10 Things that Mother’s Day Means Now as a Working Mom and Entrepreneur
In March of 2016, I gave birth to my first child. Both of my previous startups were buzzing healthfully along, and I suddenly found myself in a completely unknown universe of motherhood, which was actually like a startup in itself.
I discovered that every mother is like a Chief Operating Officer of a new company. This is the title I had for many years after co-founding THINX, and it seemed pretty fitting — we have no fully relevant previous experience, no instruction manual or anyone else who will do the work for us, we have to set up every single new process on our own, we’re excited about all the changes/completely overwhelmed by all the changes, and we’re not getting a whole lot of sleep.
Being a working mama who is now launching a fourth startup (eek!), while my daughter is now a curiosity-driven 14 month old who is in and out of EVERYTHING (double eek!), means that every day has become a planned and organized system for how hours are spent. This is to ensure the best quality time with her, in addition to finding as many bursts of productivity I can squeeze out of a single day.
As this will be my second-ever Mother’s Day with my daughter, I’ve been thinking about how that day has changed for me, and what it means to me now.
While I could easily fill about 10 volumes (maybe 300 pages each?), with all that the title “Mama” carries, to be both a mother and an entrepreneur, I’ve discovered a few hacks.
Here are a few of the pieces of the puzzle that make everything fit, and what Mother’s Day means to me now:
- Reclaiming the power of being a woman. Women are capable of so much, and I am simply amazed at our natural abilities in how we’ve been created to perform, if we’re supported and allowed to. Corporations and the medical community may want to treat every birth like a necessary medical event for the mighty dollar (when in fact only 13% of births are deemed higher risk to warrant a hospital), but if you give a healthy woman the chance to BE HERSELF, she will rise to the occasion. I gave birth to my child at home, with a doula and midwife, and I wish more women were supported in this way. If so, they could also discover their own ability to birth naturally, powerfully and peacefully, and not have the pressure, sterility and discomfort of a hospital setting. Women are stronger than any of the prevailing systems lead us to believe, and are capable of more than we can even imagine.
- Becoming consistent and steady. I am my daughter’s sun and moon — meaning that, she wakes up with me and goes to bed with me EVERY single night, with the exception of just a few — and she’s a more balanced, confident and happy kid because of it. If I’m gone for the end of her day, the next day simply isn’t as easy. Something gets off in her world, and in mine too, because it’s a very natural thing for a Mama to be there for her child. A mother is best able to easily comfort her child, and to set the tone of reliability, safety, peace and nurturing available in the world by being a steady presence in her child’s daily life. When a child doesn’t have the familiar comfort of a steady care schedule, doesn’t know who she will see and when, or doesn’t have the consistent knowing that when they cry, someone who loves them always comes, part of their developing nervous system saves that as a live wire without a connection. Too many of those negatively stored memories, and they may never feel fully grounded in the kind of peace and comfort that will easily create and maintain the deepest, closest, and loving relationships for the future. If I’m gone for a few hours, my daughter knows with absolute certainty that I’ll return, and that has made all the difference.
- Becoming an earlier riser than I thought I ever could be. I do this in order to meditate every morning before my daughter wakes up. This is how I set the foundation for the day, and tap into a source of greater wisdom and strength far beyond me. If my daughter does wake up early, it’s about being flexible enough to have an imperfect practice, and letting her nurse in my lap as she stares up at me with wide eyes while I chant and sing (which, by the way, is a Divine thing in itself!).
- Speaking to her a LOT. Engaging with her. Teaching her daily. At three months old she knew to cry out the sound “Mama” when she needed me. At seven months, she knew “cat” and could do sign language to ask for mama’s milk. At 12 months onwards, it’s been a cavalcade of words, from cookie, coff-eeeee, baby, ball, toe, and water, to park, cow, “byyy-eee!” Papa, “Wow-ee!” and on, and on. She never ceases to amaze us, and we feel it’s her constant personal interaction that has spurred her on.
- Being truly present when I’m with her. This means to be sure not to have my phone constantly in my hand (which is so hard to do in this digital age, where we’ve been wired for dopamine in checking those messages). And it also means not being distracted by others. Too many people is not what she wants, or needs. She deserves my time and Papa’s time, and wants our time.
- Being amazed at the phenomenal benefits of breast-feeding. There is a power to it unlike any other, as it is her ultimate comfort, thirst-quencher, and calming solution when no other solution will do. Now I know that too many Mamas don’t have the support needed to breast feed, and that drives me crazy (a post for another time), but it’s the healthy Mamas with perfectly wonderful breast-feeding abilities, who choose to put a bottle between themselves and the baby that I would like to converse with. For me, it’s been a cozy snugglehugfest every single time that’s brought a profound level of closeness and ease to our parenting journey (what to mention bringing our serotonin levels through the roof). But I guess it goes back to the fact that I myself was breast-fed. I had that closeness with my own mother, and it would be fascinating research to study how deep adult’s levels of intimacy are, depending on how they were fed as a baby, and nurtured by their mother.
- The discipline it takes to be a nursing Mama, and a working Mama. For the first three months, I was consumed by motherhood, and my body forced me to slow down as it needed to heal. For six weeks, I could barely walk, every organ felt like it was re-settling inside (um, which it was!), and I wore our Icon underwear daily as I retrained my bladder. I nursed my daughter as she needed every 1.5–3 hours, and slept when I could, in fits and bursts. For the next five months, I had the incredible fortune to mostly work from home, and during this time, I learned the science of pumping on a schedule so I could get work done. If not, when I would be back with her, she would want to eat and be close, but get hungry because there wouldn’t be enough. I always wanted there to be enough! Being separated from one’s baby is the most unnatural thing in the world, and if you must be away, the pump is the saving grace. Worrying about where to pump (a private room with an electrical socket nearby is a must, and too rare to find), is only one of the many, many worries I’d like to take away for mothers, but I’ll have to save that discussion for another time.
- The importance of loving caregiving in addition to my own. Living in an apartment with my husband in NYC where family is not nearby (virtually all out of state), we needed help. We were fortunate to be able to get connected with our amazing caregiver, Lilly, who has become a very special Auntie in our family. Lilly makes it ALL work and I embrace that fully! It would be a great service for us all as mothers if we had female CEO’s, celebrities and other high-powered and visible working women set an example, and publicly admit that they don’t do it alone, and maybe even share a glimpse of the people behind the scenes who help make it all work. This way we could all find comfort in knowing what it really takes to “do it all!” Because it truly does take a village. I was very fortunate to discover a wonderful service that works with families worldwide called Innovative Youth Care. While they primarily are referral-based with some of the most visible families families in the world, the owner Alyssa worked with us directly and found Lilly by giving us a level of service I was simply amazed by. Can’t recommend them enough, and speaking of people…
- Having an incredible team of people who help make the startup dreams work. Just like with THINX and Icon, our new company is staffed with people who want to see the dream come true so that it can benefit people everywhere. My time is limited. As a new Mama, it means that I only have about 6 solid hours of work a day, with a few more hours stolen in the morning and evening, if I can. So I found and recruited incredible people who help make it happen. And that actually includes my husband :) Just like he helped us with almost everything in the beginning with THINX, he’s doing the same with our new shoe company (a new solution for women — custom-fit heels and flats that look classic on the outside, but have technology to make them feel like sneakers on the inside), and without him, none of these businesses made for women would have been possible. It always takes a team, and I’m so very grateful for each and every one of them.
- Finally — discovering levels of joy and concern like I’ve never known before. I’ve never laughed so hard, or felt such fear or worry as I have now with my daughter on this planet. It’s brought a richness to my life that I never would have known, and I feel that we’re playing the full set of octaves on the piano of life, and not just two or three.
So… with all that being said, happy Mother’s Day to all of you Mamas out there, and to all of the Mothers who have made this very day possible for all of us. We are ALL HERE because of this phenomenal ability of a woman to grow and give birth to her child, and I honor all of the mothers who are here now, and all of the mothers who are still yet to come. This world needs us, and the world will benefit greatly if it supports all mothers.
More on that to come… :)