The author, husband Charlie and Hudson.
My husband Charlie and I have always been very focused on our careers. I have been with Altria since my college days and Charlie works for another consumer goods company.
We knew our world would change when we welcomed our son Hudson in 2014. My freak-out moments began during my maternity leave. How would we manage our heavy travel schedules? Could we do our jobs well and be good parents? Would we have enough time for each other and for Hudson?
The first month back to work was incredibly hard and each day still presents challenges. However, I have learned to keep things in perspective and manage Crazy Land with a few strategies and reminders:
Plan, plan, plan
Charlie and I live and breathe by our calendars. We send each other meeting requests when we schedule work travel. By doing this, we know in advance if one of us has to reschedule a meeting or arrange for help. We keep all work travel, personal travel and appointments on the same calendar that we both use each day.
Mom guilt is real
Every time I leave my son in the morning or get on an airplane, the guilt sets in. I worry about missing moments with Hudson or that he will resent me for being away from him. The feelings are very real and it is okay to have these feelings. I remind myself often that I am a better mom because I work. I love my job and it gives me the opportunity to provide for Hudson and be happier at home because I am fulfilled in my life. I also hope that he sees how hard both his parents work and sees the value in that as he gets older.
I work for a great company that supports our life choices. Don’t be afraid to have open and honest conversations with your manager about your schedule so that you can work together to prioritize. I will take conference calls from my home office, WebEx into a meeting versus traveling or leave meetings early if needed. With both parents working, my husband and I often have to make changes to our calendars. I have realized that people I work with don’t think differently of me; they understand. It also creates team culture where people feel welcomed to do the same things for their family.
Leave work at work
I try to always remember one thing as a working mom: Quality over quantity. The time I spend with my son is precious, since I am not home during the day and often gone overnight. I try not to take work calls, schedule late conference calls or get on my computer or phone. My husband does the same. When one of us does have to work late, the other uses this time to take Hudson on a special trip (ice cream, park, playdate). Trust me, host one conference call while changing a diaper and you’ll take this advice.
One of the biggest mistakes I make is not having time for myself or my husband. How could I not spend every minute with my son when I am not at work? That’s Mom Guilt talking. I don’t think I had my nails done or went on a date night the entire first year of Hudson’s life. Big mistake. I am so much happier around my child when I am feeling good about myself. So, now Charlie and I have a date night twice a month and we each get personal time on the weekends. Saturday for Charlie and Sunday for me. This was a big learning for me, and my nails sure do look better!
Go back to the ’80s
I drove myself crazy with trying to have the best diet for Hudson, get him in the right classes and create the right activities for playtime. No sugar, gluten free, organic, no TV — no thanks. I grew up with a working mom and watched TV every day while enjoying a Happy Meal with a side of homemade icing. I’m not going that extreme, but have stopped putting so much pressure on myself. He’s going to be fine with a little dash of the ’80s — though I’m definitely saying no to the side of icing.