1. Kids & Family

Don't forget your needs in balancing work, motherhood

For five-plus years, I've mixed motherhood with work.

I've been a working mother, a stay-at -home mom and now a mix of both, and I've learned something different at each stop.

Before I had a child, I never thought twice about being a working mother. I had spent more than 15 years building a career. I enjoyed what I did and assumed I would continue on that path.

After giving birth, however, I chose to work part time instead of full time. Finances and job situations dictate whether this is an option, but with a supportive husband and boss, I took advantage of the opportunity and would recommend it to others.

Dividing time between work and motherhood allowed me to continue working while also spending time with my daughter and sharing with other parents. It helped me feel like I still had a well-rounded life.

I met parents at the public library and Baby Bungalow, which supports families with early childhood development programs.

When my daughter turned 2 1/2, however, I felt a need to do more with her, so I made a difficult decision and left my job.

We used the time to do daily activities, and we also traveled as a family.

But at the age of 4, she started pre-k and I could no longer structure my day around her activities. It was actually difficult being without her. I missed her so much.

But the time alone allowed me to chart a new career path.

So when she started kindergarten this year, my husband and I decided to merge our skills — he does digital marketing, I do public relations — and start our own company: Evoke Strategy.

My biggest challenge in returning to the workforce is in focusing my attention away from work and on my daughter when she is home from school. I try to avoid business calls, but my husband always watches her if I need to work.

Most of the time, though, I'm in mommy mode when she is home. But I do talk about my job and why it's important.

Now that she is old enough to understand what it means to work, I want to be a strong professional role model.

So now, I'm back to being a working mom and, as I always say, a full-time mom. Believe me, working moms are still full-time moms. There is no part-time parent no matter how much time you spend in an office.

Some moms love working and need that time to themselves to be a good mom. Some moms love being home all the time with their kids. Some moms need a bit of both. Many moms don't have a choice in the matter.

My advice? Don't get caught up in the so called "mommy wars," debating staying home or balancing a job and motherhood.

Do what you can to make your family survive and thrive — and that means you, too. Lean on family and friends and get involved in organizations.

Most of all go easy on yourself. Be proud of all you've done, because whether you're at home or in an office, it is all work.

Elizabeth Freid Vocke is a married mother of one who lives in South Tampa.