When I was a kid, I used to love spending the day at my mom’s office. I’d ask for “work” and they’d give me a stack of papers to file and my very own conference table. I don’t want to brag, but I was kind of a big deal. Even back then, I knew I didn’t want to be an accountant like my mom. (To this very day, numbers — unless in the form of Benjamins and soon-to-be Tubmans — provoke heart palpitations and a level of concentration my right-brained mind literally fights against.) But I knew I was going to be a woman who worked, whether I had kids or not.
Yesterday was “Take Your Daughter to Work Day,” and I imagine hundreds of little girls around the country saw a side of their moms they may not see every day. Maybe they even caught glimpses of what they’ll be (or don’t want to be) someday. I know that growing up with a working mom helped shape the working mom I am today.
Before children, work largely dominated my life. As a magazine editor, I worked around the clock and spent more than a few nights at the office during crunch time. Once I left that fulfilling, but exhausting job for a more balanced corporate agency environment, I continued the longish hours. It was without question, a less stressful job, but I still found myself responding to late-night emails from the boss, staying late to finish projects and working hard toward that next promotion.
This was who I was. My work ethic was part of what defined me. And I liked it. I was proud to be a strong working woman like my mom.
Then I had C.J. And something inside me changed. I didn’t want to go back to work. I’d rather talk baby poop and breastfeeding than content strategy and summit themes.
Even though I didn’t want to, even though it took every inch of strength to leave my tiny, sweet 12-week old baby in the arms of a perfect stranger, I did go back. I didn’t do it for purely financial reasons (though that helped). And I didn’t do it because staying home wasn’t an option. I did it because felt an obligation to myself and my family to at least try on the title of Working Mom.
For the first few weeks, I sat at my desk (or pumped in the “Mother’s Room”) thinking, I’d rather be elbow deep in baby poop. I’d rather be practicing our tummy time. I’d rather be feeling his heartbeat against mine.
Then out of nowhere, I was pulled into a big pitch to a big company. And without even realizing it, glimpses of the old me began to show themselves. The thrill of putting together digital strategies and brainstorming new app ideas — and even the near-vomit-inducing anxiety of presenting — helped lift me out of the New-Mom Fog and into the I-Am-A-Working-Mom, Hear-Me-Roar mentality.
My drive to work had returned, but it was a different kind of drive than I had before. I worked hard while I was on the clock, but I left at 5:30 p.m., no matter what was going on at the office. I’d drop everything in an instant when his daycare called to report a fever. When C.J. was sick, I stayed home. And I longed for more flexibility, more time than just evenings and weekends with my son. I still wanted to work. But I craved a level of flexibility that my current company (and so many others out there) wouldn’t support.
So when C.J. turned 18 months old, my husband and I decided that I would launch my own freelance writing business — a longtime dream of mine — in hopes of bringing more balance, more stability and more joy to our family.
That was a little more than a year ago, and I couldn’t be happier with my working mom status.
I’m currently 16 weeks away from giving birth to our daughter. And I look forward to bringing her to work one day. Even if “work” just so happens to be at home.