Why America's working moms love Mondays

Professional women share solutions for work-life balance with HBI's Cove

Michelle Cove

The freedom of the weekend is gone; work that wasn't finished Friday is still looming. Therefore, according to conventional wisdom, Monday morning is a time to dread.

That conventional wisdom may be dead wrong for many American mothers with young children. Some 70 percent of these moms are working outside the home, and many look forward to Monday mornings, when they head to a place where they can enjoy being with other adults, using their minds in a different way and being part of an additional community.

That’s what Michelle Cove, editor of "614," the online magazine of the Hadassah Brandeis Institute, found during a year spent speaking with women across the country about their struggles and strategies for balancing careers and motherhood. Her new book  “I Love Mondays, and Other Confessions from Devoted Working Moms,”offers practical tips for working moms.

Cove devotes a chapter to each of 11 common issues she unearthed, such as  “I hate missing my kid’s big moments, but not enough to quit my job,” “I resent that people think I’m a bad mom for not staying home with my kids” and “ I stress about falling behind at work when my kid needs extra attention.”

“This is the book that I desperately needed and couldn’t find,” says Cove, whose daughter is now eight. “All the books that were available to working moms were either about how it’s OK to be happy and you shouldn’t feel guilty, or geared to the earlier years, like breastfeeding verses pumping, or how to pick a daycare.”

Cove interviewed a wide variety of women, from CEOs, government leaders and magazine editors to teachers, nurses and artists, all who liked going to work.

Chapter three, “The Unexcused Absences,” covers what can be missed when at work, which Cove says can be heartbreaking — missing your baby’s first steps to missing your child’s prom or birthday party because you had to give a presentation or were out of the country.

“A recital, a debate, it’s endless,” says Cove. “And then we just beat up on ourselves relentlessly every time it happens.”

The Daily Ground

One tip Cove offers begins first thing in the morning. Instead of jumping out bed take three to five minutes to take deep breaths; either say the word “calm” on the exhale or think of things that you appreciate.

“It’s a very short amount of time but it really centers you for the day, which starts so fast with kids,” says Cove. “Where’s this? Where’s that? I can’t find… which brings you right into the storm of tasks. It’s easy to get caught in the routine or the loop; I find this incredibly grounding.”

Volunteer Hero

Another thing that makes women crazy, says Cove, is being battered by the endless stream of emails from the school and community looking for volunteers, and the guilt and sadness of not being more integrated. Cove recommends meeting with teachers early in the year, explaining your work situation. Offer what you can do, and ask what opportunities they can suggest.

Cove recently returned from being the “Secret Reader” at her daughter’s school.

“I went in for 20 minutes, read a book and was the total hero of the classroom as new blood,” says Cove. “I think that takes the stress and pressure off of always saying ‘no’ or avoiding emails. You feel like you’ve done your part a little bit, at least.”

Traveling on business

One mom told Cove that in addition to leaving her child a note when she has to travel, she has her child put something in her suitcase that she will have with her, as the child will love to talk about it.

If you are going to miss an event, ask someone to film it and watch it together a few days later so you can ask questions.

“Just because you missed an event doesn’t mean you beat up on yourself and it’s over,” says Cove.

Cove grew up with a working mom and admits there were some days when she wanted her to be home so she could tell her something — good or bad. It wasn’t until later that she came to appreciate what it meant to have a mom who felt passionate and excited about something other than her.

“I think in our culture today there’s a lot of spotlight on kids, looking to them and their victories and achievements as more important than a kid can sometimes withstand,” says Cove.  “I think that having your own thing really does take the heat off of them sometimes.”

Cove says she often tells her daughter about a mistake she’s made at work, or a hard moment, so she can see her in that light too, as somebody who is still learning and trying things.

“I don’t know one working mom who is not feeling some sort of challenges,” says Cove. “My great hope is that women will take this back to their own lives and start having these conversations with one another.”

Cove is also the co-author of the national bestseller “I'm Not Mad, I just Hate You!: a new understanding of mother-daughter conflict ,” which appeared on national talk shows including The Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. She is also the author of “Seeking Happily Ever After: Navigating the ups and down of being single without losing your mind,” which is based on her award-winning documentary “Seeking Happily Ever After.” Currently Cove is making the documentary “One and Only ” about one-child families.

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, Research

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