Just Keep Swimming: Survival Tips for the Really Rough Patches—from a Working Mom

Have you ever had one of those days? When the carefully crafted “balance” between work and home just comes crashing down on you like a house of cards?

Maybe it’s your babysitter getting sick while your husband is on a business trip (true story – mine), or the call from the day-care center to say your child has a fever in the middle of an all-day client meeting you’re leading (true story -– my sister’s), or your kitchen ceiling caving in from a burst pipe just as the babysitter shows up so you can get to an interview (true story –- my friend’s).

These things happen. And sometimes those “bad days” last an entire week or even two. What’s a working mom to do?

I think that Dory, that fish from Finding Nemo, said it best: Just keep swimming.

First of all, take a deep breath. OK, then take one more. Well, actually maybe three or four of them. Ooh and could you lay down for a while too? Take a moment to gather yourself together and then just deal with the problem at hand. Acknowledge that this hour/day/week sucks and you don’t like it one bit, and then move forward.

Don’t spend your limited energy on playing the blame game with yourself. Don’t try to figure out what happened so you can make sure it won’t happen again. Don’t make it global. (“I’m a terrible planner!” “I have no support system!”) Don’t try to set up a new, elaborate system that will prevent all of these issues in the future. And by all means, do not make any major life decisions during this time. (“I should quit my job and start a goat farm!” “I should trade in my husband for a Calvin Klein underwear model who’s good with kids.”)

Some of those decisions may be important, like getting more backup support or figuring out a calendar system that works for your family, but now is not the time for them.

Once you are through the incredibly rough day, week, or fortnight, hopefully you can take a moment to think through what you learned from this and what you could do to make it better the next time. Or maybe you just add it to your “funny stories” list to pull out when you’re with like-minded friends. Whatever you do, pat yourself on the back for surviving. Yes, even if you yelled. A lot.

[Photo: Benson Kua/Flickr]

About this Gun

Jan Brown

Jan Brown

Jan Brown is a life coach focused on working moms and moms going back to work. Follow @JanBCoaching.