The more years I have under my belt, the more I contemplate and strive to hone what defines me. The way I want to be remembered – whether it be a brief encounter with a stranger or how I teach and impact my two boys. There was a time (hello 20-something self) when I was utterly obsessed with work. I strived to do more, take on more, climb, climb, climb the ladder. It was stressful and unhealthy. But, I am so glad that I learned early on that idolizing my career is not where I wanted to live.
I now have a 20-month-old son and a five-month-old son (quick math – yes, they’re 15 months apart). Becoming a mother is truly one of my life’s greatest joys. It is also hands down the hardest, most challenging role I’ve taken on. After welcoming our first son into the world, in November of 2017, I found myself facing a total identity crisis. Among the endless mom-to-be conversations I had, it was something no one had mentioned to me. It’s a feeling no one really talks about, but one that I believe is really common – especially for those who had an established career before taking on this new role.
While it’s hard to put into words, I felt like I had two strong internal motives: There was this powerful drive to write, create, accomplish, strategize, challenge my brain and this new drive that I had never felt before. This literal string that started in my heart and connected to my son’s, with threads of wanting to provide, be there, love, teach, help, care for. And for some reason, they felt in opposition with one another.
I would explain this to my husband, Dan, and he would often ask me, “What do you want?” Honestly, I didn’t know, because I wanted both! I always thought both was possible, but when I became a mom it didn’t feel as easy as it was to say aloud.
I’m thankful to report that almost two years and another birth later, here I am, sitting in a coffee shop while my sitter takes my two boys to the park, working part-time and collaborating with Spool. I will always have a special spot for Spool in my heart, because as it redefines the traditional agency model, it is redefining for me (and so many others) what it means to work your heart out and follow your heart. You can work and you can be a mom and you can pursue your passions and do them all well and it will be okay.
If you or anyone you know finds yourself in this unspoken new mom identity crisis, here are a few things I learned along the way that might be worth sharing.
Your work ethic might change. It’s okay to work differently – and for me, what that looks like is I am no longer available around the clock to answer emails, take calls and be “on.” I have childcare lined up to fit with my projected work hours, and I also get things done during naptime or evenings. I had no choice but to create strong boundaries.
It’s not easy. I often think doing one or the other – working full-time or being a full-time stay at home mom would be easier. And I’m sure moms who do either of these rockstar roles have similar sentiments. After all, the grass always seems greener on the other side. Mentally having to juggle, game plan, strategize and succeed at doing both is hard. But at the end of the day, it’s truly what I want – I love being a mom and I still love working.
Outlook is everything. On the days when I’m knee-deep in diapers, tears and tantrums and on the days when I have a to do list too long to remember, I remind myself of all the things I am grateful for. That I can spend so much time with my boys during these young years. That I have the opportunity to work on such fun projects and have the flexibility to juggle home life and work life. Gratitude keeps the light to happiness turned on.
Your work doesn’t define you. Work used to keep me up at night. I would jam-pack my plate with a feast of projects, always saying ‘yes’ to more. Work and me were synonymous. You know what I finally realized? Your career isn’t who you are. Sure, now many of my conversation are about baby sleep, baby poos and the latest kids activity, but I’m okay with that.
You’re doing great. Some days, it can feel like you’re failing at everything – your baby cries when you leave the house, you’re not getting as much accomplished for work as you’d like, your house is a wreck. But, I’m here to remind you, you’re not! You’re a superstar mama who is defining what working and “moming” looks like. Whether that’s part-time work, full-time work, full-time mom, you are pouring yourself into it. Remember this - life is composed of seasons. I tell myself on the daily that I will one day sleep again. My baby will learn how to nap. And someday he won’t need to be on a schedule (…that we still can’t quite figure out). I already know that this season is a short one and I am clinging to and cherishing every minute of babyhood. If you find yourself in this spot, I encourage you to as well.
Anna Powell is a PR professional with Spool Marketing & Communications and proud mom of two