Looking back, I can’t remember a school play, sports day or parent’s evening that my mum wasn’t there for. Sure, her meetings made her arrive late to my nativity performance that one time and yes, it would have been nice to spend time with after being picked up from school, rather than watch her race back to the office or set up shop with paperwork sprawled across our dining table. The important thing is that I never felt like I was missing out and no matter what, she was always there.
When I first started my writing career and was putting in all of the crazy hours, I’d often sit back and think, ‘how on earth did my mum do it all? I can barely feed myself properly or get laundry done and it’s just me.’ Even now, interviewing the incredibly women that we do for our career series, I struggle to get my head around how so many of them manage to go to work every day, lead teams and deliver, while also playing wife, friend and mother too. I’m not planning on having children of my own just yet, but it’s reassuring to have my mum and be surrounded by so many other incredible women who manage to have thriving careers and families.
Whether you’re like me and don’t have children, are thinking about it or just want to hear from some incredible women who’ve done it, we’ve spoken to four women who have seemingly mastered what it takes to conquer the lack of time and maintain their careers while also having children. We suggest you bookmark this, STAT…
Edie Parker designer, Brett Heyman
Everything changed after I went back to work from maternity for the first time. I had my first child over six years ago. At the time I was working for Gucci and traveling all the time. While I was on maternity, the most challenging thing was stepping away. I think it’s fairly impossible to switch off. I, like so many people, am pretty attached to my phone so couldn’t avoid reading emails. Returning to work was never an option. I fell in love with my daughter at first sight and wanted to change careers so I could be home with her more. I started working on Edie Parker at the end of my maternity leave. I thought if I were working for myself I would have greater flexibility to be with my daughter. Now, I’ve very lucky to have flexibility and be able to run home when I need to, or run to a class or doctor’s appointment. I am very lucky it worked out. Being a m
other makes you want to show and teach your children everything. In New York that means visiting Museums and galleries, which of course influences my collections.
Wardrobe Icons co-founder, Petro Stofberg
Being a mum has definitely made me more career-orientated. I am naturally quite lazy and complacent so tended to just float along doing the same job for years. After having Jacob though, I suddenly realised that whatever I was doing instead of being with him had to be worth while and something I really wanted to do, which is one of the reasons I started Wardrobe Icons with [business partner] Laura [Fantacci]. I used to also go out a lot to work functions in the evenings and saw it as a perk, now I very rarely do as I prefer to spend my evenings with friends or with Jacob.
Switching off when I went on maternity wasn’t difficult at all. Once the baby arrives your head is so full of mush, getting out of the house in the first three months feels like a massive achievement, so work didn’t really factor into the equation. I found the transition back into work easy, perhaps because I was excited about starting Wardrobe Icons and it was just such a relief to be using a part of my brain that had been dormant for eight months. In any case, it felt like coming home – I found being a full-time mum much more challenging.
The luxury of having your own business is that now, I only produce work I want to create and won’t settle for someone else’s vision. I am also much faster – being a mum teaches you multi-tasking skills you’ve never had before. If I could give any advice to new mums, it’s to try and be organized and not leave everything to the last minute. Don’t take off too much maternity before the baby is born either. If it’s your first, the baby’s likely to come late anyway and you’ll get bored of waiting. It’s more worthwhile to have more time on the other side.
Interior designer, Anne Hepfer
I’ve always been passionate about my job as an interior designer and I feel extremely fortunate to have a career that I love. The addition of four children into our lives has made my life fuller, richer and certainly busier with these little people who enlighten me every day with their curiosity, innocence, freedom and joy. Balance is in the eye of the beholder and every person balances their life differently. I’ve had to work harder with constant attention to scheduling my time carefully, and to efficiently get as much done as possible within a day. I strive to live in the moment. When I’m working, I try to always be fully present for my team and when I’m with a client, I give them 100% of my attention. When I’m with our children, I try to do the same.
Taking a maternity leave really wasn’t an option for me. I had on-going projects during pregnancy, delivery and having young babies, and I had a team to support so I wasn’t about to shut down my business. It wasn’t a piece of cake, but looking back, I’m so glad that I pushed through the challenges of juggling babies and work. Having a home office and an office, which is a 7-minute drive from our house, made it easy to get back and forth. When our kids were age 0-4 (yes, four kids under 4!), sleep became a challenge. When I woke up for night feedings, I had a hard time falling back asleep, so I would go to my computer and answer emails in the middle of the night. My doctor finally told me that I needed sleep and I did what I was told because I knew that my health was at risk. The kids started sleeping through the night and so did I. I was lucky enough to have an excellent team at the office, and nannies who helped with shopping, cooking, cleaning, driving etc. I delegated tasks. I set priorities each day and I tried my best to achieve those daily goals. Now that the kids are older (two aged 7 and two aged 10), it’s easier. They are in school during the day and I am able to focus better at work. I do travel and the kids miss me and I miss them, but I make sure that our time together on weekends is special and meaningful.
For new mothers who are entrepreneurs, it’s very hard to not feel guilty about having two babies: your children and your business. Obviously your number one priority is your child. But your business is important too and it’s okay to work on both. A mother’s gut is almost always right. Trust your instincts in both family and business. I do my best to make quick decisions following my gut to keep the processes of life and work moving forward. Remember to take time for yourself: breathe, eat, sleep, meditate, take a bath, exercise and be kind to yourself. The better you feel about yourself, the better care you can give your children, your business and your spouse too! Make sure that you take care of your spouse who is your life partner. Listen, love and don’t lose site of the “us.” You’re in it together. Have sex often. Early motherhood is not easy, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Hey Mama co-founder, Amri Kibbler
My priorities shifted the moment I had family and my personal life became much more important to me. Before I had my daughter I was working all the time, in the office until late and going to events all the time. The moment she arrived, it became a priority for me to be home to put her to bed. When my eldest daughter Mari was born, I was working at Hearst as a fashion editor and my role meant that I had to be in the office every day during certain hours. Having my own company, I definitely work more hours now than I did before but I work when it suits me; if I want to work late at night, I can do that and if I want to get up early, I can. I just feel more empowered to set things into my family’s schedule. I don’t think there’s such a thing as balance. Sometimes the majority of my day is dedicated to family and other times there’s a lot more happening with work so it’s really more of a give-and-take than a balance. And I’m okay with that.
I started Hey Mama with the mother of my older daughter’s best friend. After having her, I wasn’t able to find the kind of women I wanted to connect with; mamas who were passionate about their careers and dreams outside of motherhood. She felt the same so we decided to start a community for this type of woman. Motherhood really has completely changed the landscape of my career.
The challenge of running your own business is that it’s really hard to completely disconnect, especially considering that Hey Mama operates in the mom space – so many of the moms in our community have become friends so there isn’t much of a division between my work and personal life anymore. It’s so important to try and disconnect though, and really take advantage of that time you have with your baby because it goes by so fast and then you’re right back into the rush of your work life again.
Photography: The Grace Tales, Nine In The Mirror and The Lifestyle Edit