How many times have you heard about the importance of work-life balance for moms, and wondered, “Why can everyone else seem to make the juggle work but I can’t?” Life on the hamster wheel of motherhood, career, home, and relationships can be overwhelming. Here’s an unpopular opinion: I don’t think that we as women should be trying to juggle each of those areas equally at all times in our lives. 

I want you to start thinking about work-life balance in a much different way than we’ve been taught to. Let’s get a little rebellious here, ladies.

Today, I’m sharing my guide to work-life balance for moms. My take on it might just make you rethink the concept of work-life balance and the expectations you’re creating for yourself as a mom.

Recognize That Work-Life Balance for Moms Doesn’t (Exactly) Exist

You read that right: Work-life balance for moms — at least in the traditional sense we’ve been taught — is impossible. The idea that all the areas that make up our “work” can share equal importance as the things that make up our “lives,” (our relationships, home life, hobbies, kids, etc.) just isn’t achievable for most people. 

The reality is that at any given time, our lives are bound to be a bit unbalanced. The things that make up our lives are unlikely to be 100% equal in importance with our careers. Most people tend to have a preference for or place a value on, one over the other. 

I like to think of it like the seesaw at my daughter’s favorite playground. When we go on it together, for her seat to rise, mine has to lower, and vice versa. We transfer that weight intentionally. The shift in balance is just like the weight we choose to give things in our lives and our work. It’s what puts everything that makes us “us” into focus.

Two balls balance on a board, which balances on a larger ball, representing a seesaw. Made to Mother Co's Andrea Bombino explains that it's difficult to create a true work-life balance for moms, when in reality, we often place more weight on some things than others (such as with a seesaw).

The truth is that our existing social systems do not enable us to truly balance everything equally. The world we’re living in wasn’t designed with women and mothers in mind. Nor does it support the ways our lives change when we become mothers. And the concept of work-life balance? Well, it’s not realistic. Trust me, I’ve been there.

So, what if instead of trying to balance our work and lives equally, we chose to do things differently? To integrate and blend those areas in a way that satisfies and fulfills us, and rebel against the idea that we should be able to be all things and do all things at all times?

Are you feeling fired up yet? 

Next, let’s talk about why we feel different about our careers and our life goals after becoming mothers. 

Understand That You’re (Actually) a Different Person Now

When you become a mom, it’s 100% normal to feel off, like you’ve lost a part of yourself, or like you’ve discovered a part of you you never even realized existed. Your motherhood journey can change the way you think and feel about your goals and aspirations. It can even change your entire perspective on your career and life. 

Have you noticed that things you used to be passionate about don’t light you up anymore? Or, that things that didn’t used to feel important are suddenly center stage in your life? 

Trying to figure out work-life balance for moms (in the way we’re taught to think of it),) when everything feels so different feels harder than showing up looking put together for that client Zoom presentation after a night of multiple wake-ups and zero coffee. 

You know the feeling: Your ambitions shift, and sure, maybe you loved your job. But…

  • work doesn’t fulfill you anymore,
  • you don’t care about the money in the same way,
  • you want to do something more meaningful, or
  • you’d rather focus on time spent with your kids
Made to Mother Co's Andrea Bombino bakes with her daughter in her kitchen. Andrea, a motherhood & career coach, suggests that woman rebel against the traditional concept of work-life balance for moms.

The explanation for these changes is matrescence, or the process of becoming a mother. This process, first coined by Dana Raphael, Ph.D. in 1973, was revived by Aurélie Athan, Ph.D.  in 2008. She explains it as “the developmental passage where a woman transitions through pre-conception, pregnancy and birth, surrogacy or adoption, to the postnatal period and beyond. 

The exact length of matrescence is individual, recurs with each child, and may arguably last a lifetime! The scope of the changes encompass multiple domains –bio-psycho-social-political-spiritual– and can be likened to the developmental push of adolescence.”

Feeling unsure about how your identity, priorities, and values change when you become a mother is all part of the journey. Matrescence is the term you’ve likely been searching for when you try to explain or describe how your views and feelings about how you want to show up in your career are shifting.

If we change so much when we have babies, why are we attempting to return to work with the same priorities and perspectives? Why don’t we embrace the ways we’re changing, and make space for the things we need to be happy and fulfilled? 

Choose White Space Over “Balance”

If something resembling work-life balance for moms is something you’re seeking, and you want to try to create that sense that you’re giving different areas of your life the attention you want to, you actually have to align yourself with the concept of white space.

You might have heard about white space in the context of website or interior design. It’s how designers and artists use visual white space to focus the eye on the content that really matters, or that’s most valuable. White space makes it easy to scan a website or a physical space and quickly see what’s important by creating structure and flow.

Let’s apply the white space concept to our lives. If we fill our lives with so much “content,” trying to do all the things, we don’t leave any room for white space — The stuff that matters most to us and makes us feel our best. Without white space in our lives, work feels draining, and unfulfilling play might feel like work.

Creating white space for ourselves gives us room to be less than perfect. Let’s throw out the idea that women can be all things at all times. Like Reshma Saujani said in her book, Pay Up, “Women cannot do it all.  We cannot work to our highest potential and raise our kids and be the CEO of our families’ lives and manage our households.” 

And we shouldn’t have to.

A laptop is shown against a split screen, blue on the left with a bay bottle, pacifier and diapers; pink on the right with a phone and notebook. The image demonstrates work-life balance for moms and the many roles women occupy in their lives.

That act of creating white space for ourselves as women, and rebelling against the systems that are working against us, is one thing we can manage while we try to make broader changes in how women and motherhood are seen and treated in our Western society today. Instead of putting everyone else’s needs first, we can choose to prioritize what we need in order to live in alignment.

The saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup” is certainly true in relation to motherhood. But you know what else is also true? If you constantly pour that cup out for others without taking the time to fill it for yourself first, you will never enjoy its fullness. And, others will not benefit from its overflow.

I know when I go out to dinner and order a glass of wine, I might offer my husband a sip. I’d be pissed off if he drank half of it. Wouldn’t you?! I wanted that glass for myself in the first place, and I’d certainly seek a refill ASAP. 

 Women can choose to fill our cups all the way up.  We are vessels worthy of being full.  And when we are full, and basking in the glory that is a life that feels full of meaning and purpose, we can then pour for others from the overflow.  

How to Create White Space in Your Life

Creating white space as opposed to work-life balance for moms starts with recognizing that we change when we become mothers. To create white space, we have to reevaluate our values and priorities and set boundaries to protect what’s important. 

What white space should not be is more work for you. And it’s definitely not self-indulgence or self-care. It’s creating space in your life to fill your cup all the way to overflow, so you can show up at home and at work as the woman you want to be. 

Here are some steps you can take to create white space in your life:

  • Reevaluate your values and figure out your non-negotiables in your personal and professional lives, in this season of your motherhood journey.
  • Create space for play and joy (literally and figuratively). Make a list of all the things that you love or bring you joy. Then, make space EVERY day (at least five minutes!) to do something that makes you happy.  If you can spend 20 minutes at Target searching for the perfect Mickey Mouse band-aids, you can carve out 5 minutes for yourself.
  • Balance the playing field at home and at work. That way, you can honor the space you’ve made for play and joy. Explore what support and flexibility you need and ask for it. Communication is essential here.
  • Be conscious of how you define success. Are you measuring yourself against a pre-mother version of yourself? The one that worked 60-hour weeks effortlessly in between binge-watching entire seasons of Friends with your roommate… While downing a bottle of Pinot Noir and wearing a face mask and online shopping? Remember that??
An infographic displays Made to Mother Co's tips for creating white space for yourself (listed in bullet form above graphic).

Another thing you can do to create white space in your life is establish rituals. I love a ritual. And, anchoring one step to another to create healthy habits for myself (thanks to James Clear’s book Atomic Habits). To create white space for myself, here’s what my daily ritual looks like:

First, I light a stick of incense from my fave brand inspired by Australian beaches. For me, that act is what helps me switch gears so I can pause and reflect. 

Then, I take out my journal and jot down some key reflections. These usually include three things I’m thankful for, a goal I’m setting for the day, and how I want to feel at the end of the day. 

If I don’t do this ritual in the morning, I make time for it right before I go to bed. It’s not an item on my to-do list or something I’m obligated to do. Instead, it’s a priority I create for myself. This ritual is white space I need to show up in my life as the person I want to be.

Stop Striving for Work-Life Balance and Start Focusing on You

If you do one thing after reading this, I want it to be recognizing that the working-mom hamster wheel wasn’t built for us. It’s time to hop off.  Running 24/7 on that wheel isn’t what we want anyway! Instead of chasing work-life balance in motherhood, we can focus on living in alignment with what lights us up every day. We don’t have to keep going in a rigged system that expects us to work like we don’t have children at home, and to mother like we don’t engage in the paid labor force.  

Need help unpacking your values in this season of motherhood? Get in touch for a free 20-minute Connection Call.