As a mom of two, author and founder of a thriving company, Go-To Skin Care, my work has gone beyond putting food on the table, and now sits firmly in the “self-fulfilling” camp. I know that for many parents, being away from your children to work is not a choice; I am lucky to have a career, and also be with my kids.
And I do feel lucky.
I’m able to spend days just with my children, and days with just my words or ideas or team. And although I assumed my career would suffer tremendously once I had kids, I have actually done my best work, and achieved far more since they came along. I attributed this to having 90 percent less time to waste pretending to work while on my laptop, but also, now when I choose a project, it has to be meaningful, because that’s time away from my family, and that’s a big ask, because they’re very cute, and very little, and still like me.
My priorities have changed and my efficiency is way up.
Of course, working and mom-ming is unwinnable sometimes. I often feel like I’m doing neither very well. On becoming a working mother, UK-based novelist Rachael Cusk wrote, “To succeed in being one means to fail at being the other…I never feel myself to have progressed beyond this division. I merely learn to legislate for two states, and to secure the border between them.”
Oh, but we try! We must always try. It is our lot as magnificent, capable, mental-load bearing, multi-tasking wizard humans. (“Mothers.”)
I want to do my best, to commit to both my family and my work, and I want each of them to feel the full flame of my annoying, cloying interest and love. After all, I’d be miserable without either one. They’re both critical to my sense of joy, fulfillment and desire to create, even at the cost of my sleep, sanity and social life.
But how, how, HOW? One way I choose to tackle it is with a fresh perspective. Like any working mother with a public profile, I’ve answered the question, “How do you balance it all?” no less than four million times, and I have watched my answer morph from self-deprecating and frivolous, to calling out the superwoman culture as destructive and dangerous. Which it is, but also, it was entirely pressure I am putting on myself. No one else is asking me to publish a new book and create a clean SPF and launch my brand in the US and breastfeed an infant at the same time; it’s all ME!
And so, in the past year, I made some changes. I was not coping. After all, balance means tipping and swaying and falling and teetering precariously in an effort to attain perfect symmetry, and surprise! That’s really friggen stressful.
My new mental framework recognizes that the path I’m on right now, while I have two kids under 5, and my business is jumping the chasm from startup to medium sized, is demanding, but temporary. But I’ve opted in, so I have to do it wholeheartedly, and celebrate the two biggest aspects of my life, rather than setting them against each other in a reckless, futile duel that sees all three parties dissatisfied, and one party doing way too much yelling/emailing.
Compartmentalizing has been key. It’s about boundaries, and priorities. I set aside three days a week to work, and forced myself to rent an office, instead of working from home while they buzzed around me. When I leave the office for the day, I don’t do any work again until they’re asleep. I also use hacks like turning off all notifications on my phone, having a permanent auto-reply on my email saying I don’t check it (but here are my team, and thankfully they do check email), deleting Instagram (it was, ahem, becoming a problem), and putting fences around my work hours, family hours, and me hours.
The fundamental rule I try to follow is when I’m with them, I’m with them. When I’m working, I’m working. Of course, things will come up that challenge this, and nothing is binary, but I’m the kind of person who needs a REALLY clear protocol for it to have any chance of success.
Of course, this is all “Perfect World” stuff, and it all falls apart sometimes. But I believe I’m a better parent, boss, creative and wife, when I give each of these roles my whole attention.
I’m also a better parent, boss, creative and wife when I DON’T binge watch Netflix police shows until midnight, and eat real food instead of drinking coffee, but you choose your battles.