I have the coolest friends. Like, seriously. Musicians, mega-moms, artists, writers, moguls—you name it, I know one. Some of them are all those things! I can’t imagine my life without them. I’ve been curating and counting on them for years.
The tough part is, I lost touch with many of them the last half decade when I had my head so far down in my work. So, I thought it might be fun to bring showing up to light with the people whose opinions I trust and value most.
I figured I would just start through the list, alphabetically. Just kidding. With Andi, I actually felt inspired to start with a fellow leaner-outer. As I explore this new normal of work-life presence, I wanted to pick someone else’s brain about it.
We met in college when we were young and wild, and we recently reconnected as two professional PR moms feeling the burn on both ends. We called upon each other (first by facebook, then by phone) to resurrect those brave, ballsy young women buried inside of us and take a leap.
Part free spirit, part neurotic (I can vouch), Andi is one of those chicks who treats life like a kid drinking a Capri Sun pouch, inhaling each bit until it’s completely sucked dry. A “retired” workaholic, she is a mom of two littles who recently realized that “having it all” doesn’t require 80-hour weeks. Now she spends her time playing, drinking and reading. Usually in that order. (I can vouch for that, too.)
I caught up with Andi to see how this new season of her life was treating her.
A few months ago, you left your full-time job even though you had the ever-elusive “full-time work from home” deal? What was the driving force?
Ultimately, I realized I was missing amazing moments in my girls’ early years – what everyone claims to be the “best” years.” I was present without presence, if that makes any sense. I started to feel like a zombie and danced dangerously close to the breakdown line. There was a gentle awakening at one point, in part because you and I talked, and I realized I needed to make a change.
No question, the work from home gig was a great set-up. We had a nanny who watched the kids during the day and, all I had to do, was walk upstairs if I needed a “kid fix.” But, I still had clients who required my 24/7 attention and the line between home and work blurred. Sometimes, that short 20-step trek up the stairs wasn’t enough for me to mentally shift gears from PR professional to mom and wife.
As much as I tried to separate the two worlds, my work life became all too consuming. Rather than enjoying what little playtime I had with my babes at the end of the day, I found myself scrolling through email to make sure I hadn’t missed something… and running downstairs to respond if I had. I actually wrote more about the myths associated with balancing the two roles here.
I believe there is simply too much tension between parenthood and careers these days. I’m guessing you do too. What do you think needs to change?
Parenthood and the requirements of it aren’t going to change, so employers need to make some changes if they want to retain top talent.
Great talent regularly drops out of the workforce because of conventional work models that require you to work at a specific location, five days a week, between specific hours. Employers can create all these great open-office plans and put in ping pong tables but, until they realize that many of the primary responsibilities associated with being a mom (e.g. school events, doctors’ appointments) also happen during those same work hours–and that your “vacation time” shouldn’t be used to attend these events–they’re just compounding the ever-present “mom guilt” and putting ridiculous stress on parents.
What makes you uncomfortable about the next chapter?
Very little. I’m here for my kids and family now. I’m laughing and loving instead of stressing and screaming. My IRAs and 401k certainly aren’t growing like they were (or my closet), but I finally feel like I am at my best as a mother. I’m fortunate in that I have a handful of freelance clients who appreciate that I work irregular hours, so I work when I can.
What feels suddenly possible?
This is probably a really bad metaphor, but it feels similar to my freshman year of college. You feel so liberated to be out of your parents’ house and stimulated by everything new that’s around you. Sure, you’ve got responsibilities like attending class and completing work, but suddenly there are all these new ideas and clubs and cool people and time to do anything and everything you want. Certainly, I’ve matured since those days, but the feeling is similar. I feel like if I wanted to write a book, start a blog, build a business, volunteer at my girls’ school or a local shelter, do the playgroup thing – everything feels possible.
What have you learned already?
I felt for a long time like I was shitty mom and didn’t have the capability to love on the level that my kids deserved. I quickly realized that is not at all the case. I have also realized that it is possible to balance a professional life and motherhood. It’s just about defining the amount of work that works best for you and your family at the time and finding an occupation or an employer who gets it.
Absolutely. Waiting until I was close to a breakdown to make the jump. I should have done it years ago.
Tell me how you show up every day.
Showing up is what it’s all about. I quit my job because I wasn’t showing up to what mattered most: my family. So for me, it means being present, both mentally and physically. It means listening to every wacky story that my four-year old tells me about her imaginary friend. It means waking up and striving to be more intentional with my every action.
Oooh, Andi. I feel ya, sister. Presence, intention, figuring out what matters. Never easy, always worth it. Thanks for stopping by.