Balancing Motherhood And Career – Is It Really Possible? 9 Ways To Beat The Guilt

We want to have it all. We want to walk back to our cars after school pick up and hear those magic words “How does she do it”. We want to be perfect in every area of our lives.

But is balancing motherhood and career really possible? Or is it an unrealistic dream? The answer might not be what you expect (spoiler: it’s about finding a new definition of “balance”).

The trouble with “balance”

You see your friends, peers, and colleagues doing so much. From the outside, it might look like they’ve found the perfect balance. Their career’s blossoming. Their kids seem happy. They’ve got it all figured out, right?

Here’s the thing: you’re only getting half the story.

There are so many things you don’t see (even if we’re talking about your best friend).

The late nights. The panic at things being forgotten. The constant guilt. The anxiety that they aren’t “doing it right”. The endless self-compromise. The neglected self-care.

I could go on and on. Because that’s the trouble with balance. The perfect balance doesn’t exist. Instead, it’s about finding your own path through. With a level of fulfilment from both motherhood and your career that suits you and your family.

Why are motherhood and careers so hard to balance?

One of the biggest struggles I see in my coaching clients is trying to balance motherhood and their careers when there’s no support. Sometimes, they’ve got all the support they need at home but they’re lacking that same level of input at work. Other times, those levels are reversed and it’s their home life where the support is missing.

This means they’re either forced to forgo time with their children, as they work the endless hours that are required to climb the career ladder. Or, they come home only to work a second shift of unpaid labour as they keep their home running.

Safe to say, it’s exhausting!

Before we start, you need to ditch the guilt

I’d hazard a guess that you’re reading this and already feeling guilty. Guilty that you’re not present enough at home. Guilty that you aren’t enough of a mother to your children. Guilty that your career hasn’t grown more. Guilty that you even want it to grow.


You were a person before you became a mother. And it’s 100% ok to want to hold on to that part of yourself. The best mothers are fulfilled mothers, which often means growing your career.

A 2015 study of 50,000 adults across 25 countries found that daughters of working mothers completed more years of education, were more likely to be employed and earned higher salaries. Whilst sons of working mothers spent seven and a half more hours a week on childcare and 25 more minutes on housework.

The next time you ask yourself if growing your career is the right decision, remember that study.

How to balance motherhood and career

1. Choose your employer wisely

Think about your employer carefully, ideally before you’ve even become a mother. Try to choose someone who’s family friendly, who understands the unique needs of mothers, and who makes flexible working a priority.

Use this to compare job offers. When you’re looking at salaries and benefits, bring how family-friendly they are into the equation too.

2. Be transparent about your needs with HR

You don’t necessarily have to look for a new employer just because you’re a mother. If you’re settled in your job but need a little extra support, speak to HR about it.

Ask them if they’d consider a flexible working arrangement or if there are any other steps they can take to make the company more family-friendly.

3. Find good childcare

Your career will be impacted by how comfortable you are with your childcare arrangements.

If you have childcare you can trust, you’re going to feel 10X better about leaving your child with them. You’ll be less guilty and more focused. Meaning you’ll be showing up to work as your best self, rather than worrying about how your little one’s getting on at nursery.

4. Set healthy boundaries

Balancing motherhood and your career means practising the art of “no”.

You’re not going to be able to do it all. There are some things you will have to say no to, whether they’re work weekends away, post-work dinners with your childfree friends, or helping out your colleague who’s fallen behind with his schedule.

The first time you set a boundary, it’ll hurt. It’ll feel hard and impossible. And you’ll ask yourself “Why am I doing this again?!”. But I promise it’ll get easier with time. Plus, the benefits are more than worth it.

5. Ask for help

You don’t have to do everything on your own. You can ask for help.

You can delegate your work. You can delegate your household chores. You can share your parenting responsibilities with your partner.

Don’t let yourself suffer in silence. Instead, share out the responsibilities. Get your team more involved with your tasks at work (and speak up when you’re overloaded with projects). Hire a cleaner to keep your house tidy. And split your parenting responsibilities with your partner.

6. Don’t be afraid to be the first

If your workplace isn’t quite family-friendly enough yet, you might need to be the first to help them make that shift.

You might be the first employee leaving work early for school pick-up. You might be the first one coming into the office so you can shift your working hours. You might be the first one to ask for things to happen differently.

That’s a good thing. You’re showing them that change needs to happen. You’re showing them how to do it!

7. Talk to your children about your career

As soon as your children are old enough, make sure they understand what it is you do each day.

Ensure they understand your job, why it’s important to you, what you like about it, and how it makes you feel. Being open and transparent with them in this way will ensure they know where you go everyday whilst encouraging them to be more involved in every part of your life.

8. Remove the “extras”

There will always be certain tasks that you have to take on yourself.

But there are a lot more tasks that don’t need you. And even more tasks that don’t need to be done at all.

Motherhood is when you learn the true art of prioritisation and a really good to-do list. Whilst also compromising. Because that perfect house, with the immaculate kitchen and neatly packed lunch boxes? You don’t need it. You just need your children to be fed, healthy, and happy.

9. Take a little time for yourself

Right now, your focus is on motherhood and your career. But you’re an integral part of both of those things. Which means a) showing up as your best self and b) giving yourself what you need too.

Be sure to give yourself some time out as you navigate through this tumultuous time of life. Even if it’s just 10 minutes at the end of the day for a little self-care. It all adds up.

Is balancing motherhood and career easier when you’re self-employed?

I was lucky that I worked in my family’s business and also owned my own businesses when I had my children, but I still feel like I put a lot of pressure on myself to return to work. Even though it was my own company.

After my first child, I returned to work after a month. Why? I thought it was the norm! Plus, I needed to keep my business going.

But I also feel like I missed out on a lot of my daughter growing up, especially when having to travel for work. I tried my best to balance my career and motherhood but I was constantly tired. And I have to admit, it was very hard.

However, when I look back, I have to ask myself “Was I being hard on myself, or was it the pressure of societal expectations?”.

In hindsight, I can see that I could’ve let myself ease off from work to spend more time with my children while they were growing up. But it was also a different era back then and working practices were very different.

Although it might be more common for women to take time off work after having children now, I’m not sure that it’s become any less mentally taxing.

Balancing motherhood and career is possible (but you might have to adjust your expectations)

Just because balance is hard, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It just might not always look like what you expect.

There’s no point rushing around trying to be omnipresent in all areas of your life. Instead, focus on quality time, both at work and with your family.

Find what works for you and always take the maximum amount of time off that your company allows, to spend time with your children.

The quality of time with your children is just as important as the quantity of time with your children. If you are with your children physically but thinking about work and not really present – there is no point!

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About the author

Lisa is a mother, a business owner, a founder, and an executive leader. She's been through it all and has come out the other side to thrive. Now she's helping you to do the same! Learn how you can find clarity and support through her services for individuals and organisations.