The Biggest Lessons Real Working Moms Learned in 2020

Last updated: 12-31-2020

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The Biggest Lessons Real Working Moms Learned in 2020

If you’re reading this, congrats, you made it to the end of 2020. There’s not much else to say about a year that gave us a life-altering pandemic that plucked at the already-fraying threads of modern life. Exhausted parents became even more exhausted parents. Racial inequalities became chasms. Women’s tenuous grip on progress is now hanging by a pinky finger. It’s the type of year that forces people—particularly working moms, who’ve borne the brunt of this crisis—to stop and reevaluate what’s working and what’s not. The silver lining of 2020 is that we’ll hopefully head into next year a little wiser. That’s why we asked real working moms about the biggest lessons they learned this year. Here’s the wisdom we’re taking with us into 2021: "I can’t take care of others if I am not taking care of myself.” “Focusing on my own self-care and mental health has been critical to me being a better parent and a better leader. I feel more balanced (and ultimately, more patient, empathetic, and able to focus on what really matters). Sure, there are still days when a few emails aren’t answered, but being able to take some ‘me time’ back makes the difference in feeling like I can control the chaos that 2020 has brought.” —Sandra Dainora, chief product officer, Sittercity “I am not afraid to show my team that at times I struggle and it’s incredibly hard to balance being the working mom of two young boys. This year, I’ve leaned into it even more, as my sons have had more than one (naked) tantrum while I try to carry on a video conference. I’ve found being honest about my own difficulties allows others to do the same with me.” —Sarah Gelman, director of Books PR and Editorial, Amazon

“You cannot give 100 percent to everything at once.” “Some days the success story happens at work (albeit virtually), other days it happens with domestic duties—neither can co-exist all at once, and that is OK. I spent the first few months of this pandemic with a lot of guilt, always feeling like I was disappointing someone. Once I re-adjusted my expectations of myself, the feeling of failure dissipated and those around me had no choice but to get on board.” —Bianca M. Strzalkowski, managing editor, AmeriForce Media “I run my own business, which means that I can make my own hours, but with that responsibility also comes the pressure to complete projects and get my team and clients what they need. In 2020 I learned just how flexible all of the deadlines I put on myself can be. That client isn't going to care if an update gets sent after normal business hours. The big project I planned can be pushed back a week or two to relieve some pressure. The most important thing to focus on is parenting my daughter and making sure she never feels like she's ‘in the way’ by being at home.” —Krista Miller, owner of Summit in a Box “I have to be an advocate for my family's safety as well as my own.” “I am much more comfortable saying ‘no’ now.” —Julie Bonner, Julie Originals “When I give myself a certain amount of time for a project, I must stick to it.” “Time management has been a huge place of growth for me this year. Every Monday morning, I plan out my entire week in my notebook calendar. (Yes, I still use paper.) I block time for everything, from checking my email and lunch to when I’m writing a blog post or have a scheduled meeting. If it’s 11 a.m. and I was supposed to be done writing by then, I save my progress and move onto the next project. I also have a scheduled start and end time to my workday, so I can be available for my family when it’s time to shut work off.” —Adriana Keefe, life strategist and empowerment coach, executive manager at Scout & Cellar “You can’t do it all.” “The perfect house, the perfect life, that is all an illusion. Being more forgiving of yourself and your family is important. I feel there’s a perception as a working mom you need to be a superhero and juggle everything, but actually what your family needs is for you to be present and happy. The rest of it doesn't matter. So what if the laundry goes unfolded, and you have to fish socks out of the dryer? Life isn't perfect, and we often have too high expectations of ourselves.” —Deb Liu, vice president, Marketplace, Facebook

“Self-care for me is not necessarily going to look like self-care for another working mom.” “It really needs to be very individualized, and there’s not necessarily a right or wrong. I rely on hobbies I already have; ones I know make me happy and take the stress off. A big part of staving off pandemic-induced burnout is that the activity shouldn’t feel exhausting. In other words, I'm not going to start crafting now because I think I should be. Whatever YOUR self-care is, is YOUR self-care.” —Christine Michel Carter, Minority Woman Marketing LLC “Kids have to learn to be bored.” “It would have been impossible for me to get through the workday if not for independent play. My 5-year-old son has been homeschooled all year as a result of high COVID numbers in our area, so playtime outdoors was largely alone. He's learned that his imagination is his best tool in combating boredom, and I've learned not to feel so guilty about it.” —Sara Novak, science journalist “I have to let go of being the perfect mom.” “There is still a huge pressure on moms to keep everything running smoothly—to keep everyone fed, educated, active, sleeping, bathed. It’s utterly exhausting and terribly unfair. I realize that I put a lot of this pressure on myself to do all the things, and in 2020 I have worked hard to acknowledge my partner wants to share duties. I’ve also learned daily posts on Instagram are an utter waste of time and scrolling online does more to contribute to this unattainable perfect mom ideal I was striving for with the photos of smiling kids with coordinating outfits, curated spreads of food with all the food groups and pops of color to brighten the feed…” —Sally Jade Powis-Campbell, psychologist and author of Mindful Mamas and Papas “We are a happier family when we spend several hours a day away from each other.” “I used to feel guilty about spending 10 hours a day away from my kids, but we need to do our own things—work, school, daycare—to feel fulfilled and feel grateful for the time we do spend together. When we spent every waking moment together, there was very little space for that gratitude—or fulfillment.” —Meredith Bodgas, lead editor, Thought Leadership, Toptal “I've learned to pause more in my day, be more present and focus on what it is that my children truly want.” “By spending the simplest moments with your child, it's like you've just hung the moon. Getting down on the floor to their level, pausing to paint fingernails for 15 minutes, reading a book together, listening to their stories… All they want is our undivided attention, and it doesn't have to be for hours, but for one solid chunk of time. I do Zoom workouts with my 4-year-old. She knows that's ‘our’ time together and it's uninterrupted.” —Michelle Glogovac, founder and CEO, The MSL Collective “Some days will favor one side more than the other and that's OK. I try to be mindful of the imbalances over a longer timeline. Like driving a car, you can't keep correcting your course every few feet. You need to look further down the road to make adjustments for a smoother, happier ride.” —Ellen Dietrich, founder, WeeFarers “I have not truly taken the time to cherish my little ones.” “Our culture glamorizes overworking, and until the pandemic closures forced us all to stop, I don’t think I was consciously aware of the fact that I had put myself under so much pressure to achieve ‘supermom’ status. I never realized how much I was missing until I had the opportunity to enjoy both worlds. I find great joy and fulfillment in my career, but working beside my 6- and 8-year-old in the kitchen this year was a rare gift. Through all of the heartache and frustrations due to COVID-19, we have been forced to slow down. We have been given the ability to enjoy the little things. I will not take that gift for granted as things begin to normalize once again!” —Debra Locker Griffin, president and owner, Debra Locker Group

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