Let's talk about something we all feel but don't want to admit openly for a minute. Being a working mom is hard. No one prepares you for the struggle and juggles that you face daily. I know. I'm right here with you trying to juggle everything.
When I had my son in 2015, I went back to work 12 weeks later. In some ways, it was amazing because I felt like myself again. I didn't thrive during maternity leave. I struggled a bit (a lot) with my new role. It was everything I'd ever wanted, but it didn't come as naturally as I expected and was hard because of a combination of feeding issues, sleep deprivation, and postpartum depression. Returning to my office felt like walking into an old friend's home, somewhere familiar with rules that I already understood. Suddenly, the rules at home had changed, and there wasn't a rule book to follow to explain anything. I remember crying all the way to work because I was leaving my infant at home and returning to work but then also being happy to have an uninterrupted hot meal at lunch for the first time in three months. Who knew a hot meal without interruptions would feel that good?
During the first year of his life, there were a lot of ups and downs. There were business trips that took me away from home for days on end. While the quite time was amazing for recharging a weary mama's soul, the guilt from being away was too much. The videos the nanny texted made me smile and want to cry at the same time. There was my boy, and I was a 5-hour plane ride away missing it all. But I was killing it in my meetings, and clients were happy, and somehow, I had managed to be the elusive working mom. But I wasn't happy, and I didn't want to admit it yet.
I worked early hours so that I could reduce my commute time. My office was 35 miles from home, and with traffic in Phoenix, it was easily an hour or more during rush hour. If I went in at 6 am, it was only 35 minutes. So, I started working East Coast hours, which worked out well since so many of my employees were in the New York office. I started my day at 6:30, coming into the office in the dark so that I could be home to have more time with my boy after work. But as he grew, I couldn't sneak into his nursery for a kiss before leaving because I'd make him stir, and he'd wake too early (he had a LOT of sleep issues when he was little). I'd tuck him in at night and not see him again until after 4 pm the next afternoon, and that KILLED me. That was so hard to not see my boy for almost 24 hours at a time. The memory of those days makes me tear up even now.
As frustrating as his sleep issues were, at least I got to see my boy and snuggle him in the middle of the night. I remember being in the office one day for our management team meetings, and my boss questioned me about my commitment to the job based on something I said in a massively sleep-deprived haze. I had very literally been up all night with a teething baby. I'd had no more than 45 minutes of sleep and was sitting there in the conference room with the rest of the management team when all I wanted to do was collapse and fall into bed for a few hours. At that moment, I knew this wasn't working for me, and it wasn't working for our family. I was pulled in too many directions. I was missing out on too many milestones. The nanny texted me a video of my son crawling for the first time. She saw it; I got it on video. Insert massive mommy guilt right here.
I began looking for a new job that would work better for our family. One that would allow me to be a more present mom. Something with a shorter commute. My current company had discussed moving to a location that would work better for me since I was the one currently overseeing the office, but it wasn't happening. They'd renewed the lease in the same location again. I knew something had to change because continuing as things were wasn't an option.
About three months after my son's first birthday, my company sold to an investment firm. I wondered what was going to happen to us but listened when we were told we would be OK. Our jobs were safe. They weren't coming in and taking over. One of my favorite employees, a working mom who had helped guide me through my transition into the role, submitted her resignation shortly after they announced the sale. She told me she'd been through this before, and people always get laid off. She was going through a divorce and couldn't risk being laid off. She took a secure but less exciting role with a stable company that was within 10 minutes of her kids' schools and her house. I couldn't blame her one bit; the commute alone would have changed my life so much.
60 days later, my role was eliminated, and I was laid off. At the time, I thought it was horrible. I was earning six figures. I loved my team. I loved my clients. I loved what I did for a living. But the reality is, I hated how conflicted I was in my role as a working mom and how much I was missing from my son's life. I still remember the HR director reassuring me, the layoff had nothing to do with me, the decision was made by people who had never met me and didn't know anything about me or my work history. It was a numbers game. And she assured me, things would be much better in the future. She knew I'd be OK, and I'd figure out a plan that worked better for my family and me. She had been a single mom for years and raised her kids on her own. She understood the working mom struggle.
I spent a few months interviewing for jobs I didn't want due to the commute. I didn't want to miss out on so much again. By then, I was taking my son to school and picking him up every day. I had more time with him than I'd had since I returned to work from maternity leave. I didn't want to give it up again.
Shortly after I was laid off, I had coffee with a friend who had gone out on her own a few years before and was now a work from home mom with a little boy about a year older than my son. She finally asked me point blank, why aren't you going out on your own. It was hard to admit, as much as I wanted to, I was terrified to make the change. What if I couldn't do it? What if I couldn't earn a living? What if I couldn't find clients? What if I failed? Those words were so hard to say, but there they were. She looked at me and asked, "have you ever failed at anything? What makes you think you'd start today?". And she was right. I could do it, but I didn't have the confidence to admit it just yet. It took me a few more months of working on both simultaneously – building a website for this business I wanted to start (this wasn't the first time, I did it when I was pregnant with the hope of never going back until I found out if I didn't go back and work for a full year, I owed my company my maternity leave pay and that was about $20,000 so yeah…. Not an option) and looking for a job that would work better for our family.
That spring, my husband and I had a heart to heart during a date night. I was on the verge of taking a position with a good company in town that looked like it would probably work OK for our family, but it wasn't ideal. They were willing to allow me to work 7-4 to help with commuting and get my son on time, but they only gave two weeks of PTO when I was used to almost 4. They weren't work from home friendly. It wasn't ideal, but it wasn't bad either, and it would allow me to return to earning six figures quickly.
My hubby looked at me and said, "You don't want this job." I questioned because, of course, I did. It was an excellent job with a billion-dollar company. It was on the digital marketing team leading content strategy for a major retailer and based out of the corporate office. It was the level of position that I was used to holding. He continued, "you don't want the job. You want the paycheck". Well yeah. Wouldn't you? He then looked at me and said, "your heart is set on going out on your own. Are you ready to admit that it's what you want?". I don't know I I was genuinely ready to make that leap, but it's what I wanted more than anything.
The next day I called and removed myself from consideration for the position. I was going out on my own. It took me six months to land that first client, but from there, things snowballed, and I had three clients in 90 days. I've steadily had clients for a little over two years now. We're coming up on the 3rd anniversary of the day I was laid off, and today, I can look back and realize that it was a blessing and one of the best things to ever happen to me because it allowed me to take the time and find something that worked better for our family. The reality is, had I not been laid off; I'd probably still be working for the same company and facing the same struggles I was back then. And, had I taken the role that I removed myself from consideration for, I'd have likely had to quit when my family moved for my husband's job last fall. I would have been starting over again instead of able to take a week off to move and get right back to work. Things work out, don't they?
My son is 4 ½ now and will start kindergarten in the fall. He doesn't remember me working outside of the house. He has no memory of mommy not being there to see him in the morning or of mommy missing out on anything (or everything as it felt like at times). I'm able to get him up in the morning, have breakfast together, take him to school, and then I work while he's there. I pick him up in the afternoons, and if he's got lessons – swim, soccer, dance, or a playdate or whatever – he's a social kid, mommy can take him. When he scored his first goal in soccer, I was there. When he learned to ride a two-wheeler, I was there.
Today, I'm able to be there for everything that matters. I can volunteer in his classroom and help the kids carve pumpkins and then run home, turn on my laptop, and take a client call. His school recently had a half-day, and I dropped him off and worked from a coffee shop down the street while he was in class for 2 1/2 hours. Then I picked him up, and we went out to lunch together, and I worked while he napped. It was a great day rather than causing stress due to childcare issues.
Yes, it can be stressful when there's a half-day, he gets sick, or school is closed, but you know what, it's better than it was working for someone else because I can control my schedule now and I'm not worried about counting PTO days and running out before the year ends. My hubby and I don't have to do the sick kid childcare dance, though there are moments, I'd rather not be "it." ;)
If you're thinking about making the change, don't let fear stop you. Once you figure out what your business is and get it up and running, you'll look back and wonder why you didn't make the change sooner. I'm here to tell you that it doesn't always have to this hard as a working mom. You can build a business that works for you and allows you to have control over your income and schedule. I made the change. You can too. I'm developing a course now that will walk you through how to make the change too. If you're thinking about leaving corporate or dreaming of a less stressful life where you're in control of your schedule, I hear you and I'm here to help. Stay tuned. :)