When I became a mother, I remember grappling with the decision of whether or not to continue working at the same pace I worked before motherhood. A mentor who is a lawyer and mother of three reconciled my dilemma for me. She advised me to think of motherhood as just one more cape that I wear. She said there’s the daughter cape, the sister cape, the attorney cape, the wife cape, and now, the motherhood cape. Humans are multi-faceted, after all. Motherhood is just one more facet of myself. I always liked the idea of different superhero capes that we wear. Indeed, we are used to taking it all on, but beware of losing your objectivity. Recognize that you already have your hands full. To protect yourself, keep these tips in mind.
1 Get advice early and often. As working moms, we can get so caught up in carefully handling the household and tending to others all while catapulting our careers. It’s easy to forget that it’s okay to not to have all the answers. It’s okay to ask for help. Even if you are hoping and praying to avoid divorce, it is not a betrayal of your commitment to your family to make time in your schedule to get a divorce consultation.
2. Prioritize saying yes to kid activities. Think Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes. If the kids ask you to play, say yes. Go to the doctor’s office for appointments. Make a point to attend parent-teacher conferences. Be seen at extracurricular activities and get to know the other parents around. Not only will it stave off the working mom guilt, it could be useful in the legal process if you find yourself heading into a divorce.
3. Throw perfectionism out the window. Remember when you first put your kids in daycare? It was imperfect. Concessions had to be made, more germs, fewer naps, and inferior food – all in exchange for socialization and stable care. The divorce process is going to require concessions, too. Think about whether you can scale back your hours at the office or reduce your work-related travel. Consider asking your employer if you can work from home more. Better yet, see if your employer is open to schedule that allows you flextime so that you can make up hours when the kids are with the other parent. If you can swing any of these changes, it will give you some breathing room as well as help you in the child custody process.
4. Stand in your Strength with Confidence. No matter how much we try to shield against it, there may be mudslinging. Particularly if you are the primary breadwinner, there may also be a request for spousal support (i.e. alimony) – and it may be infuriating. Put on your superhero cape; you can handle it. Studies show that working moms are more productive than their childless peers. Just remember your power poses. A glass ceiling, an unlevel playing field, and “mansplaining” have never held you back. Likewise, your divorce will not crush you either, but you must believe in yourself so that you can be strong for your kids. Also, let’s be real, it’s 100% okay to cry from time to time – it’s grief and it doesn’t make you weak. But, of course, you do want to avoid doing it at work. Honestly, I recommend crying in your car or on the plane.
5. Indulge yourself with intentional self-care. Take care of yourself, not just your kids. Carve out time to reconnect with friends for a ladies night. Get a massage at a spa. Try a new sport, dance class, gym class. Change up your daily beauty rituals with a new perfume or new bold lipstick. If it’s been a while, consider reconnecting with your spiritual side by going to a service at a church or center where no one knows you.
As working moms, deep down, we know that we each possess a particular combination of maternal instincts and keen intellect that cannot be dismantled easily, but it is important to recognize that divorce can be devastating. Protect yourself with preparation, knowledge, and trusted legal representation.