Thriving as a Working Mom

By Rebecca Eanes

Thriving as a Working Mom

It turns out that the secret to thriving as a working mom just might be pie. 

Insert moms everywhere cheering. 

But, hold your applause. I’m not referring to chocolate silk or lemon meringue. I’m talking about breaking down the important pieces of your life into slices. Harvard MBA, CEO, and bestselling author Samanta Ettus describes this idea in her book, The Pie Life. I like this concept because I feel like, so often as working moms, we hear so much negativity. 

We are told that to be successful, we must give equal time to work and to our kids, and so the focus is almost always one or the other. We end up giving 110% to work and 110% to our kids, and at the end of the day, we are left depleted because there’s no room left for other “slices.” Ettus posits that the happiest women are those who “play in many slices.” 

The Seven Slices 

According to Ettus, the seven slices for a full life are:

  • Family
  • Career
  • Relationship (or the pursuit of one)
  • Friends
  • Community
  • Hobbies
  • Health 

She offers a refreshingly positive framework that gives women permission to be in every slice. “The reason I love the metaphor of the pie is because the most delicious pies are not the store-bought, perfect ones. They’re the ones that are gooey and running off the sides and really delicious, and that’s what your life is supposed to look like. It’s not supposed to be perfect, but it’s supposed to be full and delicious,” she says. 

Even as I’m writing this, there are a couple of guilt gremlins piping up. One says, “Oh great, you should be able to successfully juggle even more than you’re currently juggling,” and the other says, “Isn’t that selfish of you?” .... Ugh, hush gremlins.

When my children were young, I remember feeling guilty for thinking of going out with friends or spending time on a hobby, and so I rejected those things for a long time in my pursuit to be the perfect mom. Can you relate? 

I overextended myself at work, often not starting until my kids were asleep for the night and working until the wee hours of the morning. In mothering, I ran co-op field trips, taught their Cub Scouts dens, created elaborate play invitations, and hosted playdates. There was no room in my life for my other relationships, no energy left for health, and no time for hobbies. 

While I may have looked like I was crushing the working mom thing to those on the outside looking in, the truth was that I was exhausted, burned out, and paying the price both physically and mentally. That’s because I wasn’t giving myself permission to enjoy other parts of my life - the other slices were entirely ignored.

To avoid putting too much effort into one or two slices, Ettus recommends making goals for each slice so that we can finally achieve the balance that works best for us.

Slice Goals

The first step is to evaluate your pie. When you look at your pie, you might notice that work has taken up 50% today while your family has gotten 30%. When you step back to look at how you’re allocating your time to each slice, you can make intentional changes and adjustments to achieve a better balance. 

In my scenario mentioned above, my pie had only two slices, family getting 80% and work getting 20%. While logic would reason that my family would have been doing incredibly well given all the time and attention I was giving, the truth was that I wasn’t showing up as my best self because I was depleted. I finally decided it was better to give them a healthy 60% than an unhealthy 80%.

A key component here is grace. Rather than feeling guilty that you gave 50% to work and only 30% to family, recognize that you have been doing the best you can under the circumstances and then allow yourself to make new goals for those slices. 

Make reasonable and realistic goals that take into account what you need to feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally, and how to balance that with the needs of your family, friends, and employer. 

There are no perfect proportions - it’s really about finding what works for you. Some mothers may be able to give 70% of their pie to their family with complete joy, and that’s wonderful. Others may need something different, and that’s okay, too. There are no “shoulds” here. The only goal is a full and happy life that you love. 

Of course, if you find yourself struggling, you can always go for a real pie. Sometimes you just need dessert.

•  •  •

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