Moms Get Shit Done. Period.
Read this supermom’s account of her path from full time work to a flex-schedule and ultimately, her own business.
By Marianna SachsE
Edited by Samantha Gale
When my eldest son was just over one, I faced an internal crisis about how to proceed with my working life. Like many moms in the US, I’d cobbled together disability, paid time off, and family leave in order to take the most maternity possible. I was lucky, and it added up to just over three months at home with my son. I’d only been in my job at a prestigious non-profit for a couple of years and had student loans from university that I needed to pay off, so there was no question whether or not I’d be going back to work.
I loved my job and the company, but had a horrible commute to work - an hour each way by car, with no option of public transport. And that was on a good day. Factor in a traffic jam on the freeway, and that one hour could easily become two. I often found that I barely would make it back in time for daycare to close, and would then rush through my son’s dinner and bedtime routines. When I returned to work, the company agreed to let me come back part time on a temporary basis, which was quite honestly the only way that I could handle that crappy commute. I struggled intensely with the balance - I was pumping three times a day whilst simultaneously trying to work. I was driving to and from the office when traffic would be lightest, struggling to not fall asleep at the wheel. This was eight years ago, when remote working or flexible schedules weren’t being offered by a lot of companies and like many of my peers, there came a time when I was told I had to decide between returning to work full time work or leaving my job.
I remember talking to my mom about this dilemma. She had been a high-powered economist in her day - teaching at NYU, working for the World Bank, as well as sitting on the President’s Council of Economic Advisors. When my older brother was born, she found that her workplace was just not ready to provide the flexibility she needed as a working mother. Worse still, her supervisor, a woman, had zero sympathy for the situation this put her in. That was the late 1970s. My mother - someone who others considered a feminist, but would never have described herself that way - was pissed that thirty years later I was still dealing with the same BS.
I had a supervisor who understood and advocated for me, but an HR team that only came around to the value of remote work and other tools for flexibility years later. So with my option to work part-time over, I chose to resign - even before I had something lined up.
I felt intense shame telling my colleagues and friends why I was leaving. Thinking about this still makes me really emotional. I felt like I was somehow failing on all fronts: as a highly-educated woman with opportunity, as a feminist, and as a mother.
Fortunately, before my last day rolled around, I got a new job at a company that not only allowed me to work part time, but to also work remotely. This company recognized that the impact a person can make does not necessarily correlate to the hours that they’re in the office. That working mothers, too busy for water-cooler talk, get shit done. This company took a risk on me, it paid off, and I am forever thankful.
Two years ago, I left the US and moved to the Netherlands with my family. A month after we arrived, I gave birth to our second son. Once again, in the haze of new motherhood, I felt the need to lean into my creativity. Although I loved being a mother and I loved work, my creative interests weren’t the central focus in either of these and I missed that. Being in the Netherlands, where the cost of living is lower than in many US cities, I felt liberated to start my own business.
This time around, the transition from motherhood to work was starkly different. I eased in gently, gradually increasing childcare along the way. Slowly, I felt ready to spend more and more time away from my infant son in order to nurture this exciting professional path I’d carved out. I didn’t feel pressure to drop everything and go back to work full time all at once. Now, almost two years in, I am back to work full time, but the difference is that I’m working for myself. Of course, some things might never change - pulling together childcare is still a pain in the butt and the daily struggle to be present in whatever I am doing, be it working or parenting, is still very real...
...but I feel grateful.
I feel grateful that I have a loving partner who is not only a present father but a champion of my career choices and the risks I take. I feel grateful to have seen multiple sides of the struggle that is to be both a good parent and a good worker. I feel grateful for the risks taken - the ones I’ve taken myself and the ones that other people have taken for me - in pursuit of a more balanced lifestyle.
Parenting is so hard and so important. But it isn’t the only part of any individual. The sides of us that are makers, learners, teachers, explorers, doers, and more, need to be fostered. Employers benefit when parents are given the flexibility they need. Society reaps the dividends for decades when parents have the ability to be hands-on when it is most critical.
My own experience has made me a fierce advocate for extended parental leave and work environments that support a balanced lifestyle. It may feel like a risk, but it is worth it.