For our second post in the Before & After Series, we talked to Suzanne Brown author of Mompowerment: Insights from Successful Part-time Working Moms who Balance Career & Family, to share advice and insights from over 100 part-time working moms. We were interested in finding out how a group of mothers saw their life before children and if that reality matched their life after children. I’m sure you’ll see that you’re not the only one who arrived at a giant wake up call. I knew I wasn’t alone so I’m glad to be able to share these stories with you. Here is Carrie’s experience in her own words…
My husband and I talked about my being 100% mom and part-time worker before having kids. I wasn’t sure how that would work, but it was my ideal scenario. Before we had kids, we thought little would change in our lifestyle, even with me working part-time. We were so wrong.
I worked as a financial strategist at a large marketing agency and my husband was and still is a software developer at a small company. We didn’t work long hours, but we worked hard. We traveled often for fun, especially internationally; caught up with friends regularly; constantly tried new restaurants, and still had time to do new DIY projects around the house. I was a very typical type A personality professionally and personally.
We were excited about getting pregnant and all seemed fine during my pregnancy. And then our first child arrived 10 weeks early. And, our lives were forever changed. We were in the Neonatal ICU (NICU) for 5.5 weeks. The NICU can be scary, but it’s also like being parents-in-training with experienced nurses as your guides. And our baby thrived in the NICU and after being discharged. Within a few months, he was developing like any normal child. He’s been a go-getter since birth and we don’t see him slowing down EVER, which we’re thankful for.
I was very much a mama bear protecting her baby that first year. And we did everything to avoid germs – a nanny instead of daycare, rarely inviting people over, and staying home. I also almost never went out with friends. When I did, my husband texted constantly, asking when I would be home. I got the hint and my rare outings were always short.
Our son, thanks to the rhythm of the NICU, also developed the schedule of having a bottle of breastmilk every 3 hours. And that meant I pumped A LOT until our son was about 18 months (60 days total when I added it up).
That first year was a tough adjustment. And I woke up one morning, more than a year into our young son’s life, and wondered where I had gone. Where was the outgoing, successful, active woman I once was?
I eventually focused all my professional energy on consulting, a side business for 7 years. We sent our son to mother’s day out at age 18 months and he loved being social and learning. He still does. When he was about 2, I got pregnant with our second child. And, in addition to everything else, I started doing research for a book, as if there wasn’t enough on my plate.
We were finally into the groove of having one child when our second arrived (this time only 4 weeks early with no NICU time). It was a HUGE adjustment because we had a full-fledged toddler in the house, who was not excited about the new baby. Two high touch children at the same time at different stages. Sigh. I can laugh now at the things our older son did before he finally accepted his little brother wasn’t going anywhere. At the time, though, I was miserable – exhausted, unable to focus on anything other than caring for our children, and generally, just trying to survive each day. And I put pressure on myself to build my business and to work on my book but felt disappointed when I couldn’t make either happen regularly. It took me 5 months to work on a business project again and 6 months to start researching again for my book.
Our older son is now 5 and our younger son is 2.5. Life is still not the way it was before kids. I call this “my new normal”. My life has moments of being in a groove and moments of total chaos. I still get frustrated that things don’t run as smoothly as I think they should. I wish I could do more with my business and book and then I remember the benefit of being active in our boys’ lives. My type A personality has shifted focus somewhat and I use part of that energy for things related to my kids, like being the room mom and exposing my kids to new things like mommy and me gymnastics. We bake, swim in the summer, attend various kid-focused events, do basic arts & crafts at home, or simply play, especially outside on beautiful days. We try to have fun and learn something along the way.
We travel as a family now, focusing on one large trip a year, including international destinations. Those trips are very different from the ones with only me and my husband from years ago. We also do things like “explore” nearby hiking trails and try new family-friendly restaurants. And, although we planned to do date night each week, we go about once a month out and make sure to take time when the kids are asleep to have a glass of wine together or watch a movie. It’s not glamorous, but it keeps us connected as a couple and we enjoy time with just each other.
We’re social again, but definitely not like before kids. And, I’m usually OK with that. It’s usually in groups because I don’t have a lot of time for one-on-one interactions.
Some of the challenges I deal with regularly stem from the reality that my version of success has changed substantially from before kids. I’m OK with that most days. On days when I struggle, I have to remind myself that my path is different from others I know. I’m still working on writing a book and still building my business, but it’s slower – much slower than I had anticipated.
In the end, our life is good and I enjoy almost all the pieces that make up my world, some more than others. The mix of 100% parent and part-time worker isn’t perfect, but it’s perfect for us.
Suzanne Brown is a full-time mom to 2 young boys, wife, part-time business and marketing strategy consultant, writer, and avid international traveler. She helps businesses understand how marketing can help their bottom line and helps them work better with their marketing agencies.
Before focusing on her own business endeavors about 4 years ago, Suzanne worked at various large marketing agencies in Austin, New York, Miami, Chicago and San Antonio. Suzanne has more than 15 years of experience managing and developing integrated marketing campaigns and projects for primarily Fortune 500 companies.
In mid-2013, in addition to her consulting work, Suzanne started researching for her book, Mompowerment: Insights from Successful Part-time Working Moms who Balance Career & Family, to share advice and insights from over 100 part-time working moms.
Suzanne received her MBA in marketing and a BBA in Finance from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas Austin. She also holds a BA in Spanish from UT Austin. Suzanne and her family live in Austin, Texas.
You can follow Suzanne on Twitter.