How I Do This Thing, Toddler In Tow
Tuesday February 6, 2018
Working mama life - I learned soon after Charlotte was born that this was a thing. Yes, I took maternity leave, but quite honestly, what does that look like when you're suddenly relearning who you are as a mom while running a company or doing work that you love? There's no such thing as completely shutting off so that you can adjust to life turned on its head. That's how I felt, wholly undone, unsure of who I was, examining my life upside down and trying to figure out how we got there. The constant tension - loving the sweet smell of her forehead, hating the exhaustion, desperately craving adult conversations, basking in the miracle of this tiny human - it all seemed endless.
The first month after C was born, I was designing for a Hallmark collaboration while she nursed, laying on the Brest Friend strapped around my waist. In hindsight, had I known what adjusting to a newborn would be like, I would not have taken on that partnership. But in the process, and many others following, I've been figuring out what it means to love my daughter and work simultaneously. Can it be done, and done well?
It seems to be a universal struggle among mamas who know they thrive in the workplace, exercising daily the gifts and talents they've been given, while wanting to be present for their littles. I want to note here that I see how privileged I am to be able to have these conversations; not everyone gets to pursue careers fueled by their passions and many women simply have to work because food needs to be put on the table, bills need to be paid. I won't pretend to know what that's like and have few words other than a million blessings to you, superwomen.
Now that we're 20 months in with both my baby and Our Heiday growing, I've learned a few ways to do this dance, at times stumbling, at times well, and these are a few current takeaways of how I juggle it all, toddler in tow.
1. Invest In A Team.
One of the first things that we did after we experienced a tremendous amount of growth after our first NSS was invest in a team. Donna joined me after that first year, working remotely from New York, and we had two packaging assistants. Though we've been through a whole host of experiences with hiring and shifting our team dynamics, we've learned from the start that the right people are always worth the investment. If Donna and I want to do this working mama thing well, we will always have to rely on people, rely on our people. It has freed up time for me to focus on being present at home while committing to the parts of this company that I do best and allocating other responsibilities to those who do other things far better than I could. The thrill and responsibility of providing livelihoods for others is a part of my job that I didn't realize I'd love so much.
Practically speaking, it's a tough step. Yes, it will mean that a large portion of your initial income will flow right through you and to your team. But I promise you, every solid hire has brought incredible growth to our company and we would not be here without them. I wouldn't be able to do working mom life without them.
2. Choose Them First.
For me, being a good mom to C and loving my work always feels like I have to prioritize one over the other. It never feels like I can hold them in equal weight. The fluidity of motherhood and business life brings a different set of choices everyday and it's often the compilation of those small decisions that ultimately dictate and reflect the direction of my heart. Should I stay the extra hour to get few more things done? How many emails can I answer while she's playing with her stickers? Oof, that deadline - should I go into the studio to finish up a few designs on Saturday?
At times, work will seep in and there are things that simply have to get done. But when I pause before jumping right into the next deadline, the next email (there will always be deadlines, there will always be emails), I realize that doing this dance means that I get to choose to turn left rather than mindlessly going right. This means that I pick Charlotte up from daycare between 4:00-4:30 everyday. It means Fridays I choose to be home with her, even though I can't ignore work entirely. The choice looks like staying as present as possible and consciously setting my phone aside while we run around at the park or read the same book for the tenth time. And pausing. Emails can wait. It's the stringing of all the small decisions, friends. They'll tell you where you're headed.
3. Don't Apologize.
We talk so much about motherhood and work because we believe that both can be done, hand in hand. When I first went back to work, I battled a lot of guilt, wondering if I was a bad mother for wanting to get back to the studio. For missing the way things used to be. Did this mean I didn't love my child as much as other moms? No. Those lies never belong here. When I see all the things Charlotte is learning at school and how much better I am for her after fully utilizing other parts of myself, I settle in to where we are. And I don't apologize for choosing this for my family. I'm learning to speak openly and proudly about my work because I'm so grateful for the opportunity to stand alongside so many other mamas learning to do this well. I see the value of strong, career-oriented women across all of time and as we raise Charlotte, especially in light of our current climate, I rest in knowing that this is the story being written for us now.
Not for a second do I think I have this figured out. I'm certain that as I learn more about who my daughter is, who she was created to be, and all of the different stages that come with parenthood, my thoughts and responses will evolve. For now, though, this has become our rhythm and the days we miss a beat, we call out for grace. New mercies, every morning. Here's to mothering, here's to working.
from one mama to another,