There are many closely guarded secrets when it comes to parenthood. To tell you them all would break the parent code, but I can clue you into one.

Being a full-time working parent to two young children has nearly broken me.

It’s often an uphill battle to balance work and a family. From the laughable non-existent maternity leave, rigid schedules and minimal time-off policies, our society doesn’t feel set up to support the working mom. Work is telling me to be 100 percent present and crush it, while my head is focused on mom duties. I feel pulled in two polarized directions. I have found myself to be incredibly burned out. I’m overburdened with all the things I carry in my mental load, and I'm stressed because of it. 

I wake up tired, chug a bunch of coffee throughout the day to get one foot in front of the other, try to focus at work and then rush home to care for my boys. At this point in my life, I feel like no one is getting the best version of me — not my sons, husband, employer or myself.

This unrelenting feeling that I am falling short in my work life has led me to question what changes I can make to ease some of my burden. Here are some things I've done. 

1. Accept your reality. It’s amazing how true the saying "mind over matter" really is. I was gifted with not one but two poor sleepers. With my first baby, the sleep deprivation I experienced was actual torture. It weighed heavily on my mind and my life. The second time around I was more prepared. I had been through it before and knew that I could handle it. Just acknowledging difficult situations and accepting how things are at that moment is powerful. Although it isn’t exactly pleasant losing sleep every night, it doesn’t drag me down like it did before. Simply knowing that you are in a difficult or demanding stage in your life and recognizing it for what it is can help put your mind at ease.

2. Ask for help. I’m a fiercely independent person, so asking for help really isn’t in my vocabulary. But I’ve quickly learned that I can’t be everything to everyone and do all the things, so asking for help has been a lifesaver. Have a partner at home who can help out with some tasks? Communicate your needs and have them pick up some duties. If you don’t have someone at home to help out, ask a close friend or family member you can trust. Have someone watch the kids for a couple hours so you can get groceries, run errands or just simply have time to yourself. It really does take a village to raise kids. In our digital age, we’ve lost that connection. Tap into the supportive community you have and accept the help.

3. Get comfortable saying no. As someone who was a born people-pleaser, learning to say no has been difficult. But the older I get, the more necessary I see it is for my own happiness. Get comfortable telling your boss no for picking up another project when you already have so much on your plate. Or say no to working another week of overtime if you don’t need it. Be okay with cancelling a night out with friends if you are so wiped out that all you need is sleep. True friends will understand. Tell family no to stopping by on the weekend because it’s the only time you get to fully enjoy as a family. Protect what is important to you with the power of no.

There’s no guidebook to being a working parent. It’s a lot to manage when thinking about work and raising your kids and all that goes along with those responsibilities. Staying organized and setting aside time for yourself every week goes a long way on maintaining a grip on your life. Determine what is important to you and tap into the resources you have available to help stand you up.

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Kendra Perley is a mom to two young boys who keep her busy. When not wrangling boys, she's an established freelance writer who loves helping businesses elevate their products and services with words. You can find more of her parenting stories on her blog, The Maternal Canvas.

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