An Open Letter To My Daughters (Love, Your Working Mom)
By Hilary Young
To Sadie and Ava,
I know that sometimes it must be frustrating to have me step away from playing with you on the weekends so that I can hop on the computer, or not being able to put you to bed sometimes because I am on a conference call (which Sadie endearingly refers to as a “call phone”) with a client on the west coast. I know that sometimes it would be easier to not have a mom who checks emails while we’re at the park, or who can’t come to a music class with you and Daddy on a Saturday in order to make a deadline.
I know that 3 days a week, I keep you at school until 5:30, which can be a bummer—especially during the winter when it’s dark out when you leave school. But what you don’t realize is that I can pick you up at 3pm on Mondays and Fridays because I run my own business and have arranged my schedule in order to spend some extra time with you both. You also probably don’t realize that I stay up for several hours after putting you to sleep to continue working, sacrificing sleep, relaxation, and exercise, in order to watch your eyes light up in a gymnastics class on Monday afternoons, or watch you shriek with joy at the park on Friday afternoons.
When I was growing up, most of the moms (including my own) stayed at home to raise kids. I don’t know why, but from a young age I knew I never really wanted to do that. I had big dreams; I wanted to work, and be the boss while doing it. When I graduated from college and was out in the working world, I was exposed to a lot of talk about “having it all.” Some women think it’s possible, and others are more skeptical, noting that the system we operate in is innately set up for women to fail. I didn’t buy into the latter until I got pregnant with you, Sadie, and realized just how unbalanced, unfair, unequal, and unacceptable the corporate world is when it comes to working women becoming mothers. It’s actually pretty brutal.
And so, for you, I opted out of it.
I had been toying with the idea of launching my own business for years, but fear, insecurity, and a lack of confidence held me back. Finally, when I was 7-months pregnant with you, Sadie, my boss forced me to make a horrible decision in the middle of an ice storm: come into the office or use vacation time (which I was saving for your arrival). They had denied my request to work from home. I felt pretty value-less in that moment. Up until that point, I had been a hardworking, loyal, trustworthy employee for years, and I couldn’t imagine the reasoning behind wanting a very pregnant woman to come into the office in an ice storm. So I rage-built a website that day and launched my business later that week. By the time I went out on maternity leave, I had three clients and I never went back to work full-time.
And as I worked on building my business, I got to take you, Sadie, to music classes, and story time at the library, and the park. By the time I got pregnant a little over two years later with you, Ava, I had 11 clients on my roster. Your mom was crushing it, and I was worried about losing momentum by taking a maternity leave. So I didn’t.
And where I thought I was so brilliant for getting to enjoy the best of both worlds when I had Sadie, I felt immense pressure and guilt when you came along, Ava. I felt pressure to keep going, keep working, keep my business up and running—even from my hospital bed within hours of pushing you out into this world. And then I felt guilt for not being able to give you the same amount of undivided attention that I was able to give your sister, and for not having the same amount of time to do mommy-bonding things with you.
I remember wearing you on my chest, Ava, when you were just 4 weeks old, while I took a phone call with a potential client. I kept hoping that you would stay asleep while I paced around the room with you during my call and panicked for a moment when you made a noise while I was on the phone. The potential client heard you, and asked me if I had a cat. Instead of admitting that no, I don’t have a cat, but I do have a brand new baby human, I said yes. Even though I’m deathly allergic to cats. I didn’t want this client to think that being a mother to you would get in the way of my ability to get work done for him, so I lied.
I’m not proud of that, but the truth of this world is that mom’s get judged for wanting to have it all. Maybe some of the other moms judge me now because I have a nanny take you, Ava, to music classes, and story time at the library, and to the park. Maybe some of my clients judge me because they think I can’t handle more work since they know I have little ones at home. But the only thing that matters is that I don’t judge myself. I know I am working my tail off to be both the best mom I can possibly be to you girls, and also to build my business.
And one day, when it’s finally your turn to judge the job I did raising you while trying my best to have it all, I hope you will forgive me for the moments I might have missed. I hope you will be really proud of me for successfully running my own business. I hope that you will find work that you are passionate about. I hope that when you both eventually become mothers, you figure out how to do it on your own terms and not let anyone tell you that it’s impossible to be a great mom and chase your dreams at the same time.
Hilary Young is the owner of Hilary Young Creative, a content and brand marketing consultancy and business coaching service for women. She is also the mother of two young girls. You can find Hilary on Twitter @hyoungcreative to chat with her about business, motherhood, or anything in between. Share your thoughts on motherhood here!