The whole idea of discussing working and childcare as a mother is kind of funny if you think about it because I can guarantee you’ll never see an article titled ‘Top Tips For Juggling A Successful Career And Fatherhood’ trending on Facebook! I’ve been looking forward to this topic since each of the women in this group have such a wide variety of careers. Most are freelance, I have a full-time job for a wonderful company and some run their own businesses. You’re really getting the full monty with this topic!
I was that naive pregnant gal who thought that I would easily return to work after like three weeks, or at least, work from home during my maternity leave. I mean, how hard could it be? The baby is just sleeping or cooing and entertaining themselves all day just like all those cute babies you see on Instagram. Plus, nursing looked so easy and could be done from anywhere, so it seemed like I had it all figured out. To think of it, I miss my ignorant pregnant self.
After Parker was born, I remember raking my brain trying to think of another mom that we knew who had a similar situation as ours - both parents work, she has a full-time job, he travels frequently for his job, their lifestyle is in a similar income position and neither of their parents live in the city to provide free childcare. I just wanted a family to compare our situation to so I could model my work/childcare/personal life after theirs. Just someone to look at and be like ‘that…. I can do that!’. In the end, we realized literally every family that we knew here in the city had a different and unique situation they had created for themselves. I was stuck to actually figure out what I wanted and how I was going to make that work. Ugh, adult problems are the worst.
I have an immense amount of respect for full-time mothers, C.E.O status mothers and mothers who juggle part-time jobs to be home and work. Because E’s schedule changes on the daily and he needs that flexibility, putting Parker in a time structured daycare situation would’ve been a disaster for us. I would indefinitely be the mom who always got in trouble for being late for drop off/pick-up. So, currently I wouldn’t have been able to continue my job without the help of our nanny, Rachael (and Jean Michelle and Joanna before her), or as I lovingly call theses ladies….. my work wives! My wives have come from within our community and have enabled me to keep my job and my peace of mind that Parker will still be a kickass kid. They are family to us and I thank them every day….. mostly while they are entertained by my failed attempts to find matching shoes and get toothpaste out of my hair in the morning. They’ve seen a lot of tears, hugs and eye-rolling, and are probably counting their lucky stars they aren’t actually married to this piece of work. But man do I love seeing my child flourish with these creative, smart and beautiful women around and I love seeing how much Parker adores them. I consider myself a pretty honest mom and I will never pretend that I do all that I do on my own.
After two and a half years managing my full-time job and being CEO of all things Parker Mae….. I’ve had some realizations and thoughts on the whole 'working mom' topic. So if you are a new mom trying to decide what to do post maternity leave or just a mom thinking through the juggle, my experience has been both from a 'working outside of the house' and 'working from home' perspective - I’m in both scenarios. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way ::
If you choose to work for the man, choose the good guys. Nearly every day I thank my lucky stars that I work for a company that values families, mothers and each of our unique situations. Had I become pregnant while working at my previous job... the most likely response would not have been one of excitement and joy, but more ‘Hmmm, that’s unfortunate for you. How are you with emails in the delivery room?’. Truthfully, if you want to work outside of the home, look around at the other mom’s within your company and ask yourself (or just ask them directly) if this is their ideal scenario. If you want to pick up your kids from school and be home for dinner, but all the mothers at that company are still working at 8pm every night…… you’re probably not in the right place for you. Don’t put it all on the company, it also falls on your expectations, specific job requirements and willingness to examine how they coexist with each other.
Don’t compare. It’s impossible to know the in’s and out’s of another mother’s situation. I struggled (and still do) when other bloggers continued to post at length three times a week immediately following the birth of their child. I would see them taking their newborns to meetings or updating their social media at all hours and seemingly not missing a step in their day. I’m not saying what they were doing was wrong, I’m saying that I allowed that to alter my personal view of how much I should be doing or balancing or accomplishing as a new mother. If there was ever the choice between writing a blog post or napping in those first few months…. it was always napping that won.
Speak up and don’t apologize. It’s healthy to have tough conversations! No emails after hours or on weekends? Be sure your team knows that. 6pm meetings? No way Jose. Boundaries should be openly discussed and agreed upon. Be open to flexibility, but don’t constantly say sorry when you decline invitations if you want to be home to put your daughter to bed by 7pm. That’s not something to be sorry about, just don’t shy away from stating your priorities ahead of time.
Learn to say no. Learn to say yes. I’m that person that always said ‘yes’ to everything. I constantly over planned my days with both necessary and unnecessary engagements. It’s pretty easy to do here in New York - there’s always something going on. Parker has been both a great scapegoat to get out of things, explain my tardiness or realize that I’d honestly rather just hang out with her all day than overpack my agenda. On the flip side, also be sure to say yes to those quality invites that are life giving. A much needed girls night out with karaoke and wine? Make the time, you deserve it mama.
You define what ‘success’ means. Having a successful career doesn’t mean you have to be the CEO of your company. If you need or choose to have a job, find one that helps you feel both fulfilled and successful. I believe this can be anything - a part-time librarian to the president of your own company. It all depends on your definition and no one else’s.
BYOB (bring your own baby). Your client needed to move your coffee meeting and you can’t find a sitter? BYOB. They more you do it, the better they get at it and the more comfortable you become with it. Take charge and pick a place you know is kid-friendly, but still meeting appropriate. Sure, you’ll have to rely on endless Cheddar Bunnies and maybe some iPhone videos to get through your coffee and have some worthwhile conversation, but you will still get that quality face-to-face interaction that is good for your soul! No one is ever angry about a tag along baby.
Don’t compartmentalize. Things don’t have to be work in one box and family in another. There are only 24 hours in a day and you need to sleep so find ways to work at home while your child naps or answer emails at the playground (don't judge). I've actually never seen myself work as fast as when I realize there is a ticking time bomb in the other room that will eventually put an end to my working spree.
Stash the necessities. For me, I’ve definitely made it all the way to the office without mascara or undereye concealer on before. And was mortified. So I keep duplicates of my can't live without makeup products in my desk drawer, a spare set of heels and dry shampoo. Fake it til you make it. Oh, there’s also an extra bra…. cause that got forgotten once during those oh-so-memorable nursing days. Whoops.
Write it down, twice. Pregnancy brain turns into mom brain and mom brain makes you think Wednesday is Friday. Mom brain will try to trick you, it will remove the ability to memorize anything and starts to resemble amnesia. I have all of my Google calendars synced, plus a to-do list and a notepad next to my bed. Oh, and usually there’s about 6-8 sticky notes around the apartment.
Be sure to check out and follow along with the other amazing mamas who are sharing their stories as part of this series. Also be sure to check out our previous topics: travel, feeding and sleep. Links below! #realtalkseries