It’s a bit expected that I’d write this piece, seeing as it’s been just three months since I’ve returned to the trenches from maternity leave, but here we go…

So, parenting and PR-ing, can you do both? The answer is yes, but the follow-up questions are as follows: Do you want to? If so, can you do both and not lose yourself, your relationships, your sanity, your sleep, and your passion for the job?

In full transparency, I’m definitely still figuring this out, but I’ve learned some important lessons since the smallest member of our family joined us in October 2018. While I may still not be sleeping (which is a lost cause at this point), everything else is going pretty well.

But, before I reveal all my secrets, wanted to take a minute to level set on a few things.

First, anyone who works in PR, particularly on the agency side, knows that maintaining work-life balance, even without kids, is a struggle and it’s REAL. Last-minute requests, quick-turn assignments, story deadlines, full-blown crises, client approvals and more keep us chained to our laptops and mobile phones at all hours of the day and night, often seven days a week. We signed up for this though; we crave this drama and thrive in a fast-paced environment. That said, throw a kid or two in the mix and that changes things.

According to a recent Pew Research study, despite the fact that today women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce and men are more involved in childcare than ever, the public sees vastly different societal pressure points for women and men. Roughly 77 percent of adults surveyed say women face a lot of pressure to be an involved parent; a significantly smaller share (56 percent) says the same about men.

I’m fortunate that I work for a company that truly empowers and supports its working moms to be just that — work AND be an involved mom. Not only does Weber Shandwick have programs in place that give working moms some flexibility — for example, its ease-back-in policy, which allows new moms to work remotely a couple of days a week her first two months back on the job — it actually encourages people to take advantage of offerings like this. This seems obvious — why would you have a program if you’re not going to ask people to use it? Sadly, this happens at other organizations and it’s a true shame, not to mention a strain on the agency, as high-quality talent walks out the door as a result. Weber Shandwick, on the other hand, is at the forefront of identifying hurdles working women face, many of whom are moms, and finding solutions, through its participation in the wider Interpublic Group (IPG) effort, Women’s Leadership Network.

In addition to these corporate programs, my teammates here in St. Louis support me and my crazy schedule needs on a daily basis. Need to leave early for the nanny? All good, no guilt trip. Need to take an early call from home? NBD. A small nuance like this is uncommon, but has helped me seamlessly integrate back into the working PR world, and for that, I thank my Weber Shandwick STL family.

Now, for more on my lessons learned to date.

Figure out if you can make work, work

Take a deep dive into your soul for this one and figure out if going back to work after the babe arrives is actually something you want to do and can afford to do. Think through everything — the logistical nightmares, lack of sleep, financial burdens of a nanny or daycare, missed baths and bed times, tantrums, the whole thing — then load that on top of your typical schedule right now. Not sounding like fun? No shame. Honestly, the three months I was home on maternity leave were the hardest of my life thus far, so anyone who pursues the SAHM life is a hero in my book. Maybe it’s not leaving work altogether, but pursuing something less “always-on” or even starting a side hustle.

Still in it to win it? Read on.

Create boundaries and actually commit to them

This is something I had been wanting to do for years (haven’t we all?), but it wasn’t until I decided to return to work after mat leave that I really got serious about it. I made a promise to myself, to my husband and to our daughter, that I would set boundaries and hold myself accountable to them. For me, it’s signing off and leaving the office at 5 p.m. so I can make it home for bath and bed time. Seems easy enough to most, but in the PR world, we all know how hard it is to literally peel ourselves away from our desk at that time. To date, I’ve broken this promise three times.

While leaving at a decent hour is my “thing,” think about what yours is, communicate it clearly to your manager and team members prior to returning to work, then #live it.

Be present

This is easy in theory, but not so much in practice. The end-goal here is that when you’re at work, be all in on work. Similarly, when you’re at home with your family, be 100 percent focused on them. I will say for me, the latter of these two is what I’m still figuring out, but I know some working moms who have a harder time focusing at work because they’re worried about their baby at home or at daycare, or just missing them in general. I don’t have a perfect solve for that, but what worked for me was finding childcare that I could be fully confident in and who I know my daughter is comfortable with. Knowing she’s having fun and being well cared for during the workday puts my mind at ease and allows me to focus on my work. Plus, a few pictures of her at my desk help, too.

Unplugging at home has been my cross to bear — I’m a slave to the email alerts on my phone, so still working on that one. I’m open to any and all suggestions.

Determine what’s worth it and what’s not

Pretty cut and dry, but what I mean here is, figure out what things are worth your extra time, attention, stress, etc., because if you give a high level of priority to everything (like I used to), you’ll go insane, not to mention you’ll likely miss out on family moments that are quite honestly, more important. For me, this is something I decide on a case-by-case basis because, as we know, PR is too unpredictable to really make much of a plan. The filter I use to decide is this question: Is sending this email, writing this plan, drafting these materials time-sensitive enough to miss the one hour a night I have to spend with my daughter? Sometimes my answer has to be yes, but most of the time it’s no.

Advocate for yourself

Hopefully, you’re already doing this, whether you have kids or not, but that’s another topic for another day. That said, if you’re a working mom, it’s critically important to have a voice and stand up for yourself. Don’t let people assume that you can’t go to that new business pitch because you need to be home with your child, or that you’re not going for a promotion because you don’t have the capacity to take on extra responsibilities now that you have a kid, or that you don’t want that post-work cocktail because sometimes YOU DEF DO. Don’t let others speak for you; speak for yourself and push for the things that you want, need and are passionate about.

Whether you’re already back at work, rocking the SAHM life, figuring out how to fit your belly into “work appropriate” clothes, or considering what your future might look like as a mother and PR girl, you’ll figure out what’s best for you and your family.

If there’s one thing I would bold font, ALL CAPS, *asterisk, it would be to find your support system and lean on it. As they said back in the day about raising kids, “it takes a village.”