I sat on the toilet frozen, staring at two faint lines. In an instant my identity changed from being a carefree 24-year-old to being a pregnant 24-year-old.

My mind raced with questions:
“What does this mean?”
“Will people treat me differently?”
“Will I still have a job?”
“How will I be able to continue working while pregnant?”

At the time, I was working as a bartender at a music venue. My job was fun, but very work intensive. My shifts were long, and I was on my feet for 8 to 12 hours at a time. During busy nights I helped my barback bring full buckets of ice upstairs, and run full bins of dishes downstairs. I wondered how being pregnant would alter my ability to do those things and bartend in general.

Needless to say, it was never part of my plan to be a pregnant bartender. I mean, let’s face it — bartending is an industry where women are often judged on their physical appearance, and oftentimes tipped higher because of it.

Would my income be impacted? Would I be able to keep up physically with the demands of bartending? Would I be the mother my son would need and deserve?

The initial months were difficult. The contrasting smells of liquor, food and cleaning products repulsed me. Rude customers sent my emotions through an ocean of tidal waves. My feet ached. My body was sore. My mind raced with “what ifs”.

I ended up bartending full-time until two weeks before my son was born, and returning to work two weeks after delivering him. 

Learning to prioritize my family while also continuing to work behind the bar and pursue other interests took some trial and error, but I was able to do it!Here are 4 ways you can too:

Let Go of Guilt

As a parent, it’s natural to feel guilty when you’re not spending time with your children. But, workplace guilt doesn’t serve you — it’s a negative emotion that just makes you feel bad. So rather than dwelling on how you aren’t spending time with your kids, think about WHY you’re working and WHAT your income allows you to bring to the table:

Are you the sole provider? Are you saving for vacation? Do you cover expenses? Does your income give you the financial freedom you desire?

In my experience, letting go of guilt was paramount to me being able to enjoy my shifts because I went back to work so soon after my son was born and I felt a longing to be with him. But, when I answered my WHY (I was the sole provider) and my WHAT (to have money to cover expenses and live), I was able to shift my thoughts from the lack of time I was spending with my son, to being grateful for having a flexible job that allowed me to earn the income I needed to live.

Stay Connected Throughout Your Shift

As a bartender, it might seem like you never have time to check in with your family (after all, it’s important you pay attention to your customers and NOT your phone), but I promise you, you do!

During busy Friday and Saturday night shifts when my son was a baby I used to record a video of myself during one of my bathroom breaks telling my son I love him. Then I’d send the video to his babysitter who would show him. She said he would watch the videos over and over and say, “Mama! Mama!” And she’d send me photos and videos of him throughout my shift so I could see what he was up to.

Doing this enabled me to stay focused when I was behind the bar because I knew he was in good hands and doing well. Now that my son is 4-years-old, I like to quickly Facetime with him and see how he’s doing.

Rather than scrambling to send a quick text when you’re behind the bar, use your breaks as an opportunity to take a minute or two and connect with your family. Send your kids a quick video. Facetime call your partner. Snap a picture and send a nice text message to your babysitter to read to and show your children.

These small, quick gestures will keep you connected with your family throughout the night so you can continue your shift without feeling guilty for being at work.

Work Efficiently and Stay Organized

Bartending is often a messy job, especially during rush periods. So, during slow shifts and down times take the opportunity to organize your bar and clean it up. Getting ahead will get you out the door faster after your shift – so you can spend more time with your family.

Restock the napkins and straws. Make change for your big bills. Wipe down the liquor bottles. Clean the counters. Do anything and everything you can to make sure that when you close out you won’t be spending any unnecessary time doing things that could have been done earlier.

This will set you up for success at the end of your shift, making your closeout procedure quicker and easier meaning you’ll be able to leave sooner than usual!

Take Full Advantage of the Time You Have

There is no greater gift you can give to anyone than the gift of your time and attention. Put down your phone. Turn off the TV. Unplug and dedicated uninterrupted time every single day to your family.

Maybe this means eating breakfast together, reading books, playing trains (my son’s FAVORITE!), doing a DIY family project or taking a walk. Whatever is meaningful to you and your family, do that and do it without distractions.

By spending quality time with your family every day there will never be a question to you or them where your priorities lie.

These 4 practices have helped me maintain a work-family balance, and I believe when implemented regularly they will help you too.

How do you prioritize your family while working behind the bar?

Antasha Durbin

Antasha is a seasoned bartender with more than seven years of bartending and hospitality experience. She is also a spiritual writer at cajspirituality.com, where she writes free, easy-to-digest and highly actionable advice on spirituality, mindfulness and empowered living. You can follow her on Twitter @cajspirituality for daily inspiration.