The plan was simple… birth baby, maternity leave, return to office.
Then, it wasn’t… birth baby, maternity leave, panic-inducing crisis of self, cry, pray, return to office, give notice immediately, stay 4 more weeks, come home, acquire clients, work (mostly) from home and stay (mostly) at home.
My career has seen me at Charlotte’s largest full-service ad agency working in public relations, a brief stint sewing custom dresses and skirts, a tenure working as a live events producer for our incredible church, then a trek to a national footwear retailer as a public relations and community outreach project manager. Growing up with a stay-at-home mom was something I always treasured, and in college, while we were babysitting neighbor families, my roommate and I would talk about being stay-at-home moms and hanging out in each other’s driveways drinking Diet Coke (or wine) while our kids played. But it turned out that not working wasn’t going to be an option for us financially when I got pregnant, and even more importantly, I also really, really enjoyed working.
Things got complicated fairly early on when I learned that my company didn’t offer any paid maternity leave at all, and because I had not pre-enrolled in short term disability, and pregnancy was a “pre-existing condition,” I wouldn’t be collecting an income after having Nora Beth. Perfect. Thankfully, my boss was and is unreal. Truly such a joy to work for and with and a complete blessing to me. She insured that I was able to take an eight week leave and still get paid. I assured her and my coworkers that I would be back full-time following my leave. A few coworkers said, “Everyone says that. You won’t be.” But because of the numbers, I knew I would absolutely be back, whether I wanted to or not.
During my pregnancy, God also brought an angel to our lives in the form of our nanny Alison. I knew I didn’t want to send NB to daycare, and between David’s one day off each week, my mom’s willingness to keep her one day a week, and me being able to work from home on Fridays, we had two empty days. My best friend’s mother-in-law reached out to me and let me know that her sister, Alison, was looking for a job that covered a couple days a week. I met with Alison for lunch one day, when I was about 24 weeks pregnant. I left the restaurant and called my mom and told her, “I think what I’ll do is let Alison mother Nora Beth, and I’ll be the nanny. She is that amazing.” And she is.
About four weeks into maternity leave, the wheels came off emotionally. I sat in my mom’s sewing room, with NB snoozing in her rock ‘n play, and I cried. And cried. And cried. I could not imagine leaving this sweet gift and becoming what felt like a spectator to her life (with my commute at the time, I would leave before she woke up and get home in time to nurse her and put her to bed). My mom suggested that I spend time reading Mark Batterson’s “The Circle Maker,” which transformed how I was praying about my situation. That same night, David came home from a long day at work, and I announced, “I’m not going back to work. I can’t. And we can make it work.” Naturally, he was taken aback. I have never had a gift of timing, and my delivery of this news certainly wasn’t finessed. He spent some time mulling it over and agreed that we could make it work, and he wanted me to be able to stay home with her.
Still. I was conflicted. I knew we COULD make it work, but I couldn’t understand HOW to make it work, and I was also wrestling with my pride. I had sworn up and down that I would be back, and I felt like I owed it to my boss to come back. I felt like I was saying that I “couldn’t handle it,” “couldn’t make it.” I worried about how cliche I was looking. At the same time I felt a lot of peace. And a lot of urgency to acquire some freelance projects immediately. I spent hours and hours pursuing freelance job boards and work-from-home opportunities (even applying to be a transcriptionist, which I can assure you did not go well). It took me a couple of weeks to realize I didn’t have to everything figured out by my first day back. It was enough to know I wasn’t going to be working forever.
That freedom made my first days back manageable. Going back was hard, of course… it always is, and while I knew that every mom felt the sadness of going back, the panic that I had felt weeks ahead of time, didn’t seem normal. It wasn’t my normal, and I trust my intuition. While I was on leave, our team had brought in an incredible temp who was looking for permanent placement. As I started to think through the process of giving my notice, I wanted to provide a seamless transition. I had originally wanted to wait until I had all of my ducks in a row, but it also seemed the most fair to let my boss know before I began taking back all of my projects, and I also wanted to provide her the opportunity to hire my temp on full-time. So. Four days after returning to work, I tearfully (I never, never, never cry at work, but I was so emotional feeling like I was “betraying” my own word and letting my boss down) sat in my boss’s office and announced my departure. She was so affirming and supportive. And it felt really good. I wasn’t giving a formal 2-week notice but instead offered to stay on until the transition was complete and in good working order. Four weeks after returning to work, I left my desk behind for the very last time. Waking up the next morning felt surreal… like I was skipping school and about to get caught.
Over the next couple of months, God provided me amazing clients and began to shape my new career. Now I manage copywriting, blogger outreach, public relations and social media for four local businesses including a non-profit battling homelessness, a nationally-renown artist and her line of eponymous home products, a high-end baby accessories line, and a lithium-ion battery company. After nearly a year I have finally named my company and am excited to unveil it soon. My work is incredibly fulfilling personally and financially (I make more now than I ever have) and emotionally, but logistically the structure is more challenging. I work seven days a week. Alison still comes twice a week so I have one full, dedicated work day and a second work day for client meetings, and my mom and David step in multiple times throughout the week when I have last minute meetings and conference calls. A village. A serious village.
The rest of the week, I juggle writing, social media’ing, media outreach and emails between play dates, cooking, working out, errands, day-to-day play time, general toddler upkeep, naps, and bedtime routines. Most of my work takes place in a frenzied blur during nap times and an avalanche of production after 6:45 bedtime and grown up dinner. My clients are ridiculously understanding of my popcorn schedule. It’s messy and chaotic and disorganized, and I love it. I am in my sweet spot as a mother and a professional, and I could not be happier… more organized? Yes. More efficient? Without a doubt. Happier? Nope. Nope. Nope. I am a full-time working mom and a full-time stay at home mom, and it’s the greatest.