It's Working Project

The Big Cheez from mom blog Whine and Cheez (Its) dishes on working 9-5, and 6, and 7! Even with a full-time job, blogging, and freelance work on the side, this working mom is happily having her cupcake and eating it too (albeit drowsily).

What was it like in your family growing up? Were both parents working? Was one parent staying home?

My mother had a masters degree in education but worked for about 5 minutes until I was born and morphed into a SAHM to my brother and I and she was phenomenal at it. My dad was the earner and owned his own business.

The best laid plans, right? How do you think that has informed the decisions you’ve made about work and family?

I think, while my father was a great provider during my childhood, watching an ugly divorce go down and seeing my mother completely financially dependent on someone made me eager to always have my own paycheck. I learned that you never know what life will throw at you and while I wanted to be a woman doing it all for my kids, I also wanted to set an example for them that women can be successful in the workforce.

So many of us strive for that. And how do you hope your decisions will affect your daughter?

I hope that my daughter will see that women can have empowering and rewarding careers. I want her to have a realistic view – that while there is a ton of juggling to make things happen as a working mother, there are a lot of benefits to it as well. I also hope to guilt her into a TON of stuff when I am old so that she takes really good care of me 🙂

Smart! As a younger person, how did you envision your adult life in terms of career and family? How has that vision differed from the reality?

I thought I would have kids and everything would just fall into place. (Yes, I was THAT naïve). What I never envisioned was a divorce with a toddler and a move back to Florida finding myself starting over personally and professionally. I always knew I would not be a straight up SAHM, but also knew I did not want to work the kind of job where I would see my kids for an hour before they went to bed and that would be all the quality time I would get. My reality is somewhere in the middle of all of those statements. I do work a full-time job, but I’m also working extremely hard to carve out my own personal brand as a blogger/humorist and writer. I always joke that I work like 5 jobs, but it’s really not that much of a joke. When I’m not at work at my day job, I’m freelancing to keep my contacts because I always think that’s important as a writer. And my mind NEVER stops racing about ways I can maximize my own blog, what cute swag I can slap my logo on and corresponding activities.

Sounds busy. What was your work life like before you had your daughter? Your home life?

Basically, I was skinnier,  better rested and richer. Before kids it was pretty low key. I went to work, followed by the gym everyday (that’s one part I do miss). Had a full social calendar and felt like I had a good handle on everything.

And after she came along?

How much time do you have? Nobody can ever fully prepare you for the whirlwind you experience after you have a child. I was exhausted, lucky to get clean clothes on my body and leaking breast milk through shirts in public because my delirium would make me forget things like breast pads. Nobody really has candid conversations on what exactly happens to your mind and body after a baby. So I tell ALL my friends the gory details. You need to know. But even despite the exhaustion and momentary lapses of insanity, when I looked down at her little face, it was all worth it. Every last sleep deprived second. Still is.

With a SAHM growing up, did you always know that you would work?

Yes. I didn’t know if it would be in a traditional 9-5 sense because I’m definitely more of a “creative” which opens up some different avenues. But I knew I wanted a career. While being a mother is the most important job I will ever have, I didn’t want it to be the only thing that defined me.

Did you time your pregnancy around work?

I did not time anything. It happened when it happened. When I was pregnant I was working at a PR Agency, which means I was basically surrounded my mostly women, also of childbearing ages. It was contagious, like an epidemic. Someone was always either getting engaged, married or knocked up.

Probably lots of news sharing in that office! How did you share the news of your pregnancy?

I did not tell anyone until my first tri-mester (not even family). Partially because I am Jewish and for whatever reason we have crazy superstitions about it and partially because things do change once you tell your job. Especially if you are client facing. I actually didn’t tell my boss. She (who was also a close friend) told ME. One day she (who had delivered twins months before I was pregnant) sat down in my office, closed the door and asked how far along I was. I was stunned. I thought I did such a good job hiding it and asked her how she knew. She said I looked like S&*T and just had that grayish, sick look. The one thing only another woman who has been pregnant can sense.

What worried you most about going back to work after you had your daughter?

That I wouldn’t be able to stay checked in. But I was, thankfully. What did happen, however, was that the things that used to really get me upset just didn’t matter. My perspective totally changed. If I got berated by a client for not being mentioned in a news article, or they didn’t like something I wrote in a press release, in the past it would have made me crazy. I would have over analyzed it, obsessed about it, lost sleep over it. But with a baby waiting for me at home, I brushed it off and left work at work. Nothing matters more than her. Period.

What was your family leave like?

Thankfully, my job at the time allowed you to bank vacation and other sick days, etc, to tack on to maternity leave (short term disability). So once I found out I was growing a human inside me I didn’t take a single vacation or sick day and was able to squeeze out 3 months of paid time off, to the day! I was devastated to leave my baby. Yet, part of me was ready for work since it served as a break from being a human dairy cow and diaper changer, but I had major guilt and cried the first week, almost every day. I had irrational thoughts like she would like the nanny better than me or even forget who I was. I was emotional and conflicted. My days of lingering for happy hour or late office chat sessions changed to not being able to get out the door fast enough once the clock hit 5pm.

It’s a big transition. When did your confidence around work kick in? How long did the adjustment take (or are you still adjusting?)

My daughter is 6, I have lived in 3 states since she was born, had 3 different jobs because of the moves and I am STILL finding myself adjusting. As they grow, start school, get involved in activities, it just keeps changing and you have to take a breath. Or maybe it’s just me?

It’s definitely just you . . . and every other working parent! What advice would you give to employers to ease strain around family leave and returning to the workplace?

Be flexible. But really flexible. Not the kind of flexible where you offer work from home days or modified schedules that come with sideways glances and resentment.

Did your employer make any changes to accommodate you as you transitioned back to work?

At my level and with a couple years under my belt, we were allowed to work from home a couple days a week. This was HUGE. I could actually see my child throughout the day instead of missing an entire 8 hours.

Seeing your child is always nice! Did you need to navigate pumping at work?

Nobody in my family breastfed before me. I don’t know if it was just a generational thing but I was the first. I have a very outgoing, outspoken, hilarious family. Particularly, my mother. When she came to visit she wanted to see what the whole pumping thing was about and I can still see her face when I hooked myself up to the contraption. Her jaw was on the floor and she said I looked like I was being milked by farm equipment. I knew I wanted to nurse my baby, but I also didn’t want to be the only one who could feed her. So I started off with just the breast, and then started pumping so others could help. At night I almost always went back to the breast because it was just easier than getting up to clean bottles at 2am. I had every intention of continuing to pump when I went back. But my supply naturally started to dwindle as I got close, so I let nature takes its course and started weaning her onto formula.

Ready for the lightning round?

A good day is when:

We all make it home healthy, happy with purses, backpacks, lunch boxes and minimal scrapes and bruises.

What I wish I had known:

You will ALWAYS be tired. Always.

One mistake I learned the hard way:

Do not go online to diagnose your child’s illness. Oy!

Biggest pregnancy indulgence?

Cheeseburgers. And those who know me know how weird that is since ground meat weirds me out. I can have it a couple times a month at most and that’s being generous. I wanted a burger almost every day when I was pregnant.

Fill in the blanks:

As a working parent, I never expected {peeing alone} would be so hard and {having perspective} would be so much easier!

What is one piece of advice you wish you could offer your pre-children self?

This is sooooo hard, because as cliché as it sounds I do not even remember my life before my daughter. I just know my wallet had more money in it and my purse had much fewer shopkins and half eaten lollipops (sometimes without the wrapper).