I sat staring at the cursor trying to start this post, something from my heart, and coming up blank. Then my phone dinged with a text, and it was from my husband saying, “Hey, we’re going to the gym in 10, let me know if you wanna hide or come see Coco before we go.” (Let me just say upfront, I wrote this post before the chaos of Covid-19 exploded last week, before social distancing was strongly encouraged and the gym/public places were still welcoming and open to the public.)
You might be wondering why you would find me hiding in the pantry of our home, but the truth is, we’re going through a “mama phase,” where anytime Conley sees me, she wants me. And the second I need to go, it’s like the world is ending with both of our hearts breaking and crying actual tears (on her part mostly, but sometimes my eyes leak a little, too). So yes, I’ll hide in my home so she doesn’t see me and realize I’m around but working. File this under: things I never thought I’d have to do, but alas, it’s a reality of being a working (from home) mama.
Let me preface every word of this post to acknowledge: In light of everything that’s going on in our world lately, it’s become super clear how truly damn lucky I am that THIS is my reality. I’ve known that I am blessed, but the events happening right now are making it more apparent than ever that this life and my work is such an immense blessing. I am not wondering what I’ll do until this passes or worrying about canceled and postponed weddings like I would’ve had to do in my wedding photography days. I can continue showing up for and serving my community from the comfort of my home.
It is a flat-out privilege to work from my couch (or closet) with a laptop in my lap and a dog at my feet. I am also wildly fortunate to have a supportive spouse who desired to become a stay-at-home-dad and who remains impeccably committed to encouraging my dreams while filling in my many gaps.
Most working mamas have to rouse the house, pack the bags, rush out the door, commute, and work long hours away from their families, and the fact that we get to do life under one roof and that the work I do can be done anywhere is a huge blessing. I’m recognizing and checking my privilege before I continue because I see it, and I give thanks for it every day. While we don’t have outside help beyond my mom 1x a week, we have the option to get extra help and are choosing to navigate it as the three of us. That is more than most can say. When it comes to working situations, I couldn’t dream up a better scenario.
There are so many aspects of my day-to-day life that make me laugh. The fact that I now work to the background noise of giggles and that I know that Curious George is on PBS right at 8. Or that I schedule my work around nap times so that I can put my girl down before diving back in. There’s usually a midday family lunch break, where food gets thrown on the ground and our dogs eagerly sit under the highchair awaiting some snacks (while we vow to take them on extra walks as soon as Minnesota thaws out!).
There’s so much goodness in our days, but with all of the activity, it’s taught me a lot about finding a rhythm in working from home when it’s not really the quiet, serene space that you’d imagine it being. You might have these visions of a glass of wine and The Bachelor playing in the background while you take over the world on your laptop, and that’s just not accurate in my world! So here are my confessions, as a mama who’s equally aware of my privilege and in awe that we’ve been able to build this sustainable work-from-home life.
Confession 01: My resilience has been tested.
Let me explain. When I used to work for Target, one of the traits we would call out in our leaders was the ability to be “resilient and adaptable.” I felt I possessed that trait until I became a work-from-home mama, and all of a sudden, at the drop of a hat, I’d go from being on a Facebook LIVE teaching thousands of people to nursing a baby in a dark room to the hum of white noise.
I no longer have the ability to find and support flow state. I have the opportunity to just simply get work done as efficiently as possible with any amount of time I’ve been given. I don’t have promised 8-hour days to tackle a to-do list, I don’t know if nap time will be 2 or 3 hours, so it’s taught me to hustle in the moments I’ve got so I can rest when life calls me away from work.
Confession 02: My presence has suffered.
My word of the year this year is: here. Because I feel like I’ve been straddling two worlds this past year. When I’m mom-ing, my brain is on work, and when I’m working, my brain is on my baby. It’s this guilt train that doesn’t feel like it’ll ever stop, and so I’ve been really challenging myself to pause, regroup, and be all in on wherever I am at that moment in time.
I hate feeling half in on anything and it’s part of the reality of being a working mom, but I’m also being careful to not succumb to the belief that life will always feel split like that. I’m re-centering myself over and over and over again to meditate on those words: “Be here now.”
I’ve been mindful of leaving my phone behind when I’m laying on the floor playing with wooden vegetables or teaching Coco how to play catch, and I’ve also been mindful at planting my bum firmly wherever I am working and resisting the urge to run to the rescue whenever I hear a cry from the other room. If you ever see me chanting, “Here, here, here,” you’ll know why.
Confession 03: I unapologetically travel alone.
(You know, when travel is permitted and welcomed again.) I just got back from a recent work trip and while I was there, I was asked a million times where Coco was. “She’s at home with her dad!” I happily responded. And that question is one million percent valid because the first year of her life I just strapped her in the Ergo and brought her with me. But as we navigate this new season of life, it is so much better for all of us if I just jet set, do my work, and come on home.
When I’m on the road, I’m working like a crazy woman and maximizing my time away being all-in on the work part so that the second I walk through the door, I can be all-in on the mom life (see: my intention above to be more present, when at home AND traveling). I used to feel guilt for being away, but now I look forward to a few concentrated days of work and time with adults other than Drew. Can I get an amen, work-from-home and stay-at-home parents? Adult time is SO needed, but not always easily accessible.
It’s good for me to take that step away, and it’s been a priority for me to figure out how Drew can also get that “pause” for himself (because Lordy, he deserves it, too!). I can’t imagine someone asking a businessman “how he could possibly leave his baby at home” with judgment, and so I want to admit that I love my work trips away. I have let go of the guilt because I know Coco and daddy are having a fantastic time at home. And I also recognize how lucky I am to be able to sneak away, get work done, and come home to my fam. I also love flying with my hands free and not hauling a carseat through the airport, just saying!
Confession 04: I say “no” to 99% of things.
Being a work-from-home mama has made me get really good at saying “no!” For so long I was a “yes” girl, and as a people pleaser at my core, it took a lot of work to get good at saying “no,” firmly and confidently, but that work has given me the ultimate gift of freedom. I used to be so afraid to ask for what I needed or to say what I really wanted, and the more that I honestly and unapologetically respond to requests with my reality, the more respect I get and the more I realize that almost everything is negotiable!
From phone calls that could easily just be emails to recording video responses on my own time to interview requests to turning down speaking on stages to be home with the fam (fun fact: this increased my demand and worth tenfold just because I said “no” so much!). When I had Coco, I blacked out an entire year, (such a privilege to be able to make that decision). In doing so, I inadvertently freed up my time to work on some smaller projects that fueled giant results, and I gave myself the ability to say “yes” only when it felt right or when I was super passionate about doing something.
Confession 05: My boundaries have changed.
I smile when I listen to older episodes of my podcast where I preach about working boundaries and set shutdown times and flow states and routines… Truth be told, a lot of that has gone out the door as a new mama, and I’ve had to work on that resiliency I spoke of earlier.
I’ve learned the demands of being a work-from-home mama (with support) and acknowledge that some things are simply out of our control. I don’t have 2 hours to sit and sip coffee and journal, and that’s okay. I just need to work with what I’ve got and prioritize the things that are most important to me in this season.
If you’re listening to someone preach about schedules or routines or things that literally don’t or can’t translate into your life, you have my full permission to smile and nod and say, “Good for them!” And then get on with doing the best you can with what you’ve got. I’ve learned that we really do make time for what’s important to us, and it’ll look different for all of us. I definitely clock some late nights these days, I sometimes work through lunch when I am in the thick of something important and on a roll. And I absolutely do NOT have a 2-hour morning routine that sets me up for success.
The beauty of this reality is that I’m doing just about everything I swore I’d never do, and instead of judging myself, I’m having a good ol’ laugh and settling into this new norm with as much poise and grace as a mama with mac and cheese handprints on her clean white t-shirt can manage.
It’s chaotic, it’s new, and the only constant thing for us these days is change. And while some days I find myself dreaming of that office that I once loathed, that peace and quiet to get focused work done, the real truth is I wouldn’t trade this for the world. How lucky am I to get to do the work I love while being with the people I love?
Being a working mama in any capacity is like living in two worlds simultaneously and feeling constantly stretched, but I’d like to believe that we’re being stretched and pulled and molded into the women we were meant to become. That we can be the ones who will show their children that you can do both things, be a mama and have a career, and that it might not be pretty but it sure is worth it.