I always knew I wanted a family, which was a major factor in my decision to launch my own PR agency. My work experience prior to launching Victory made it clear that the face-time model of most offices wouldn’t support my vision of working motherhood, and about three years after I took on my first client, I became a mom.
Adjusting to life as a new mom with a full-time business to run was full of ups and downs (some of which were comically bad. Like how I thought strapping my son to my chest was a solid childcare plan – handsfree! It was not). It was also full of small victories that I learned to celebrate a little as I went. Even today – five years into working motherhood – I still feel proud of myself for getting all three of us ready for the day in the morning and out the door on time. Extra points for smiling faces!
Simply giving myself a pass on the things that I couldn’t really control- like when my baby would eventually sleep through the night – took a tremendous amount of pressure off.
While those early days weren’t always pretty and were very often unproductive, these days I’ve hit my stride and feel incredibly fulfilled by my dual role as mom and entrepreneur. I’ve found that by establishing firm boundaries between my time with my family and my time with my work, and by carving out separate time to do the things I need to do for my well-being, I can enjoy it all despite the frenetic pace. (Pro tip – sleeping counts, which is why you will never find me up at 11 p.m. baking for the bake sale. Sorry not sorry.)
Whether you’re considering becoming a parent or are currently deep in the trenches of newborn-land or toddlerhood, here are 4 hard-won lessons from me for finding balance and navigating that working mom life.
1. Allow yourself some time to adjust to your new life
Before I had my son I was sure I was ready for what life would be like once he was born. I understood that it would be hard, but I felt prepared and excited to take it on. My husband and I crafted plans for just about every aspect of my son’s first year that we could – we read every book we could get our hands on and developed a philosophy for all of the hot-button topics. Before my son was born I knew how my maternity leave would go, how I would feed him, and how I would manage his sleep.
What I utterly failed to account for in my planning was how his birth would affect me, like the hormonal rollercoaster ride I’d be on many months after his birth. As a result, I often felt an unpleasant mix of failure and disappointment that things didn’t go as I planned.
Eventually, I realized what I needed was to adjust to my new life. For me, that was primarily a mental shift. Simply giving myself a pass on the things that I couldn’t really control- like when my baby would eventually sleep through the night – took a tremendous amount of pressure off. The result was that I was able to prioritize better and enjoy the truly magical chaos that is working motherhood.
2. Learn to accept help
I lost count of how many times well-intentioned family and friends (and complete strangers) told me to ask for help in the months before my son was born. The truth is I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand what could be so hard about asking for help and I had absolutely no idea how much help I would need (see item #1). What I wish I’d realized is that I needed to be able to accept other people’s help, not ask for it. There’s a crucial difference. I spent a lot of time re-folding clothes, re-loading the dishwasher, and re-organizing closets in those early months, and those are hours I’ll never get back.
What I wish I’d realized is that I needed to be able to accept other people’s help, not ask for it. There’s a crucial difference.
An experienced working mom, much wiser than I, once explained to me that what I would have to make peace with things done slightly differently than I would do them myself. As long as the most important things were taken care of – my family was well cared for – I could learn to be flexible on the other stuff. I did and I’m much happier and more productive for it
3. Don’t compare yourself to other people
This is golden advice for anyone, really, but no one more so than new moms. I used to marvel at the other moms I’d see whose babies were sitting happily in their strollers, moms who themselves seemed put-together and at ease. When I finally mentioned it to another woman who seemed particularly good at managing it all, she responded with what can only be described as maniacal laughter. She clued me in on the fact that all new moms endure their own struggles and I wasn’t alone in what felt like a clumsy transition to motherhood.
It’s true that old habits die hard and I’d be lying if I said I never compare myself to other moms anymore, especially those who look like they are just killing it. But here’s what I remind myself: we all have our good days and our bad days. They’re both temporary and they’re both a part of what makes life as a working mom so satisfying. There’s nothing like looking back to the early days of motherhood, when you probably felt like you were at a peak mess, remembering that tiny baby you had, and chuckling at the thought of how far you’ve both come.
4. Accept that there will be disruptions
Once I officially returned to work I felt constantly upended by the stream of what felt like neverending disruptions. From doctors’ appointments that always took more time than planned to sleep regressions on top of an already laughable sleep “schedule,” so much of early motherhood was at odds with my ability to get back into a work schedule. I was accustomed to fielding the fires that erupt day-to-day as a publicist and it was useful to apply some of that same thinking to my experience as the working mom of an infant. In those early days, I found the best way to manage the disruptions was to actually lean right into them.
I was accustomed to fielding the fires that erupt day-to-day as a publicist and it was useful to apply some of that same thinking to my experience as the working mom of an infant.
As any new mom will attest, spit up and other messes are part of the deal. I spent a lot of energy trying to avoid being spit up on before I headed out for work and lost a lot of time to last-minute wardrobe changes. In doing so, I was struggling against one of the many little disruptions that punctuate a working mom’s life, adding an unnecessary layer of frustration. Instead of trying to avoid spit up (good luck) or simply going to work with spit up on me (which believe me, still happened), I started wearing a robe over my clothing whenever I was dressed. In making slight adjustments to my behavior and expectations like this one, I was better able to navigate this new world I found myself in and all of the little curve balls it would throw at me.
It was a challenge to figure out how to balance my desire to be with my baby with the ambition I felt to succeed professionally. There were times I thought I had it all figured out, only to realize that the plan needed tweaking.
New motherhood is hard and often disorienting and when you layer a demanding career on top of it, the challenges become even more complex. In my case, they were amplified by the fact that Victory PR was also my baby in a sense. I grew and nurtured it into a business I was proud of, and when I was away from it, the effects were noticeable. It was a challenge to figure out how to balance my desire to be with my baby with the ambition I felt to succeed professionally. There were times I thought I had it all figured out, only to realize that the plan needed tweaking.
I deeply appreciated when other women were honest about their own struggles and I try to always be honest about my own. That honesty with myself and others has been a crucial part of my motherhood journey. It has opened the door to more meaningful relationships with my friends and family, my sons, my work and most certainly a deeper understanding of myself.
The excitement of working motherhood never quite ends, but thanks to these five essential tips, I got through new working motherhood not just unscathed, but a better mother and publicist and I know you can, too.