I’m the definition of a working mom and have taken on both elements of this title full throttle. I am a C-level executive at one of the fastest-growing tech startups in the country, where working 60+ hours a week comes with the territory. Even when I’m #OutsideWork, I rarely am able to shut off mentally as my job is all-consuming. And, I’m simultaneously raising three high-energy sons: ages four, six and eight. A typical weeknight includes an after school program (e.g. piano lessons, computer camp), a sports activity (e.g. basketball, karate, baseball) and homework… multiplied by three.
Historically, I dedicated my entire life to work and family, leaving no time for myself. I think most working moms are in the same boat and can relate. Because I give so much attention and energy to my job, every moment I am not working I want to spend with my family. The guilt I feel from missing a class field trip or not being able to volunteer in my sons’ classrooms ensures that every extra minute in the day is spent on them.
A couple of years ago, my husband staged an intervention. He told me I needed to start to take some time for myself, citing that I would ultimately be a better mother if I did. He reminded me that motherhood doesn’t stop when your kids head off to college, and that I needed to take better care of myself so that I would be around once our sons were grown. I took his words to heart and while I sometimes still struggle, I try to set time aside for myself weekly.
Here are four ways that carving out dedicated “me time” has helped me to be a better mother, wife and CMO:
Staying fit. My workout regimen is much different than it was in my 20s and 30s (pre-kids). I no longer compete in triathlons, or have a body that looks like I do. But, when my weekly regimen includes yoga, running or cycling, I feel better, sleep better and am in an overall better mood. I also perform better at my job. Staying in shape also helps me to keep up with my sons (and my husband) on family activities like biking and skiing.
Clearing my mind. I have also found the value in setting aside time each week to think, without distractions or interruptions. I use this time to work through challenges and find solutions, craft our marketing strategy, brainstorm blogs and outline speaking presentations. My favorite activity for this is running because my most creative thoughts come while I am pounding the pavement (and I can kill two birds with one stone). When the weather isn’t conducive, I will leverage my commute to work, spending 45 minutes in the car without turning on the radio or talking on the phone. The opportunity to think in the quiet works wonders.
Socializing. I love to cook – everything from finding the freshest ingredients to experimenting with a new recipe. And the comfort I feel from spending this time in the kitchen is exponentially magnified when I’m able to share it with friends. Nothing compares with a house full of people talking, sharing, laughing, drinking and eating. My Italian heritage may be to blame here, but it does my heart good to share a meal with loved ones. And the added joy of laughter helps me relieve stress so that when work gets demanding or office politics threaten to drag me down, I’m able to take it all in stride.
Investing in key friendships. Maybe it is because I am one of three sisters, but strong female friendships and mentors have always been important to me. I am my best self and make my best, clearest decisions when I have a strong group of women at my side. For example, it was my good friend Jill Layfield that encouraged me to take the leap and join Domo, which turned out to be one of the best career decisions I have ever made. This seems to be the area that gets squeezed the fastest when extra hours in the week are slim. But I really try to make it a priority to attend my monthly book club meeting, and join other working moms for the occasional night out. And every year, without fail, I join my besties for a girls’ weekend. The conversations at these gatherings help me to be introspective, thoughtful and have significantly changed the course of my life.
So for all those working moms out there – I know it is hard – but find time for yourself. I promise that you will be a better mother, wife, and friend, and ultimately better at your job as well.