A Recipe for Sanity: The Working Mother's Survival Guide

by Ann Douglas

cute girl dressed up in a fairy godmother costumeWhat every working mother needs is a fairy godmother -- someone who will arrive on the scene, wave her magic wand, and make all the work and family related-chaos disappear. Got a mountain of laundry taking over your laundry room? No problem! Your fairy godmother can take care of that with a simple flick of her wrist. Can't remember the last time you were on top of your to do list at work? Don't sweat it. Your fairy godmother knows how to operate the photocopier and the fax machine!

I hate to break your heart, but I've got some bad news for you. As you've no doubt noticed by now, fairy godmothers are in decidedly short supply. So since your chances of watching your to do list go up in a puff of smoke are pretty much next to zilch, you're going to have to settle for the next best thing: a recipe for sanity!

The recipe for sanity that I'm serving up only has six ingredients, but some of them are in chronically short supply. You'll get the picture as we walk through the ingredient list!

A Supportive Employer

One of the most important ingredients in the recipe for sanity is a supportive boss. You'll be far less likely to hit the panic button when your toddler throws up in the car on the way to daycare if you know that your boss won't hassle you about needing time off work. Unfortunately, there are still a fair number of dinosaurs roaming the executive suites of corporate America, so if you've got an enlightened employer who understands that it isn't always easy to juggle work and family commitments, consider yourself blessed. Better yet, send him flowers! He deserves them.

Understanding Co-workers

It's one thing to have a supportive employer. It's quite another to work with a group of people who are willing to cut you a little slack when you have to take time off work to deal with a family-related emergency. If your co-workers are on board, they'll bend over backwards to help deal with your clients and handle your day-to-day workload while you're out of the office. If they're not, they'll shoot you icy stares and seize every possible opportunity to point out to the Powers That Be that you're not nearly as committed to your career as they are to theirs -- the ultimate form of sabotage!

A Bulletproof Childcare Arrangement

Another key ingredient in the recipe for sanity is a bulletproof childcare arrangement. It's pretty hard to look professional at work if your childcare arrangements fall through on a regular basis, forcing you to leave your employer and co-workers in the lurch. What many working women fail to realize is that it's not enough to have a good childcare arrangement. You also need a backup arrangement or two. That way, if your home daycare provider comes down with the flu, you may still be able to make it to the office on time.

A Supportive Family

It's hard to overestimate the importance of having a supportive family. It's great to know that your partner or your kids will do double duty in the chore department if it's "busy season" for you at work. You're also less likely to be sideswiped by feelings of guilt if you know that your family is behind you 100 percent.

An abundance of energy

While few of us feel like running a triathlon after putting in a full day on the job, it certainly helps to have some energy left as you get ready to work your "second shift." In fact, the more energy you have to devote to your home life, the saner you'll feel. Now no one's suggesting that you need to spend your non-working hours playing Martha -- unless, of course, you're genetically disposed to follow in the footsteps of the domestic diva herself! What's truly important is to have the time and energy left to spend with those people who matter most to you: your family.

A Sense of Humor

The final and most important ingredient in the recipe for sanity is the one that can be most difficult to find: your sense of humor. You may not be able to sidestep all the pitfalls that await a working mother -- a sick child, an unsupportive employer, or a to do list that just won't die -- but you'll feel a whole lot better about life if you're able to see the humor in the day-to-day insanity. There's an added perk, of course: you can look forward to giving the play-by-play to your girlfriends later on!

As you can see, there are six important ingredients in the working woman's recipe for sanity: a supportive employer, understanding co-workers, a bulletproof childcare arrangement, a family that's in your court, an abundance of energy, and a sense of humor.

Accept no substitutions! What are some of your tips?

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site, having-a-baby.com.

Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org. Image credit: Anissa Thompson.