I’m excited to be back with another installment of our Real Talk / Real Moms series. If you didn’t catch any of our posts from last fall, here’s the 10 second recap. A group of powerhouse bloggers that span the blogging world from coast to coast, who all also happen to have had babies in the last year or two decided to come together to talk challenges of motherhood. Thus far we’ve tackled Sleep, Travel and Feeding. It’s been SO interesting hear everyone’s different experiences and perspectives.

But I’m particularly excited about today’s topic. We’re jumping into one of the hottest issues out there right now – being a working mom. Whether you love to lean in or think that having it all is an urban myth, it’s virtually impossible not to have something to say about this topic. I certainly could go on ad nauseam. But for your sake, I will attempt to be succinct. Somewhat.

I find I often have a slightly different struggle with being a working mom then quite a few ladies I talk to. And my position might be a bit controversial, but oh well. Here we go.

You see I didn’t cry when I left my son and went back to work. I cried on my last day before maternity leave when I said good-bye to my office. Sure, I don’t always love that I spend less than three hours a day with my baby. But I’m not racked with guilt by it. I refuse to be. I ensure my time with him is dedicated and fully focused (aka phone free). I treasure each morning and evening. We do bath time, feeding, play games and read books. It’s lovely. But I’m also happy to hand him over to a wonderful caregiver as I head to the office. I know he’s in capable hands who’s purpose is to look after his well-being. That’s literally their only job. And they love their work just as much as I love mine. (It also helps that this Harvard Business School study shows that children of working moms are more likely to have successful careers and be better homemakers.)


I really love what I do. I get a lot of self-satisfaction, and to be perfectly candid, self-worth out of my work. My frustration with being a working mom does not lie in how it limits me at home. It lies in how career-limiting being a woman with children can be – or at least I have found it to be thus far.

For starters, my efficiency has totally decreased. Between getting to work much later than I used to and having to be out the door to relieve the nanny, I manage to check one, maybe two things off of my daily to-do list. Emails? At least a 72-hour minimum response time. The deluge is endless. This leaves me feeling totally ineffective.

I’ve also found that all of the professional momentum I was building prior to having a baby has stalled and I haven’t quite figured out how to get that engine revving again. The strict schedule, the sleep deprivation and all the time spent pumping does not align with the typical profile of the office overachiever. There are also really tangible disadvantages for working women with kids. No matter how supportive your workplace might be or how supportive a partner you might have, the biases are intrinsic. You will be perceived to be less committed. People will think that you don’t “work as hard as you used to” (even though you’r actually working 10x harder – on average I have 45 minutes of unstructured time a day – max). I actually read a scary stat recently. On average the salaries of women with children are 12% less than those of women without kids. This is not true for men. Just women. And it really pisses me off.

Do I think that the societal structures that set women up to be primary caregivers, that tend to prioritize male careers and devalue commitments to family are wrong and should be changed? Of course I do. But I don’t have illusions that it’s going to happen anytime soon. Instead I’m left trying to figure how I can feel like I’m being as effective at my job as I used to be (while still being a good mom of course).

I wish I could tell you that I’ve found the answer. Sadly, I haven’t. Sure I’m trying to be more efficient with my time (thanks to this power-mama’s post). Sure, I’m trying to cut myself some slack because I’ve only been back from maternity leave since September and Carter is only 9-months old, but I so badly want to lean in and feel like I’m a amazonian power woman doing absolutely everything, but I think I fall more in the Ann-Marie Slaughter camp. You might be able to have it all, but not at the same time.

Sorry, not quite so succinct.

But I’m dying to hear what the rest of the mamas have to say on this topic. Be sure to check out their posts by clicking the links below. And of course, I’d be thrilled to hear your thoughts (and advice!) in the comments.

The Effortless Chic | A Daily Something | Could I Have That | Parker EtcSacramento Street |Sarah Sherman SamuelOur Style Stories | Ave Styles | The Refined Woman

image 1 via here, original photography for apartment 34 by suzanna scott

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  1. I have to ask : What does “real mom” mean ? as opposed to “mom”. Perhaps anti-super-mom ? Or is it in the lines of the intent of “real women” ?

    1. I assume it’s: moms being real instead of whitewashing everything a la Facebook, Instagram, and other social media in which folks present a falsely-idyllic version of their lives. Just a guess.

      1. You’re pretty right on! The thought of real moms/real talk was to peel back the curtain of pretty internet land and talk down and dirty about the daily realities of motherhood – good, bad and ugly. And sometimes pretty too 🙂

  2. My boyfriend of eight and a half years and I are finally tying the knot in August, and this topic is something that has been on my mind quite a lot lately. It’s not often that people candidly share their thoughts about the subject of raising a family and the challenges associated with it. Thanks for your openness and honesty, I look forward to reading the other bloggers’ thoughts.

    Molly {Dreams in HD}

    1. Thanks for the comment Molly and Congrats on your engagement! I say take as much time to just be a married couple as you can. You never get that time back!

  3. Thank you so much for this series and for this post. I am a working mother to a 5 month old. My husband is a third year medical student so with his insane schedule (in a profession that in the phase he is in does not respect families) I am the primary parent when it comes to daycare drop off, pick up. I am the one leaving meetings early that I NEVER used to leave early. I’m the one running into my building “late” everyday at a time I used to judge people for showing up to work (I hate that old me). I am the one leaving work mid day when my baby is sick at daycare. I work in a school- surrounded by other mothers and children and I still feel like I am perceived as a slacker when I leave a meeting to pump. I know I want to be a working mother- I love the feeling I have when I drive to pick up my baby after work- I am so excited to see him and I think I wouldn’t have that feeling if I didn’t have time away to work. I felt a different energy (and exhaustion level) when maternity leave ended and I went back to work. But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to work again at the level I did before. I wouldn’t trade anything for the amazing little peanut I have at home but I can’t help but feel like I’ll be running behind everyone else for the next 18 years…until he goes to college!! So again- thanks for sharing your post and this series. It’s always helpful in every phase of being a new mom to know you are not alone.

    1. I agree with everything you’re feeling and experiencing Beth! You are definitely not alone

  4. Wow. I read this post while chugging my second coffee of the day and sitting at my office desk and I can honestly say that I feel the exact same way you do. My daughter will be turning 6 months next week and I came back to work when she was 18 weeks. I spend an average of 3 hours a day with her and cherish that time — same as you. But I do wish I had more time – to be with my baby, to be at work, to excel at the things I love and to just breathe. I do hope some day these societal structures you mention will be no more. In the meantime, I’ll be searching for the answer just like you are and just like I’m sure many more women are these days.

    1. The camaraderie does make it seem a little easier – thanks Viv!

  5. YES, thank you! I had 11 weeks off for maternity leave. I had no problem or guilt dropping my daughter at daycare for the first time (nor have I since then). That first day back to work I walked in, took a deep inhale and said, “Smells like freedom!” And adult conversation. And work that I enjoy (usually). [Now this is where i always feel I have to add the obvious…] I *love* my daughter & spending time with her, of course.

  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this important topic. I live in Norway ( I’m a working mom with 2 kids) where we have paid maternity leave, 49 weeks at 100% salary or 59 weeks at 80% salary. It wasn’t always so, my mother had 12 weeks back in the 70ies. Female politicians worked hard to make this happen. Something to think about as your presidential election is coming up this year. I wish you all the best of luck ( and, if I dare say so, it is not gonna happen with Trump in office)

    1. Thanks for your sweet comment Inger and for dropping by. My husband is part Norwegian so if Trump does end up present we might be headed your way!!

  7. Thanks for the link love E — glad you were inspired by our post, and would love to chat organizing with you any time, because you inspire ME so much with how much you get done every day! Thanks for sharing these wise and transparent thoughts! xoxo C

  8. It’s like you girls read my mind by picking this topic today. Thanks for your candor! I really love to be able to see what other moms are doing who have similar businesses to mine. I’m trying to figure this out right now and it’s really really hard but like you, I find working validates me so much and it’s oh so important! xoxo

    1. Thanks for dropping by Catherine. I’m glad to hear you found the post helpful!

  9. It’s always great to hear other parents’ perspectives, so thanks for being honest, and I think it’s really important to remember that everyone will view their role as parents differently. Some will enjoy working, others will work but wish they could be at home…there’s no right answer for all.
    Nice to hear your positive words about caregivers–there are so many amazing ones out there, and being in a loving daycare/preschool can be such a positive experience for kids! I agree about the frustration of salary inequality and other pressures on working women. I just tell myself that I generally do my best for me and my family, and that’s all that matters.

  10. I absolutely adore this post. I have been stalling on having kids because I am completely terrified of loosing my momentum in my career. I gotten to the point where I’ve realized that it’s GOING to happen, so I just need to get over it. Hearing you say exactly what I’ve been fearing, is comforting. Thank you!

    1. I feel you Erin! I stalled for as long as I felt I could and I’m happy I did. The timing is never perfect but it felt good to have strong trajectory before throwing kids into the mix. I hope you’re doing well!

  11. Anything less than a year – or even a bit more – is early days. I woke up one day when my daughter was about 18 months and was surprised to realize that I felt well-rested, and had felt so for a few weeks without really noting the transition. That time of less-than-intensive career focus feels like forever, and maybe some people really are judging while we figure it all out. But many others aren’t, and by the time those super-challenging early days are done, our work has spoken for itself. And then we can give more grace to the women who come behind us, because we know what it’s like.

  12. Hi Erin. I am so completely and totally grateful for this post. As a working mom who feels the EXACT same way as you, I am so relieved to read about another successful woman who admits not only that she’s glad to go to work every day, but also admits to the ways that moms’ working days are limited, even when the choice to “work” is made. I don’t think I’ve read anything since having had my son (and the subsequent postpartum depression) that made me feel as understood as your post, and I am so, so glad to have come across it today. Thank you for running this series, and especially for posting so candidly about your experience.

    1. I’m so glad to hear this resonated for you Beth. You’re most certainly not alone. The struggle is daily, with silver lining of tomorrow being a new chance to be a little better. I hope you’re doing well!

  13. Hi Erin- I’m still early into motherhood as well, with a three-year-old, a 22-month-old and third baby arriving in March. I am a small business owner of a financial consulting firm so I was able to dial down my client load and pick up more work as needed, which was great but definitely left me feeling like the little man behind the curtain frantically pulling levers and pressing pedals as opposed to the Great Powerful Oz. I’m finding that the expectation of balance is a dangerous goal- sometimes I swing work heavy and sometimes it’s child and family heavy, and I’m learning to be gentle on myself as to how far weighted that fulcrum is toward one side or another. Furthermore, those are not the only two spheres to balance- I have friends, hobbies, personal pursuits, fitness, homekeeping, professional development, etc. to add in the mix as well. I love work and also get a lot of satisfaction out of it. I had a major aha moment when I read about other introverted mothers’ worldview and finally felt validation about needing separation from the kids and re-charge time. As I get used to my new role as mother, I am becoming incredibly efficient and no-nonsense and discovering a very empowered me that sets boundaries and keeps them and says “no” graciously but firmly all without a drop of guilt. I find myself saying “I don’t have time for this shit” and feeling perfectly serene about it in a way I never did before! It’s been incredibly energizing in an often overwhelmingly exhausting lifestyle. I don’t have it all and I don’t do it all and I don’t pretend otherwise. It’s messy, but I’m happy being a mom and taking a stab at whatever I can. Inequities do abound as far as judgment other people place on us. You’ll find a rhythm, you’re a smart woman, just don’t forget to be gentle to yourself along the way.

    1. This is such wonderful advice! Thank you so much for sharing. I really love the idea of saying no graciously and without a drop of guilt. I’m definitely struggling in finding the balance in all the other places of my life too – fitness, friends, hobbies, my husband. I know it’ll never be perfect but I guess there’s beauty in trying.

  14. I loved this post! And I totally related to it. I felt guilty when I initially felt the THRILL of going back to work after my maternity leave (after I had my first kid) but I’ve since learned to embrace the fact that I’m just not the sort to want to be a stay at home mom. I enjoy the work that I do too much. Ain’t nothing wrong with that 🙂 More power to you, mama!