The Working Mom Blueprint by Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP (Book Excerpt)


Chapter 12 

My Message to Working Moms

Each time I write a blog post, a chapter— even a social media comment— I look back on it carefully, to make sure that it is honest. It’s my tendency, just like it’s the tendency of almost everyone else I know, to shine things on — making them simpler or more 1-dimensional than they should be, removing the messy parts and sharing only the victories after they’ve been won. This book was, for me, the ultimate in getting real so that I could help you get real too.

My working mom life is still a work in progress, as I’m sure yours is, as well. Yes, there are tricks and tips that make it easier and less painful, but, ultimately, it’s the philosophical aha moments that really move me forward and out of the deepest ruts I find myself stuck in.

A few years ago, I found myself in the deepest rut of my life, but it wasn’t my first, and it won’t be my last. I wasn’t sure what direction my life or some of my most important relationships were going. Those low point moments made me dig down deep and get to what mattered most for me and for my family. I made sacrifices. I made choices. I set my intention and my priorities on what I really cared about, forever changing the way I looked at my career and my working mom life. I aligned my present life with what I wanted my future life to look like, understanding that I couldn’t control the future but that I could control the way I prepared for it.

My hope for you as you wade through the ins and outs of motherhood, work, and life is that you find a way to do that same kind of digging, becoming the person you really want to be and living the life you actually want to live. Getting more efficient with our grocery shopping or our commutes make a difference, but those are only minor factors — tiny pieces of a bigger puzzle, pinpoint pixels of a bigger picture.

When will we really be successful as working moms?

When we learn how to approach life’s choices with a more centered approach based on what matters to us now and what will matter to us when we’re older— when the work is done, when our kids are grown, when we’ve made it to the end of our (hopefully) long lives. That means living by our priorities, taking care of the ones we love most — including ourselves, streamlining our processes, and learning how to approach parenting with a village mentality.

It seems opportunities to prioritize wisely are always on the horizon. My daughter and I are on a girls’ trip this week- end, up the coast and across the West Sound on a ferry to Orcas Island, where we’ll spend the weekend cozied up in a blanket on a postcard-sized cabin deck playing board games and reading, facing the mountains and the sky, breathing, taking it all in, being quiet. We’ve been looking forward to it for weeks, talking not about what we’ll do but about how we’ll be together, just the 2 of us.

She knows and I know it will take hard work and commitment to get there; I’ll work at my job to afford it, she’ll forgo playdates and maybe more exciting camps to make time for it, my child care reinforcements will work double time caring for my younger child to make it happen. We won’t go on other vacations because of it. We’ll multitask and delegate all our home tasks and work tasks to allow the brain space for it. I’ll miss my other daughter in the process, until I come back to her and hold her sweet hands in mine on our return, reminding her that her own special trip is around the corner.

This weekend is the closest you can get to a life, in perfectly imperfect balance, completely coordinated but requiring work and sacrifice and prioritization.

Taking care of your kids, yourself, and everything else — a pipe dream? Only if we let it be. There is joy waiting for us as we mother, not in spite of our work but alongside it, if we choose relationships, passion, and priorities over obligations and guilt. There is joy in the process, in figuring it out, in deciding what’s important and then letting go of what we think we’re supposed to do.

Sometimes, things come together faster than we imagine they will when we lay a foundation for success, then let it all unfold. We brought my daughter’s bike along with us on vacation, the blue one with the white streamers and the train- ing wheels. She’s timid as she rides at first, pedaling slowly, but, like a flash, it all changes. Suddenly, my timid little girl is yelling, “Super speed mode!” as she careens down an island pathway on her bike, shedding her hesitation to ride solo from just a few days prior. She’s still got the training wheels on, but she’s clattering along as fast as she can, oblivious to the fact she’s still in learning mode, not worried at all that she’s still not perfectly skilled at this new task.

“I’m building up my stamina, Mama!” she calls back to me, her hair a stream of sunlight as she pumps her little legs and grips the handlebars with all her might, so sure of herself and her newfound strength. My heart is pumping fast too, as we share this moment of connection I will never be able to replicate. Her efforts, I realize, are just like mine as I strive to find my way as a working mom — clanging along loudly with my own training wheels half the time, a hot sweaty mess who could care less how this is looking from the outside as long as, on the inside, I know where I’m going and why I’m working so hard to get there. Remember this the next time you’re feeling stuck as you work and mother: growing into our working mom identity, getting wiser, finding balance,leaps and setbacks and all the mucky stuff in-between, it’s all part of it. Focus your eyes ahead — on where you’re going and on why you’re going there — and you’ll be sailing toward true joy and contentment before you know it.

 

WHITNEY CASARES, MD, MPH, FAAP, is a board-certified practicing pediatrician, the creator of the popular website https://modernmommydoc.com, and the author of The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for You and Your Little One. She is the mother of 2 young daughters and lives in Portland, OR. Follow her on Instagram @modernmommydoc.

To purchase this book, visit the HealthyChildren bookstore at https://shop.aap.org/the-working-mom-blueprint-paperback/

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