It's 10:25 pm on a Saturday. I have my 22-month-old son George's stuffed animal to my left, the baby monitor to my right, and baby no. 2 kicking up a storm in my 32-week-pregnant belly. At this hour, I'm very sleepy, my huge belly is becoming covered with fresh stretch marks, and my sciatic pain is reaching a level that even my husband's breathing starts to sound annoyingly loud to me. But I know this is the only time I have to myself to write and reflect.
I am a Partnerships Advisor at the UN in New York and also the founder and CEO of Emilia George, a sustainable clothing brand for moms that I started when I was seven months pregnant. Since the pandemic hit last March, my husband and I both started working from home and taking care of George full time until we had help when I got pregnant again after suffering a miscarriage.
I often hear friends, family, and business partners telling me that I'm doing too much, while inside my head I often hear a voice telling me that I'm not doing enough. In the latest State of Motherhood survey, 34% of moms reported they're feeling frustrated as they balance career and motherhood, too. Despite the fact that mothers are the best multi-taskers around, the pandemic has left most mothers (73%) feeling like they were failing to fulfill expectations for their family.
It seems evident to us that once we start to become moms, we are perpetually running against time.
This dichotomy of being told about doing too much and feeling like you're not doing enough has always been a challenge for me as a person, and now it's been amplified by motherhood.
I am one of those people who always need to set a timeline for achieving certain goals and I think in some way it helps me to feel in control of my life. (Type A alert!) After becoming a mom, I recognize how often we cannot do things according to plans and I feel guilty when the physical and mental exhaustions that hit once in a while that simply make me beg for a moment to lay down. But at the end of the day, no achievements I've made elsewhere can remotely match the irrevocable and deep love I have for George and see how much he loves and needs me as his mama.
I haven't needed to set an alarm since my son George was born. My day usually starts between 5 and 6 a.m. when George wakes up. Sometimes he falls back to sleep after drinking some milk, so I usually use that time to check work emails. I appreciate these early morning hours so much because it is really almost impossible to have more than one hour of uninterrupted time to do work while taking care of him during the day. My husband and I both suffered from a lack of productivity for a few months because we, just as other working parents, were not trained to both work and take care of a child at the same time.
Like many working parents, I do most of my work after George goes to sleep. At the height of the pandemic, when we first launched masks and they were incredibly in demand, I often had to fulfill orders until 1 or 2 a.m. before I could even think about going to bed. My production partners overseas once asked me, "Elle, do you ever sleep?" Well, I do, just not that much. For a good few months, I was only sleeping for 3-4 hours a night. I had a miscarriage in June, and I always felt guilty about it and wondered if my crazy work hours and stress had caused it.
The downside of sharing all of this in writing is that it's hard to accurately record all the chaos, frustration, screaming, tears, guilt, physical discomfort, fear and so much more during any given day. A couple of months ago, I broke down sobbing at my OBGYN's office and they referred me to a prenatal therapist. I've been overwrought with fear, anxiety, and guilt during this pregnancy mostly because of the global pandemic and what's been going on in the country politically. I'm grateful to be able to be with my son George in the same space while working from home, but I feel so guilty when he calls for mama from the play area when I've locked myself in the home office to work.
I am also an only child, so I do not know sibling love. I find myself worrying about how he will feel once it's no longer just the three of us. I feel excited to give him a little brother, but I also feel melancholy that I will never be able to give him the exact same amount of attention as I give him now once there is a new baby in the house. I had preterm labor last time, so now at 32 weeks, I do feel that anything could happen (again). I'm taking medication and praying for the little one to stay in the womb for as long as he should. So there, this is just a glimpse of how many things are keeping me awake at night.
If I learned anything from being a super pregnant working mom/mompreneur, it is that self-awareness and self-love are the most important things that help me get through the trials and tribulations and keep me grounded, content, and uplifted. I have found a few things that really help.
- First, know when to ask for help. Having a support system is a need and must for everyone, especially moms. Sometimes, all we need is to remember to ask.
- Second, do not give up the simple joy or routine that relaxes you and makes you happy, as long as it's still possible under the quarantine and social distancing rules.
- Third, know your limit and be honest with yourself about it. If a business venture is not working out, or a route to promotion is blocked, or a deal is unlikely to happen, it's imperative that we accept reality and either move on, pivot or switch strategies.