Being a working mom is the hardest job I’ve ever had. Fortunately, my parents taught me some valuable lessons along the way on how to do it right.
1. Never underestimate the importance of food. My folks led busy lives, but they made sure we all ate together every night. At the dinner table. By candlelight. Over long, lively meals, my folks taught my sisters and me the importance of communication in building trust and relationships within the family and at work. No surprise that my sisters remain my best friends today. While a hectic travel schedule and late-night business meetings prevent lit candles from being on the table every night in my own home, I make up for it as best I can. For example, we often connect with picnics in the living room. Or we play “restaurant” and I’m the wild, eccentric chef, complete with a big wig.
2. Caring about your work is not something you learn, it’s who you are. My own mom continues to be an amazing role model. She taught grade school for nearly 30 years. As she neared retirement, the idea of “mailing it in” never crossed her mind. She taught me that work is important for your future and for your family but also for yourself. To my own daughter, I never say, “I have to go to work.” Instead, I say, “I’m going to work.” Subtle difference but I want her–and my son–to see work as a fulfilling, positive part of their lives.
3. Work-life balance? No such thing. When your work life is awesome, your home life could just suck. But it never stays that way for too long. So when you’re at work, be all in. And vice versa. I learned that first-hand from my current boss, Sharon Napier. She juggled the responsibilities of being a wife and mom during a far less enlightened time, pushing through to co-found and lead Partners + Napier, what is now a nationally recognized ad agency. Finding out I was expecting my second kid, at 37, gave me pause. The first one was hard, but managing a big new promotion and two kids–I truly wondered if I could do it. But Sharon had already set that example within the agency, raising two amazing daughters (who now work in the industry) while building a successful business. She made clients and co-workers feel like we were the most important people in the world to her, even though we knew that family always came first. Always. To this day she will still stop a meeting to accept a call from her kids.
4. Parenting is (often) a team sport. I recognize how my own ability to be a good mom is enabled by having a strong partner, who happens to be a great dad. We’re both ok letting each other captain the team when necessary; in fact it’s often a big relief.
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself. On any given day life is made up of a million little choices. Some are right, others wrong, but you make them with the best knowledge you have at the time. Learn and move on. In the process, be yourself. Be real. Be honest. Be the same person you are at work as you are at home. And absolutely no guilt allowed.
This post originally appeared on WorkingMother.com. Read it here.