CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The joys of motherhood often come with the agony of working mommy guilt.
"I just have that idea in my mind of what mom should be," said Tracy Mondello. "You know, be there doing all the stuff with the kids but also being at work and wanting to fulfill that part of my existence."
And there's the dreaded day care drop off.
"Dropping him off every day was heartbreaking," said single mom Joanna Polisena. "I would take him in there kicking and screaming and it was one of those things where you have to rip them off of you hand them to another person and walk out the door."
"I knew cognitively that this was going a good thing for him," said physical therapist and mom Shannon Steele. "But emotionally it tears you apart."
For Mondello, a research coordinator at Akron City Hospital, preparation, organization and staying flexible are all keys to raising her daughters, Ava and Grace. She also takes cues from them.
"Sometimes they will play well on their own together and I can let them do that and take care of what I need to," she said. "But if they are at my feet, I try to stop and say 'what's more important right now?'"
She and Polisena are part of a working moms play group that gives them opportunities to provide for and play with their kids.
Counselor Leneigh White with Strongsville Family Counseling says building up a support system like this will help you get through snow days and sick days when you're thrown for a loop.
"Know your neighbors," she advises. "Know your kid's friend's parents. Offer to help them. Ask them for help when you need it."
Polisena works through her working mommy guilt by reminding herself that she is fostering independence and setting an example for sons Edward and Channing.
"We gotta grow up and we all got to work one day," she said. "Got to pay the bills. So there are lessons to be learned with it. That's how I get myself through the days."
She also chooses spend concentrated quality time with her boys.
"We instituted Wednesday as family play day," she said. "This is the one day when I'm not supposed to do any housework, not do any yard work….no laundry. Make dinner, but we're just supposed to play."
At FUNDamentals Children's Center in Menorah Park, they have an in-house daycare to serve their 1,200 employees. Director Missy Altman says it's not only helping their working moms get back to work and saving them time at drop-off and pick-up, but it also helps recruitment and retention.
"For our full time employees it's less than 10 percent turnover rate in our nursing home," said Altman, adding that that is an industry low.
"We have lunch dates because he's big enough know so he'll come out, eat lunch with me and come back, which he loves and we do every day," said Steele.
For nursing moms like Megan, this was invaluable.
"It was busy and stressful but having that bonding time was so important to me because you don't get that throughout the week, you only get it on the weekend," she said.
If your employers doesn't offer that, the creators of Werk, a marketplace for flexible work opportunities, suggest finding something that will help you build the life you want.
"There are people who want flexibility for a wide range of reasons, so we contend that flexibility is the future of work," said Annie Auerbach.
Thus far, their approach is working. They've made dozens of placements in just three months, partnering with more than 50 companies who value what working moms have to offer.
White says women are demanding of themselves. She says to start by giving yourself permission.
"It's okay to buy the cookies for the bake sale," she said. "It's okay if here and there you miss a soccer game or grandma's taking care of the baby who has a fever. It's okay for there to be times when you're not 100 percent."
She says to stop striving to have it all and start focusing on having enough.
"I have enough time with my children, I have enough time with my spouse, I have enough time at work," she said. "Nothing's perfect but I have enough to be happy."
And when you're feeling stretched too thin, she says make your limited time count with quality over quantity.
Moms we approached about this story had lots of tips and tricks to share with us for feeling less guilty and more satisfied.
- Use your vacation days to volunteer at your child's school or day care.
- Do meal prep on Sundays, or sign up for meal prep delivery services like Blue Apron to get home-cooked meals on the table.
- Get a group chat set up to provide a safety net for emergency situations, like when you're stuck in traffic and it's your turn for carpool.
- Give your children gifts of experiences or memories instead of toys, and set "dates" together for them to look forward to.
- Be present. Put your phone down when you're around your kids.
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