when it mattered the most, I was able to use that practice to calm my entire body. 

In the middle of an intense day at work, when your coworkers are being difficult and the boss is being stubborn, or when your kids are all yelling and your partner is wanting your attention, simply take a moment to stop. 

Choose a place where you can be alone (when I’m home, that often means hiding in my closet) and sit down. Put a timer on your phone for five minutes. Close your eyes and breathe in to the count of six, and out to the count of six. Count out loud if you need to, to give yourself a noise to focus on. 

Give yourself permission to push all other thoughts away (after all, it’s just for five minutes) and just listen to your breathing. Notice the rise and fall of your chest and focus on keeping your breath consistent. If you practice this often enough, the breathing will automatically kick in when you feel tense and stressed, like it did for me. 

Read more: I’m a mom influencer who earns up to $12,000 a month through paid sponsorships. Here’s how I grew my income and following while caring for my son.

2. Connect

This may be specific to extroverts like myself, but I’ve found that having a conversation helps me take a break from my stress and indulge in some informal talk therapy. 

Some of the best connections I’ve made have started online in a Facebook group for working moms. Instead of just using the platform to just vent (which is totally OK to do!) try using it to connect with other moms. I’ve asked for advice, or shared an interesting article, or even shared a photo of my kids and invited others to share as well. 

The great thing about being a member of a group for working moms is that they get what you’re going through. Everything you’re struggling with or take joy in, they likely do too. Connecting with other women in this way can help us make friends, which is definitely a part of taking care of ourselves.

3. Disconnect

Most days after taking care of my four kids and running my own business, I need time to disconnect. Instead of watching TV or scrolling through social media, I’ve established a form of self-care that truly helps me reset: silence. I sit on my couch and I don’t talk to anyone, and ask that my husband not talk to me, for one hour. 

Every working mom deserves time to reset your mind and rest your brain before bed. Make an arrangement with your partner and kids to take one hour to not talk to anyone and then choose an activity that brings you joy. 

Try to pick an activity that doesn’t overstimulate your brain, like listening to a podcast or reading a book, and give yourself permission to push everything else aside and enjoy it. If you can, hop in the bath and allow yourself to just melt away for an hour.

4. Sleep

I can see many of you rolling your eyes at this suggestion. How is sleep self-care if it’s also a part of simple human existence? But ask yourself: What quality of sleep are you getting? 

After eight hours at the office and four hours of homework, dinner, and bedtime routines, working moms often find themselves sprawled out on the couch, mindlessly watching TV or scrolling through social media before we drag ourselves into bed. We get to bed only to run through the mental load we carry, keeping us even later and often leaving us to fall asleep in an anxious manner. 

Try instead to give yourself the gift of true rest. Research shows that getting adequate sleep can help you have the energy to manage anxiety, and can increase the positive consolidation of thoughts and memories while we sleep that allows us to be in a sharper, better mood when we’re awake. 

Make a commitment to yourself that you will be in bed, sans screen, by 10 or 11 p.m. each night. If true self-care comes from taking care of ourselves, getting adequate sleep should be high on the priority list.

Read more: A CEO swears by carving out 2 ‘focus days’ a week where he doesn’t attend meetings. Here’s how he works them into his routine.

5. Permission and forgiveness 

As working moms, we carry so much on our minds and hearts. From our colleagues to our kids, we want everyone in our lives to feel taken care of and happy. Along with the need to make everyone else happy, is ultimately the feeling of guilt when we are unable to achieve this impossible task. 

Mommy guilt is a burden we all carry, but how it manifests in our lives is different for everyone. For me, I allowed the guilt to dictate my happiness. I never gave myself permission to be imperfect, or to allow others in my life to feel unsatisfied or disappointed, and my mental health began to deteriorate. 

In order to tackle any of the self-care items listed above, you need to allow yourself the time and space to do so. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself and be happy and healthy.

When you’re planning your day, you have the option to choose to do something for yourself. While doing things for your friends and family is generous and kind, you must also be kind and generous with yourself. 

This can be as simple as choosing to take a shower instead of cooking an extra time-consuming meal for your kids or partner. Give yourself permission to take 30 minutes to be alone, do something you need to do, and just be.

This often requires us to also forgive ourselves for whatever we feel like we’re failing at (which we are often not doing, but again, mommy guilt) and know that we’re doing the best we can. Forgive yourself for whatever negative thoughts you have and give yourself permission to be a human being with needs and the ability to be imperfect. 

Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated or intricate. It can be as simple as doing things to maintain your emotional and mental health so you feel balanced in your everyday life. While treating yourself is definitely needed, true self-care is something we must do regularly to be able to give 100% to our family, friends, and coworkers. It’s a cliche but it’s also true: You can’t give from an empty cup. So fill yours up, and know it’s in the service of not just others, but also in the service of yourself. 

 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Job stress drove me to congestive heart failure at age 34. As I got better, here are 3 things I did to revive my small business while protecting my health.

Shannon Hennig.
Shannon Hennig.

  • Shannon Hennig is a small business owner and health and wellness marketing expert.
  • In September 2020, she was suddenly hospitalized with a diagnosis of congenital heart failure and had to take time off from running her business.
  • As she eased back into work, began health treatment, and continued homeschooling her young son, Hennig learned to set boundaries to safeguard her physical and mental health.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In September 2020, I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure caused primarily by high blood pressure that was left untreated for too long. Despite leading a healthy lifestyle, exercising regularly, and having a diet of minimally processed food, unchecked stress and anxiety coupled with my high blood pressure to result in my diagnosis at age 34. 

Many of us are experiencing uncommonly high levels of stress right now related to COVID-19, politics, and the unknown future. Everyone is struggling to keep up with work and life in the midst of increasing chaos and uncertainty.

After my hospitalization, I had to make a plan for jumping back into work and family. I needed to take into account my physical limitations, while running my writing and consulting business, “co-homeschooling” my 6-year-old son with my husband, and making time for the onslaught of medical appointments that were about to come my way.

Here’s what I did to adjust to life after my diagnosis how it’s changed my business for the better.

1. I began making proactive instead of reactive decisions

Instead of leaving business decisions up to chance or waiting for external circumstances to dictate my next move, I sat down and asked myself what my intentions were with my work. 

I asked myself, what were my intentions with the business that I’m pouring my time and energy into? Was I creating a job for myself to simply pay the bills, or building a company that served a larger purpose? What kind of clients did I want to attract and what kind of work truly brought me joy?

As I reevaluated my business and looked at my intentions, I integrated this practice into the work I do with my clients. By posing these same questions to my clients,  we’re able to build a business model that brings them fulfillment and is sustainable because it’s coming from a place of authenticity.

As I work with health, wellness, and helping professionals to brand and market themselves, building my own unique program to “help the helpers” meant more time for me to do what I love.

Read more: After a difficult pregnancy with twins, I negotiated a flexible work schedule with my boss – here’s the script I used to frame it as a win-win

2. I set firm boundaries between work and personal hours

As a small business owner working from home, it can become nearly impossible to separate work and family as they blur into one fluid span of time. Each day you multitask from the time you wake up until you collapse into bed.

At the urging of my business coach, I reevaluated how and where I use my time. I then ruthlessly went after my schedule and set aside time blocks for specific tasks and project work. 

Another strategy is to evaluate the amount of time you think a project will need, and then double or in some cases triple it. By giving myself the time I actually need and building in buffers, I can do a better job and deliver ahead of time.

I also gave myself dedicated time for medical appointments with my cardiologist, trips to the lab for blood work, time to meet with my psychologist, and time to rest with my feet up (literally) each day. 

Now, I organize my calendar to include two hour lunch breaks where I can properly eat and take a short nap. I log off my computer at 5 p.m. and don’t respond to client emails during evenings and weekends. As my business coach wisely told me, “Think of boundaries as a way to keep you in, so you only have time to do your best work.” When I organize my schedule each week I keep this advice in the back of my mind.

Read more: The pandemic has proven that mothers can work from home and still be excellent at their jobs. Here’s what workplaces must do next.

3. I choose to do less in order to do more 

While it seems counterintuitive to do less in order to actually get more done, I applied this concept to my work and have been amazed by the results.

Despite having a virtual assistant before my diagnosis, I was terrible at delegation. There was always a feeling of guilt hanging over me when I’d ask her to do something I knew I could do myself. 

One of the first things I did after my diagnosis was to start creating standard operating procedures and handing over busy work. I then naturally progressed to shifting more tasks to my assistant, freeing up my own time for high value activities.

I hired another writer to support me, outsourced all my bookkeeping and accounting, and looked for places I could remove myself from the process. It meant a lot of letting go of old models of thinking about myself as a superhero who could do it all without breaking a sweat. 

Now I have the time to focus on single projects each day, rather than frantically multitasking from morning to night. The result is a better product and service, improved relationships with my clients and the ability to raise my prices.

Doing less means identifying where you can create the most value and leveraging it as one of your business’ most important assets. It also requires building a team around me to support business functions and look for opportunities to continuously improve my services.

While heart failure turned my life and business upside down, the changes it forced on me were all needed. I’d rather go through this deep level of transformation in my 30s and put to use all I’ve learned now, so that I can be deliberate and intentional about what I’m building for the future.

Properly caring for my health has been like taking on a new part-time job in terms of time commitment and prioritization. I strongly guard my boundaries and stick to them because my future really does depend on them.

Shannon Hennig is a freelance writer and health and wellness marketing professional. She is the president of OpenInk Solutions, of company that helps health and wellness professionals to build their personal brands and become thought thought leaders in industries. Follow her on Twitter.

Read the original article on Business Insider