Advice for Working Moms to Bring Balance to Your Life

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Year of Yes" by Shonda Rhimes. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you having trouble balancing your role as a parent and your job? What is some advice for working moms?

These days, moms can do it all. They can work by day at their job and take care of the kids by night. But as Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes points out, it’s not easy being a working mom.

Check out this advice for working moms to make your life easier.

Prioritize Pleasure and Play

One piece of advice for working moms that Rhimes found useful is to commit to playing with your kids more. To prioritize her family better, Rhimes committed to playing with her daughters more, which brought her immense joy and happiness. This meant that whenever her daughters asked her to play, she dropped everything and played with them, no matter what. Uplifted and refreshed by the joy of connecting with her children and the love they shared as a family, she felt more relaxed, creative, and grateful in all areas of her life.

Achieving this shift in priorities was not easy for Rhimes at first as it required that she create parameters with her job that she didn’t have before. Instead of letting work seep into her off-work hours, she committed to turning her phone off after 7 pm and avoided working on the weekends. Eventually, she found that her new relationship with work did not diminish her engagement with her job. In fact, she found the opposite—the more she prioritized playtime, the more energy and creativity she had for her work.

(Shortform note: In her TED Talk about her “year of yes,” Rhimes further explores how prioritizing playtime with her daughters positively impacted her career—she attributes this shift in priorities to saving her career. She explains how being a very driven and hard worker is part of her nature, but she was beginning to burn out and lose her creative inspiration (essential to her job as a screenwriter), but she was able to reignite her experience of imagination and joy again by playing with her daughters. Prioritizing playtime renewed her capacity for creative thinking and gave her the energy she needed to continue working hard in her career.)

Key Takeaways

Anyone can prioritize playtime with their children, regardless of their life’s circumstances. For busy working parents, it might seem impossible, but Rhimes insists that it will not involve a significant time commitment. She found her daughters only wanted about fifteen minutes of playtime with her before they moved on to other things. 

(Shortform note: While Rhimes insists that every family can prioritize playtime in their schedules, this may be an overly optimistic and unrealistic expectation for many. Families with low income are not just commonly short on free time, but they also often struggle with having their fundamental needs met, like providing their children enough food. Experts estimated in 2021, more than 9 million children (one in eight) faced hunger. These families might find it hard to prioritize play.)

Play is not just for people with kids—play is about carving out time daily to do what brings you pleasure and joy. Prioritize your version of playtime and you’ll feel more centered, recharged, and fulfilled in your day-to-day life.

(Shortform note: In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brown expands on the definition of play: Not only does play bring you pleasure and joy, it has no other purpose but to bring you pleasure and joy. This distinguishes playing from other fun activities. Research shows that playtime, no matter your age, can increase your ability to connect with others, boost your creativity, and decrease your stress.)

Own Your Limitations

Rhimes was a single, full-time working mother, and she had at-home childcare to help her raise her daughters. She committed to being honest about all this to the press. She reflects on how society shames women for having help because women are expected to do everything themselves—have a successful career plus a happy family. Thus, very often, successful, famous women with children are not transparent about the help they have at home when they are asked to divulge their “secret” to juggling so many different roles in their lives. They act like they can do it all without help, which, Rhimes notes, is largely inaccurate. She decided to combat the shame associated with having help by being radically honest about her own life.

Key Takeaways

It’s okay to have help and be honest about it. No one can do it all alone. Women who have help managing their lives should not hide it. Pretending you don’t have help sets unrealistic and harmful standards for women with fewer resources who feel like they’re constantly failing because they can’t keep up.

The Challenges That Working Mothers Face

Rhimes’s observations about high-profile career mothers are part of a larger conversation about the myth of work-life balance for professional women and their families. Professional women have been told that they can have it all and do it all—succeed in their dream careers and be present, engaged wives and mothers. But increasingly, professional women are questioning the real-world limitations of this belief and are pushing back against the unrealistic standards that make them feel like they’re always on the verge of failure.

In many ways, having a full-time, high-powered job is inherently incompatible with being an equally involved parent—many women have little control over elements of their careers like conflicts between work and school schedules and too much work travel. As a result, many professional women are reducing their work commitments, leaving their jobs, or hiring at-home child care support.

However, at-home childcare is a luxury most American families cannot afford, costing an average of $612 per week. There is also a shortage of affordable child-care center options for the average working family—half of all Americans face challenges in securing child care. This shortage of affordable care hinders women’s workforce participation and economic mobility, contributing to gender and income inequality. And when women who can afford child care don’t acknowledge they use it, they not only set unrealistic standards for women with fewer resources—they also contribute to the widespread perception that, if they just try hard enough, women can “do it all,” a narrative that downplays the need for more affordable childcare options.

Advice for Working Moms to Bring Balance to Your Life

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Shonda Rhimes's "Year of Yes" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Year of Yes summary:

  • The story of a woman who said "yes" to every opportunity for a year
  • How to go from surviving to full-hearted thriving
  • Why you shouldn't be uncomfortable with receiving praise

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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