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It’s enough to make even the sanest woman feel crazy. One minute you’re at the office, fielding telephone calls and making split-second decisions; the next you’re on your knees on the floor, picking up Cheerios and talking in repeated bursts of single-syllable words. While an outsider might think you should be committed, another working mother would just give you a knowing nod.
Indeed, making the transition between career woman and mommy at the end of each day can be difficult, mostly because the two worlds have almost nothing in common — except perhaps you.
Two worlds, one life
“At work, tasks are defined. You get to complete them and get immediate acknowledgment,” says Tandy Parks, a maternity educator at the Santa Monica/UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, Calif. “At home, the work is relentless and largely under-appreciated.”
The change of pace and structure are probably the most difficult to handle, Parks adds. “At work, we’re entrenched in a world of time. It’s linear, and it all counts,” she says. “With kids, that’s not so. They have no notion of time and of what ‘has’ to get done.”
As difficult as it may be at times, you must learn to switch roles at the end of the day. Women who stay in career mode at home are doomed to frustration. Likewise, those who can’t get their minds off their children while they’re at work don’t perform well. The following tips can help make that inevitable transition as smooth as possible.
Shift mental gears. At work, most people are in active problem-solving mode and running on the clock. At home, that needs to change. “Our skills should flip from active to receptive, from performance-directed to mirroring our child’s behavior,” says Carol Lindquist, Ph.D., a Laguna Beach, Calif., clinical psychologist. She recommends that when they get home, parents spend 10 minutes doing whatever the child wants to do. “Children are very good at helping parents with the transition — if parents will let them,” she says.
Turn your commute time into transition time. A working mother of two young children, Janet Horrocks of Avon, Ohio, says that she uses her travel time home to mentally review her day and clear her head of any work thoughts. “When I hit the door of the day care, my focus is all on my kids,” she says.
Take time to rejuvenate. After putting in a day’s work at the office, then coming straight home and giving yourself to your family, there’s not much of yourself left, says Debra Waterhouse, author of Outsmarting Female Fatigue (Hyperion, January 2001). A new mother herself, Waterhouse says working moms need to rejuvenate themselves by carving out a bit of personal time each day. Putting some space between work and home — even if for only 10 minutes or so — often helps bridge the transition. Some ideas: Meet up with a friend, write in a journal, buy yourself some flowers or take a walk.