I Became a Working Mom Overnight, and It Was Flippin' Hard, Y'all

Chewbacca Mom Candace Payne shares her unexpected life detour and how she and her family regained balance on unsteady footing.

candace payne chewbacca mom

Clutching the mask that made her famous.

Aggie Brooks/Guideposts

Mommin’ is some of the hardest work there is. And yet moms are often unappreciated, going long stints without recognition or accolade. Even so, being a mom is some of the most fulfilling and satisfying work a woman can do.

Now, that being said, I want to tell you the journey I have been on personally since going from complete obscurity to being a pop culture name recognized by young and old alike: “Chewbacca Mom.” Long before and still since, I have just been called, “Mom.” Many of you may know me as a one-dimensional lady laughing in a toy mask alone in my car, someone who would make a great friend. And I see ya, girl. Others might have followed my journey since then, which has led me to traveling and speaking, and writing my book, Laugh It Up. Comparatively, I went from the carpool lane to the fast lane. These days, I’m trying to manage the whirlwind of "work” along with family. As you all well know, just because I became a working mom doesn’t mean for one second that I resigned from being a mom.

When life takes a detour and you find yourself on unsure, unsteady footing as a family, consider these three concepts that have allowed my family to not only get by but even enjoy this new season as we go.

1. Keep the main thing as the main thing.

When I find that there are deadlines added to my day that I haven’t had before, I have to remember the most important thing—my people. There is no email, text or phone call that will ever be more important that stopping to look at the 75th drawing my daughter just doodled or the rad trick my son just perfected with his fidget spinner. And for the mommas with a partner in all this craziness? Same for the one you’re with. Nothing is more valuable than a long-lingered kiss or a flirtatious slap on the rear. One of the most damaging things I could ever do in this season is allow the main thing to become the secondary thing. So with all my effort and intention, I press in to the people who give me the most meaning and strength. Life is always better when I do.

2. Trust your strengths.

Early on, when my work began to really pick up speed, I got some sage advice from a friend that I am learning to practice and perfect daily. You have to trust your strengths, as well as the strengths of your family, to make it through without exhausting yourself. As mommas, we are the perpetual finder of all things lost, the list-makers for the grocery-store adventures, and the ones that often keep the family dynamic ever moving forward. When a season shift happens, there is bound to be pressure to perform well not only as a new co-worker and employee but as a momma too. I'm not saying that you cannot do both successfully. But I am saying you will struggle to enjoy both at the same time.

A dear friend told me that everyone had a price to pay for what was happening with the change in our family. I had a price to pay in the divided time. My hubs had a price to pay by becoming the primary picker-upper of the kiddos after school and forgoing an occasional coffee run in the mornings when I was out of town. The kids had a price to pay in having to learn new skills—doing their own laundry, keeping their beds made and toys put away. Shoot, even the dogs had a price to pay for the amount of daytime snuggles they may or may not receive. The one thing I know for sure is if I begin to emotionally pay everyone else’s tabs, I’ll find myself depleted and bankrupt at the end of the journey. Give yourself permission to trust that your kids and your guy will grow and develop new strengths in this season of change. There may be some remarkable opportunities to learn and develop in ways you can’t even imagine. If there’s one thing that seems to be a challenge over and over at the end of the day, it’s this: letting everyone have their own price to pay for the change.

3. Make space to play.

Sometimes in the middle of a major life change, you find yourself just trying to stay alive and where you need to be. Can I encourage you to make space to play every day? Even if it's only for five to 10 minutes, you’ll find much levity to clear your mind so that you can be kind. Sometimes the family I love so dearly doesn’t get the best of me simply because I am stressed as all get-out. My mind is in “manage mode,” you know, the mode it defaults to when you have to have a plan A, B, C and D for an event that may or may not even happen. We all want to be prepared for whatever might come up. But get comfortable having areas of your day and home life where you’re more reactive than anything else. Make space in your mind to bring silliness to a schedule that otherwise could feel overwhelming and occupying. Drive the extra three minutes to the playground the kids have been begging to go to for a week, put your phone on silent, and swing on the swings. Let the wind hit your face and revel in 10 minutes, even if it’s all you’ve got.

I definitely have ups and downs in juggling work and being a mom, just like everyone else. But in a season of change, I know how important it is to keep myself engaged and locked in to the people that bring me joy. And isn’t that what we all really want at the end of the day? We all want to be able to find ourselves and our homes full of joy, not just things. So stay the course, momma. Your season may be chaotic, but it can be wonder-filled as well. And remember, one day it’ll be just a memory. Go ahead. Mom Boss like nobody’s business ... get it! And while you do, embrace all the simple joys you can along the way.

Candace Payne is a viral sensation whose video of trying on a Chewbacca mask became the most-viewed Facebook Live video to date (170+ million views). She has been featured in more than 3,000 media outlets and has interviewed with major media such as Good Morning America, The Late Late Show with James Corden, The New York Times, PEOPLE and Cosmopolitan. Candace’s first book,Laugh It Up, is available now. Candace lives in Texas with her husband, two children and ornery pugs. Connect with Candace online at CandacePayne.me.

Candace Payne: Chewbacca Mom, Speaker & Author

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