Before I had my daughter, I was hung up on a particular definition of “success”, one that meant long hours, stressful decision-making and a fat paycheck. I wanted to be a role model for my daughter. I wanted her to know that you could be a supportive mother while building a career.
We all know the age-old tale.
My daughter was born. I then knew anything I had said prior to giving birth was general nonsense.
6 months into being back from maternity leave, I was easily convinced the model of “success” I built in my head was way off. I wasn’t cracked up to being away from my daughter for 12 hours a day. My high-stress position as a creative manager overseeing a team of designers across the globe was no longer fulfilling. My tendency toward being independent began to shift gears into only wanting to care for a tiny, helpless being. I found myself in the bathroom crying or gripping my desk with white knuckles regularly. My patience was slipping and my concentration was off because I could only think about the 15 pathetic minutes I had in the morning and evening with my infant.
I realized my child would have to see me in order to appreciate my hard work. How could I be a role model to my daughter if I was sitting at a desk or in a meeting most of the day? Would the ability for me to take us on trips or buy her things at the drop of the hat surpass spending actual time with her? Be more important than watching her grow and learn?
Where was that balance I so craved… that I knew other mothers needed as well?
It really, really fucking sucked.
I had to think long and hard about what my options were. We had just bought a house. If left my job, I didn’t have a backup. Even without having the experience firsthand, I knew I wasn’t stay-at-home-mom material long term. The job market closer to home was slim-pickings. I wasn’t going to make the salary I had anywhere else but New York City.
Regardless, I knew I had to leave. I put in my notice. I was so unhinged that I had trouble handling it in a professional manner. The conversation began with a meeting I called with my creative director…
“…uhh okay… so, I need to resign…”
were the only words I spouted from my mouth. (So eloquent, right?) But who knows how to approach those situations until you experience them? Especially when your nerves have fizzled out and you’re pretty sure your synapses haven’t been firing since you gave birth. I was lucky enough to have a good relationship with my supervisor so she understood my stuttering, but I was in shock that she didn’t see it coming. Surely I had a neon sign above my head that read “HELP.” We made a plan of action to find my replacement, begrudgingly, and began the interview process. I wanted to make sure that whoever filled my shoes would be loved and respected as much as I had felt.
After that meeting, I finally saw that infamous light at the end of the tunnel. That tunnel may have said “no income, no job security, no city life”… but it looked so, so beautiful. It felt like closure.
It was difficult to not regret my decision every so often–my coworkers were family and we grew so much together… through brand refreshes, launches, mergers… to having kids, getting married, buying houses. But I had a new family and my priorities needed to shift.
Being a stay-at-home mom was not in my grand scheme of things… but being a work-every-second-and-never-see-your-child parent wasn’t either.
A month or so went by and my last day arrived. No more lunch shifts pumping in a windowless room. No more emails answered at 2am. No more 6am train rides with so many delays I still get in at 9–or more importantly–no more long commutes home that get me in after my daughter’s bedtime.
I had no plans–at all. I had no mom friends–at all. I was shutting a hypothetical door closed in my life and forcing another one open that I hadn’t even seen yet. This wasn’t some “…and this opportunity fell into my lap!” situation as I was used to, using connections to find other opportunities. This was me, myself and my baby, sitting at home. I remember sitting on my couch and thinking “okay, here we are now… but what’s next?”
So what was my next move? Finding the balance between the two. And how the hell was I going to do that?
I freshened up my portfolio site. I blindly applied for jobs closer to home, even though I was fearful of getting on the parkway (ahhh… city girl life.) I went on interviews that appeared hopeful yet yielded no positive results.
It was very, very hard.
I joined local moms groups, went to storytime at every library in the county and tried my damndest to remember that everything was okay as my savings account dwindled.
Then it happened. I got a call back from an agency that was only 5 minutes from my daughter’s old daycare. They wanted to hire me on as a contractor designer. I began work there and balanced it with a shelter magazine in the area where I was completing logistical work for their new website. This relationship blossomed into the position I hold today–director of communications–for the same magazine. What once was a project with a scope of 40 hours (in total) grew into a full-time job.
Whoa. That door did appear.
In motherhood, success is not just a 7 letter word. Your definition of success could be being a kick-ass stay-at-home mom. It may be working 16 hours a day and really using your weekends to the fullest with your family. It may mean starting your own business from home while your newborn is nursing from you.
My version of success continues to transform and meld into different iterations. No matter what space I fit into at whatever time, my success is now always built in taking care of myself and my child. It is staying inspired, surrounding myself with creative and influential women, and having a supportive community. It is being honest with myself and sometimes creating my own path, rather than just following it.