In 2012, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter Audrey. 12 weeks later, I returned to my full-time job working outside of the house as a multimedia producer for a wonderful company (one that extended me a very generous maternity leave despite the fact that as a small business, the protections that larger companies are required to offer did not apply).
Everything about it was hard. Paying (a lot!) for others to watch my baby and only getting an hour with her each day was HARD. Lugging two bags of breast pump equipment and accessories into the office each day and hiding in a room three times a day to squeeze milk out was HARD. Hearing her call her teachers “mama” instead of me was HARD.
But it was also really amazing. I was able to advance in my career and take on more leadership in projects I was really passionate about. I ran on my lunch breaks and went to the gym on the way home and never had to worry about who was watching the baby while I worked out. I launched a side hustle that allowed me to grow my personal brand and bring in some additional income for our family. And while my time with the baby was limited, I enjoyed every single moment.
Then, my husband was offered a great career opportunity, so we moved. And everything changed.
I went from full-time in-house hours to part-time remote hours at my job. My side hustle got an official upgrade to the real deal when I incorporated and created a business plan. And I found out that I was pregnant.
3 days later, I returned to my almost-full-time job working from home as an online marketing and social media consultant for my own newly-launched business. 11 days after that, I took my first post-partum Skype call. 6 weeks after that, I went back to my remote work for the multimedia company.
Everything about it was hard. Waking up to feed the baby at midnight, 2am, 4am and 6am — and then needing to function on business calls — was HARD. Being the only one around to hold her when she cried during the day was HARD. Trying to keep all of my deadlines straight and manage clients and typing with a fussy baby who cluster fed and refused to nap was HARD. Not having adult interaction outside of conversations with my husband and phone calls with clients was HARD.
Fending off the bitterness of never.getting.a.break. was HARD.
But it was also really amazing. I was able to keep my business going and even take on new projects I was really passionate about, all with my baby on my hip (or breast, often). I had the flexibility of working out anytime I wanted, with the baby cooing at me from her swing only a foot away. I saved money by not having to enroll the baby in expensive infant childcare. And while my time with the baby was anything but limited, I enjoyed a closer bond with her in the first year than I did with Audrey.
When I worked out of the home, I wished I could stay home. When I stayed home, I wished I could spend more time in an office. Having both experiences really validates that no matter what you do, you’ll have great days and really crappy days. And you’ll wonder if you made the right choice.
I’ve had the chance to make both choices, and they both felt right and wrong depending on the moment. Basically, there’s no perfect path. There’s just the one that feels most right/least wrong at the time.
So when I see moms crying at daycare drop-off, I want to cry with them. When I see moms at the coffee shop trying to type while juggling a fussy, clingy baby, I want to high-five them. It’s ALL hard. It’s ALL wonderful.
And we’re all just doing our best to blend family and career in a way that works for us.