There are two things I have always wanted in life: to own a business and to be a mother. Determined to make both paths work, I built a boutique marketing agency with motherhood in mind, hoping to afford myself the flexibility to parent in the capacity that was best for our family. When my daughter was born, I wasn’t able to take a maternity leave, but I was able to work from home until my she was five months old. It wasn’t ideal, but we made it work.
After all, that’s what moms do.
Eventually, it was back to the grind in the downtown office. She’s now seven months and I commute like a champ and face the daily hustle, where sometimes it feels like every fiber of my being is dedicated to two areas: working and mothering. And figuring out the balance between the two is the biggest juggling act there is.
On a typical day, I wake up at 5:45am, after being up with the baby at some point between 2:00-4:00am (yes, we’re working on sleep habits.) I quickly shower, get dressed, and nurse the baby while I check email and layout my game plan for the day. I hand her off to the nanny who lets herself in around 6:45. I grab a vitamin and a granola bar, then jog in heels to catch the 7:12 train, where I work on my laptop from the second I sit down until the train rolls into the station. Arrive at work at 7:45am.
Unless I have a meeting, the only time I leave my desk all day is to go up two floors to the handicap bathroom that has been designated Mother’s Room where I pump three times a day. Each time I walk up those stairs, I hope and pray that someone isn’t using that room to make a poopie in private and that I won’t have to wait outside. The impact on my schedule makes me more mad that standing in a stranger’s poop aftermath. How pathetic is that?
At the end of the day, I race out of the office no later than 3:50pm in order to grab a seat on the 4:02, where I log in another 45 minutes of office time. When I walk in the door to relieve the nanny just before 5:00, I switch hats from entrepreneur to wife and mommy. No matter what work is pending, which clients are on standby, I can’t tell my kid to sit tight for a few minutes while I take the call. I have to log in my mothering hours until baby’s bedtime at 6:30, have dinner with my husband so I don’t let my marriage slip, and then typically will go back to work for a few hours until I pass the heck out by 11:30pm.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
I’ve read countless articles that say working mothers always feel like they are dropping the ball in one area or the next. Truthfully, I am too tired for guilt. And I would say by most standards, I am one of the lucky ones.
Being a working mother means sprinting from one location to the next on a schedule that is so carefully planned out that if one conference call runs over, it could mean leaky boobs, a missed train, and an unhappy nanny who needs to be relieved for the evening. In this balancing act, every minute counts, and each coming minute is dependent on the one before. The days blur by and we don’t have time to complain or ask ourselves if we can do better—both for ourselves and for our children.
As working mothers, we need to keep demanding more. We are raising the next generation of workers, politicians and leaders. So whether that means converting the poo bathroom to a Mother’s Room, or being firm about sticking to a schedule that allows you to work and parent, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to make that balance work. Because we know more than anyone that there is a lot more on the line—our children.