By Guest Blogger Emily Gregg

Preface: Let me be clear – all moms are working moms. Stay-at-home, work-from-home, work-away-from-home, it doesn’t matter. But for the sake of this blog the phrase “working mom” is used to identify those working away from home, with no disrespect meant for women of all lifestyles.

When I graduated from college, I had a fire in my belly to be a fierce working woman. My four years at an all-women’s institution braided my personality with leadership, wisdom, and unabashed courage to be everything.

And I was, until I became a mom. I have distinct chapters in my life. In this one, I don’t feel as fierce anymore. My time is split between my love for my baby and my love for my career. To be transparent I would have to work anyway in order to sustain our family but I take as much pride in my work duties as I do in my mom duties. Unlike mom duties with a plethora of books and support groups, nothing taught me or prepared me to be a working mom.

I returned back to work at 6 weeks postpartum, clueless. Then a new fire in my belly began to grow. My pumping room was a storage closet shared among 4 other women, giving my newborn to a stranger every morning killed me, and because I was breastfeeding I was going without caffeine! I wasn’t happy. This wasn’t working. At a time when I was struggling as a new mom, I was also climbing the biggest mountain of bureaucracy as well.

My fire only grew bigger. I sent links to Human Resources, I held meetings with my supervisor, I sent e-mails to our Director. Slowly, things began to change. My daughter is 13 months now and I am in such a different yet equally challenging role as a working mom. I’m no expert but here are some of my biggest takeaways:

1. Being a working mom is a sliding scale
Sometimes I lean more towards mom mode and other times I lean more towards career mode. And that’s okay! A knock-it-out-of-the-park day at work makes me feel just as fulfilled when I get home and I refuse to feel guilty about that. Because there’s times when I get nothing from work and fill up my tank with baby smooches.

2. Find that fire in your belly
From the moment I found out I was pregnant, like most women I became my own best advocate: seeking the best OB care, making sure my delivery was as prepared as possible, taking classes, eating well. That doesn’t change, and you must advocate for yourself continually after delivery.

3. No shame, just grace
Sit back and realize what’s working and what’s not. There came a point where I was putting together my pump at work and tears streamed down my face. This was no longer worth it and I was tired. I had made it 8 months. It was the best decision I ever made to integrate formula until she transitioned to solids and whole milk, and I had to find a way to give myself grace for that. The day I wore a lacey bra from pre-pregnancy I swear I stood taller and smiled more. Or maybe it was the caffeine I had incorporated back into my diet.

4. Be a time police
Even if in the beginning it seems strict, a detailed schedule of day-to-day and weekly To Do’s will feel natural after a while. I shave on Wednesdays and Sundays (no judgement), my daughter gets a bath every other night, groceries are bought on Mondays.  Time is a bartering tool in our household. If I need a 30 minute bath soak, my hubs knows he gets 30 minutes of baby-free tinkering with his car.

5. Quality vs. quantity
Speaking of time, I get a total of 3 waking hours with my daughter every week day. Three. Most of those are spent feeding her breakfast and dinner. What time I do have I spend 100% focused with no phone. That goes for work as well. I spend 8 hours in the office 100% focused and use my afternoon daycare commute to transition to mom mode (see “sliding scale” above).

A recent study said that moms work the equivalent of two full-time jobs, and neither of mine pay overtime. As a first-time mom under 30, I am working hard at not working hard, making sure I enjoy motherhood and not get burnt out. I raise a glass to all my working moms and the solidarity in that sisterhood: getting the “come and get your kid” calls from daycare during a meeting, finding your nursing pad exposed out the top of your blouse, and taking lunch break naps in your car.