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How Working Moms Make It Work

When I decided to become a mother, I developed an elaborate scheme for transitioning to my dream life, which included a four-month paid maternity leave; a book deal that would give me a $100,000 advance, enough to quit my full-time job; and a nanny to help with the child while I wrote said book.

I knew I could "have it all," because the Women's Liberation Movement told me so. I watched wistfully as TV moms Clair Huxtable from The Cosby Show and Elyse Keaton from Family Ties, in their big-shouldered power suits, juggled jobs and families, albeit imperfectly.

Cut to: My actual maternity leave, which was only really three weeks' paid time off, cobbled together with unpaid days and vacation for a total of nine weeks. Five of those nine weeks I was so sleep-deprived and baby-focused that I could barely wash a dish or check email; the other four weeks I was consumed with the anxiety of leaving the baby while I worked.

It helped that we found the perfect home-based daycare, run by a couple named Mimi and Papa. That made my return to work a little easier, knowing that she was in a place where she was truly adored.

A year later, I'm still trying to find that perfect balance of work and home life. I'm grateful for a job that keeps the mortgage paid and the baby fed, but I can't help feeling as if I'm missing out on a third of my daughter's life. I am desperately hoping she takes her first steps with me watching, instead of at daycare.

After talking to moms who seem to be able to "do it all," I realized there are some common threads that help them work it out: meticulous scheduling; setting priorities and putting aside everything else; and a workplace that can accommodate flexible family schedules. Often, this means sacrificing a high salary for a more "meaningful" job with a school or nonprofit, or, alternatively, owning your own business.

This has also made me rethink my schedule so I won't resent the time I'm spending away from my baby … and procrastinating on my book.

In the Meantime, I'm Starting on These Tips, Stat:

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