How to Balance Work & Family As A Working Mom during COVID

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As a working mom with a full-time job and two young children, I face the challenges of balancing work and family every single day. Sometimes I feel exhausted. Sometimes I doubt myself and my decision to work.

Should I become a stay-at-home mom to take better care of my husband and my children? Should I pick a less demanding and lower-paying job to focus more energy on my family? Or should I put more time and effort into my new job to prove myself and not get fired for being incapable? What if my colleagues think I’m not good enough?

Those are the questions that pop into my head often and just won’t leave. What I often feel is guilt, confusion, frustration, and of course happiness for being able to have both a career and a family.

Family

Spouse

For those of you who don’t know, I recently made a career change into the tech industry and got a job as a software engineer at a large tech company on the west coast. And I have had a couple of female friends making the following comments:

— “You have everything: a family and a well-paying job.”

— “You guys must be monetarily balling.”

— “You two must make at least XYZ. You can retire early now.”

— “You guys are like a power couple. You both work for big tech companies.”

Often those comments are well-intentioned. But what they don’t know is all the stress, frustration and tension Mr. FAF and I have gone through these past year and a half for me to make this career change.

At times, we thought we wouldn’t be able to make it as a couple. And then we started wondering “Is it all worth it?”.

Is it worth it for me to risk my health and spend less time with my family to purpue something I thought was going nowhere but felt passionate about? Is it worth it for Mr. FAF and I to spend less romantic time together as a couple so that I would have more time studying for the technical interviews?

In the end, I got the job and a six-figure salary, so the answer might be yes. Mr. FAF has been nothing but supportive of my career change. But at times, he was so frustrated he told me it would be ok for me to stay at home and take care of the kids instead of killing myself over coding questions.

And I thought about it too. It would be nice to spend all of my energy on my kids and my family. But one thing I know for sure is that I do want to have a career. It is not just about the money. It’s something that motivates me and makes me happy in life when I know I’m doing a job that I like.

It gives me a sense of purpose outside of the home. Should I give it up to focus 100% on my family? I can do that, but I might just come out from the other end feeling lost and depressed. I just don’t know…

Family

When I told my side of the family I was learning how to code to become a developer, they told me I should just stick with my job then and take care of my kids instead of trying to have a better career or to make more money.

I was told that Mr. FAF makes enough money for the family, so I should focus on housework and our kids instead. I knew they meant well. They wanted me to be a good wife and a good mother.

But part of me was demoralized. If I were a man and made that decision, I’m sure they wouldn’t tell me the same thing. If you are a man and work hard at your job, you are considered a family man. But if you are a women and work hard at your job, you might be considered negligent (aka a bad wife and a bad mom).

Bottom line, if you are a women, you should make sure the kids are well taken care of and the housework is done before you focus on your career. At least, that’s what my family thinks.

Other women

I went back to work just two and a half months after having my first and second babies. I remember talking to a female neighbor who was a stay-at-home mom.

She asked me what I was going to do about my second baby when I returned to work. I said I would send her to daycare. My neighbor raised her eyebrows. She looked shocked, “You would let someone else take care of your baby?”.

I couldn’t help but sense the jugement from her tone. Yes, I sent my baby to daycare and let someone else take care of her while I worked to build a career and to lessen the financial burden on my husband.

I made a choice to have both a job and a family. And I didn’t expect to be judged for that decision by other women. And over the years of blogging, I have also had similar comments from some readers, all of whom are women.

Maintaining a work-life balance is hard when you are a working mom. But you also have to deal with all the looks, the questions, and the judgements that come from other women who you think would be supportive of you.

After all, they are also females. Why would they make you feel bad about wanting to have both a career and a family? They know what it’s like to have a baby and to raise a family. Shouldn’t we be supportive of each other instead of trying to put each other down?

I was judged for not quitting my job to take care of my family full time like they do.

Others in the field

We all know that women are a minority in the tech industry. Women represent 14% of total workforce in software engineering and 25% of total workforce in computer science-related jobs.

Most of my colleagues are males. In fact, I am one of the two females out of a 7-person team. And it’s considered a pretty good gender ratio (2:7) in software engineering.

As a female software engineer and a career changer with no CS background or prior experience, I always feel like that I have to work twice or three times as hard as others in order to catch up on my workload and to progress in my career.

In fact, I am the only one I know on my big team who doesn’t have a CS degree. Sometimes I feel immense pressure to prove myself and to reassure my manager that hiring me wasn’t a mistake.

Of course, I enjoy doing what I do on the job for the most part. But I also feel the need to spend more time working, which can easily translates into less time for the family, which can lead to tension between Mr. FAF and me.

When I’m working, I feel guilty for not taking care of my kids. When I spend time with my family or doing housework, I feel guilty for not putting in more time for my job. Guilt is what I feel most of the time as a working mom.

Challenges during COVID

My son just started kindergarten last week. That means that Mr. FAF and I have to take turns sitting next to him from 9:20 AM to 3 PM on weekdays to make sure he’s not running around and is indeed learning something.

I take the morning shift from 9:20 to 11:30 AM, and Mr. FAF takes over from 12:50 to 3 PM. That alone has caused another source of tension between Mr. FAF and me since we both feel that we should be doing more to help our son, but we are also pulled in multiple other directions, including finishing housework and doing our jobs.

 

Teaching your own kids is not easy.

That makes us conflicted, confused, frustrated, exhausted, and irritated at each other. We have decided to send our baby to pre-K so that we can focus on our work and our son. That’s also for her to learn something at school and interact with other kids.

We are well aware of the risks, but the alternative of keeping everyone at home and trying to do it all is just too much. We tried to seek help outside of the home, including trying to hire an au-pair and a housework helper. But it’s been impossible due to COVID.

The other day, out of frustration, Mr. FAF told me I should have quit my job a long time ago to focus on the family instead of pursuing a career. I don’t know if he really meant it or if he said that out of anger. But that made me sad.

I felt like my desire to have a career was to be blamed for things that were not going well in our lives. I felt sad because my husband, who had always been supportive of my career, implied that he had made a mistake.

I felt sad because, well, maybe he was right. Maybe I should have quit my job and stayed at home. But I don’t know if that would make everything better or if it would cause more problems between us.

Again, I really don’t know. Sometimes I feel so lost about what I should do to become a better person, a better wife, a better mother, a better daughter, and a better employee. I wonder if I would feel the same if I just quit my job and become a stay-at-home mom instead.

Conclusion

I think no matter what I do, I will always be judged for my decision by others. I know a lot of stay-at-home moms complain about others passing judgements about them not working outside of the home and not bringing in an income.

I also know it can get lonely when you don’t have much interaction with other adults other than your spouse. I think that as moms, we will always have challenges in one way or the other.

As for me, I’m learning to strike a balance between work and family so that I can take better care of both. Having a career without a happy family is not fulfilling. After all, the people who will be next to me when I pass will be my family, not my boss or colleagues.

But having a family without a career would not be fulfilling for me either. I want to keep learning, growing, and being challenged professionally.

And more importantly, I want to make sure that no matter what happens to Mr. FAF or me in the future, we will have the financial means to give our kids the stability they need to grow and progress in their lives.

There are so many things I don’t know. But one thing I know for sure is that I don’t have it all like many people might think. I can only try and hope for the best. I do have my own challenges as a full-time working mom and wife.

And I just hope that we can all be more undertanding instead of passing judgements towards working mothers. It would be much more helpful to land a hand than to giving them the looks and making demoralizing comments.

Being judgemental might make the commenter feel better about themselves temporarily. But it wouldn’t solve their own problems. And it would just make the mothers on the receiving end feel worse about themselves and their decisions to have a career of their own.

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22 thoughts on “How to Balance Work & Family As A Working Mom during COVID”

  • I suggest you just hang on during the corona virus epidemic. When it’s all clear, find a full time housekeeper to keep up the home and run after the children i.e. take and pick them up from school and any other activity they attend. She could prepare dinner. That’s what couples who are both medical doctors do. You bring in enough money to make it as easy as possible for you at home. No matter what you do, people will criticize. I think you have come too far to turn back now. I imagine others are envious of the income you receive.

    • Thank you for your honest feedback, Carole! When the pandemic is over, we plan to hire someone to help us with housework and the kids since it’s getting a bit overwhelming at home. 🙂

  • This was so raw and honest. You are my hero Mrs.Faf. You are just not afraid to show the good parts and the bad parts of life unlike most bloggers who pretend that their life is perfect and make the rest of us feel so inadequate. Don’t let other people’s judgements get you down. It’s not about you, it’s their own feelings of inadequacy that comes out as judgement. It is plenty clear to me that you are doing your very best and that’s all any of us can hope to do. I think as women we are so conditioned to feel guilty about everything. If you have heard it already, I highly recommend kara lowenthiel’s unf*ck your brain podcast. She has some excellent points and coping strategies for these strong emotions we experience.

  • Hang in there and try not to listen too closely to other people’s opinions. They aren’t walking in your shoes. You have to do what’s right for you. Trust your gut and know that you can always change your mind down the road if your decision no longer feels right to you.

  • Yes, hang in there. Everyone is going through a tough time right now. Hopefully, things will go back to normal in 6 months or so. Then your son can go to regular school and life will improve.
    Remind yourself and your husband that this phase will pass. For now, you just have to get through it the best you can.
    Best wishes.

  • Thank you for this post! Just like what everyone says hang in there! You are not alone in this situation and it is unfortunate that the pressure of caring for the family lies to woman – but know that this should NOT be the norm. When my husband and I were both working, we were basically earning the same salary, until I started earning more the last 2 years before we retired. Perhaps, remind your husband that the option to stay home should also be an option to him, now that you are earning enough for your family. I gave this option to my husband and I know that I can also stay home if I want to. It helps us both, since no one is more pressured to “provide” for the family or more pressured to “care” for the family. We were equal partners and we both know that.

    • I think it’s a great idea to give the husband that option as well. Mr. FAF has brought up that idea a couple of times. But considering that we have 2 sets of retired parents and 2 young kids (6 people) to take care of, I also feel stressed thinking about being the sole provider for them and us (8 people in total)…

  • I’m a single income earner. This post made me feel how much more freedom I have to not get married nor have any kids in my life. I’d rather not deal with such family or spousal drama and be alone forever.

    • Totally understandable! I myself sometimes think about those days when I was single and didn’t have so many commitments and responsibilities. 🙂

  • For what it’s worth, I quit my six-figure software engineering to support my wife’s military career and do the majority of the home and child care. It’s not a gender thing, and I don’t think people should make it out to be one. For us, it was the most efficient move forward. Also as military, it’s not like we have the choice to stay in a high tech area (and pre-COVID working from home was rare).

    I’ve been able to piece together most of my six-figure salary through side hustles and contract work, while still managing the kids and house responsibilities. It is stressful and my wife definitely needs to add a lot of support, but it works for us.

    • It’s great and refreshing to hear your story! I have to say that I usually don’t see the husband making such a big sacrifice for their wife’s career. You’re such a supportive husband and family man! 🙂

  • I appreciate your struggles and I think all working women have the guilt you describe. I am on the other end of life from you- I will be retiring in a few years. I will just share what worked out best for me for whatever it may be worth to you. I am in no position to form judgments about anyone. I think we all need to support each other in whatever we can.
    What worked best for me was to stay in a career that was “ok” and focused my attention on raising my own children while allowing my husband to follow his dreams. When my children were older, it was then my turn to get that higher degree and follow my dreams. This worked well for me and allowed me to fully appreciate my dream job and enjoy it everyday without guilt because the children were grown. The one issue was that my husband had gotten used to me running the household and at first did not like having to carry more of the load while I was studying. I gently reminded him how much I had supported him and he quickly got on board.
    I can honestly say I have no regrets whatsoever. As a matter of fact, when I look back over my career I am grateful I had the chance to experience the things I did. It gave me a much more well-rounded background so that when I entered my dream job I was well equipped.
    I am also grateful that my two grown children are well educated, have jobs they enjoy and most importantly still spend lots of time with us as a family.
    By the way, in the early years when I was working my “ok” job and making far less than 6 figures, I still hired a housekeeper once in awhile.
    All my best to you!!

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Kim! I think it’s a wonderful plan. And I’m glad it’s worked out for you and your family. And the best thing is that you’re happy with the plan, and that your husband is on board with it 🙂

  • Like Kim, I am also on the other end of life. I just retired last year at the age of 55. I was a CFO and the Chairperson of the Board at my company. My husband’s career ultimately took a back seat to mine for many years so that we could have a parent be the main influence of our children’s character rather than a school or nannies. In my opinion, American women have been sold a bill of goods about this idea that you can “have it all.” Life is not a phony reality TV show. If you have both a mother and father pursuing stressful/competitive careers, something has to give and from what I have seen it is generally the welfare of the kids. When my kids were younger (3 of them) I made the mistake of thinking it would get easier as my kids get older. The opposite was actually true. It was quite simple to have someone else diaper and feed o baby. But as the kids get older, the activity level only increases, and they will want to have a parent at their events, not a nanny. Plus it is a major investment of time to build character in your kids, and you can’t plan for when a teaching opportunity will present itself. It is good that you are asking yourself these questions. Life is one choice after the next, and you will be making constant adjustments. Just keep in mind that you don’t get any “do-overs” when it comes to raising your kids, and regrets related to your kids are a lot tougher to live with down the road than career related regrets. Perhaps a part time situation may become available to one of you in the near future, after you have each paid your dues a little longer. That is a feasible way to “have it all.”

  • Stay your course! The problem with alternative scenarios is the emphasis on the good; the different problems they present are in acknowledged, or unknown. When everything changes, EVERYTHING changes, including the problems. You are taking care of your family for the long-term. In six months or a year, the benefits will outweigh the challenges.

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