Mel Robbins is like so many of us. She’s a working mom with three kids and a demanding schedule. She’s been through bouts of crippling anxiety. She’s experienced fear and self-doubt. She knows what it’s like to depend on her husband to keep her household running and the struggle that comes with being the breadwinner. But Mel turned her doubt around and launched it into a career that has her inspiring, motivating and coaching people around the world. It led to her hosting The Mel Robbins Show—a talk show that launched in fall 2019 with the sole purpose of inspiring people to take the little steps needed to change their lives—and mindset—for good.
We’ve heard from so many fellow working moms who want to excel at work but stay focused when at home—who want to enjoy their success without making their family feel second best. So, we presented Mel with four of the biggest issues many working moms face. She weighed in with some tough love, strong feedback and revolutionary advice. Read on for Mel’s new rules for helping ourselves, staying connected to our families and saving our sanity.
Eliminating the Guilt of—GASP—Liking Work and Enjoying Going to the Office The Issue: How to deal when the guilt you have over being a working mom isn’t necessarily about being away from the kids—but actually over LIKING your job and career path?
Mel’s Take: “Women are very conflicted about their ambition. We’re fed this message around being “perfect” mothers, and that being a good mother means you have to be present all the time and you have to love what you’re doing. I can relate to this as I love what I do for a living. In fact, I don’t even view it as work. I can tip into having an unhealthy relationship with what I do professionally because I love it so much. But I believe that there are phases to being a mother. There are some phases of your child’s life that you will be perfect. There are some phases that you’re going to love, and there are phases that you’re going to hate. I was a terrible parent when I had little kids. I am not detail oriented, I am not patient, I am not interested in the things that little kids are interested in—thankfully, my husband is all of those things. I probably loved my work more than I loved parenting during that time because when you’re at work, you feel validated. When you’re at work, you feel seen. When you’re at work, if you’re doing something that is interesting to you, you also feel engaged and motivated.”
Mel’s Solution: “This isn’t about liking your work more. It’s an issue of if you’re letting your guilt hinder your ambition. The thing that I do know about your kids, every last one of them, is that they benefit when mom is happy. And if you’re happy because you’re an ambitious person and you are pursuing it, that will mean more to your children. It will have a more positive outcome on your children than holding yourself back or being conflicted because you’re working. We often send the wrong message to our kids when we say “Oh, I miss you. Oh, I’m sorry mommy has to go to work. Oh …” Do not do that. Say, “Thank you for supporting me in going to work. I love what I do. Thank you for supporting me in going to work, because it makes me happy that I can make some extra money and we can go to Disney World because of it. Thank you for allowing me to do this thing that I do, because it makes me feel like I’m doing something out there. And I hope that you’re the kind of person that grows up and you not only go to school but you do things like I’m doing.” Changing up just the way you talk about it changes the way your kids will think about it.”
Why is Relaxing Impossible For Me—But Not My Husband?
The Issue: Why as women do we always feel like we can’t just relax? Even after working all day? We either feel like nothing’s gotten done or there’s still things to get done.
Mel’s Take: “All the research shows that women still do the majority of the housework. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that a lot of us were raised by women that had a life that was a little less busy, and so we grew up in houses where we saw our mothers making breakfast, cooking dinner, doing the laundry, picking up after us… And that your mind’s not turning off because you’re cued to want to pick up the stuff and start the dinner and do all this stuff. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but if it’s not working for you, you can change it. It’s not going to happen subtly. You can’t hint at your partner to suddenly give a shit about this. You can’t ask them and expect them to just develop this new pattern, you have to be deliberate and consistent about shifting it.”
Mel’s Solution: “Have a sit-down with your partner and say, “This is how I need the week to go. You need to come home and have a beer, you can do that on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I need you to set the table, and I need you and our son to clear it.” You have to ask for what you need. My husband and I have something that’s truly been the secret sauce. Forget date night—we have a calendar meeting every Sunday night. We sit down, we talk about who’s where, when, why, what, who’s got a late soccer thing? Who’s picking up? What’s happening? What night can we have dinner? What night should we pick up takeout? Having all of that preplanned, I have found to be a gift because I can anticipate the nights that’s going to be a pain in the ass. I can pick something up on my way home. I can order a pizza ahead of time. I can make the requests of my husband. I can organize my life in advance.”
How Can I Make My Husband Feel Appreciated Even Though I’m the Breadwinner?
The Issue: What happens when both you and your husband work hard and work full time—but you’re the breadwinner with a longer commute and more demanding hours? How can that stop you from feeling disconnected—while making your husband feel appreciated for picking up the slack at home?
Mel’s Take: “This was a huge issue in my marriage when my career took off. What women don’t understand is that just like we get societal pressure to look good and not age, guys are judged by how much money they make. So he already feels proud of you, but he feels conflicted.”
Mel’s Solution: “I would 1,000 percent read, The 5 Love Languages to make sure that you’re still speaking his. You must go overboard so that your husband doesn’t feel demoralized because of the pressure he puts on himself and thank him for everything that he does. The thing that really connected the dots for my husband is when we had a conversation, and I said, ‘Look, I know that you want to provide for your family. I know you wish you were the primary breadwinner, regardless of what you say. I want you to know that by being what I call the ‘primary parent’ and by being my support, you are providing for this family in ways that money can’t buy. And that’s what I need.’ When men can connect the dots between the things that they’re doing—picking up the kids, coaching a team, making sure that dinner has been started—they understand that you’re not being turned into the cook and the maid—which is how women often feel, right? But it’s a double whammy for the dudes because society says, ‘That’s not my job, so I must not be providing. I must not be successful.’ So for you to connect the dots with the desire to provide for your family and be successful, and the little things that he’s doing that mean everything to you, that’s a big deal.”
Seriously, is this “Work-Life Balance” Thing a Unicorn?
The Issue: How do we get in that quality, family time—with laser sharp focus—kill it at work AND find time for that elusive self care?
Mel’s Take: “Don’t talk about life balance—talk about boundaries. Draw boundaries with work as you cannot be effective and work 24/7.”
Mel’s Solution: “Here’s the rules that I follow every morning:
- I never sleep with my phone. When I wake up, my phone is somewhere else so I have to walk across the room to turn it off. I do not pick it up. I spend the first 30 minutes without looking at my phone. That’s time that I’m actually present for myself.
- Find the first 10 minutes of the day for you—whether you develop a journaling practice, take the dog out for a walk, meditate, pray, put on beautiful music or make yourself a cup of tea—that’s how you start. You carve out sacred time for you and also think about what’s one thing that you could do today that actually matters to you? Are you going to find half an hour and work on the photo album from the trip that y’all took to Disney last year? Are you going to find 10 minutes and write a card to a sick friend? Are you going to spend five minutes and research improv classes and think about what it is that you might be able to take? So 10 minutes in the morning, that is your sacred time and during that time figure out one thing you can do today that’s just for you. That will begin to slowly fill the cup back up.
- I plan my quitting time. It’s called Parkinson’s law which says that any project expands to the time that you give it. So if you have 20 minutes to finish a project—it’ll take you 20 minutes. Have two weeks? It’ll take that long. So by saying, ‘Today I’m quitting at 6:00—that means I’m putting my phone down at 6 p.m. and focusing on the kids.’ You’ll be shocked at how much more productive you are.”