Recently I was given an offer I couldn’t refuse: an executive position at an international public relations powerhouse with an impressive salary and a flexible work schedule. I got the job on my terms, and in my field, that’s saying A LOT. PR agencies are notorious for long hours, negative political cultures and conveniently void of minority senior talent. Taking this job was a HUGE step for me. I’ll explain why in a bit.
I started my own public relations business in 2010 after having my son so that I could make money and be available to my family. Truth be told, my last agency job was an incredibly negative place that discriminated against mothers and black women. So, as soon as I had a child, the heat was turned on. It didn’t matter that I was out performing my peers and managing 4 different accounts with teams in 5 different states. All that mattered was that I wasn’t blond, I wasn’t playing the game and I didn’t kiss ass. I understand that corporate jobs require a bit of political finesse in order to make it. You’ve got to “go along to get along”; but, I have a slight issue with that. I’m a strong, smart, confident, articulate, assertive businesswoman. If I were a white male, I’d be a young, hotshot CEO by now. I’ve got bigger balls than most men and I ain’t afraid to whip ‘em out and smack you in the forehead with them if you get in my way. I play nice, I play fair, but I play the effing game. Once you step into my court, even if I don’t win, you’re going to know you went to battle with me. I leave scars. A friend of mine said, “It’s like having PTSD. I can still work, but I get the shakes and feel the need for anxiety medication if I think I’m in for another round with you.” Yeah. I’m a bad b*tch … but in a good way :-).
So, when my “style” and my dark skin and my kid and my “aggressive” behavior stopped working for my last agency, I struck out on my own. I really wanted to dedicate myself to my son and I knew that I could pull in some good money by contracting my services. Even if it wasn’t a lot of money, I’d still be able to contribute to the family. I’m blessed because my husband’s job covers all of our expenses and our necessities. My financial contribution to our family has always been our “extra” money like: the savings, vacations, extra curricular activities for Noah, etc. You can imagine how those things dramatically shift when I don’t have money coming in. Under Haley Communications, I worked like mad, was able to almost double my salary from my last agency and I did it all on my own. There’s not a day that I don’t praise God for that blessing.
It’s been such a pride thing to start up my own shop and actually thrive, so when my business took a bit of a hit in 2012, I panicked. Should I go back to work? Should I give up the autonomy to do what I want to do with a project rather than trying to appease some idiot manager? Should I put my son in school full-time rather than have him home with me two days a week? Can I handle managing my household and working 50 – 60 hour weeks? Can I? Should I?
After much prayer, Hubby and I decided that the best thing for our family and me would be for me to return to work. I still consult for clients with Haley Communications, but this job would give me the reach to whole new markets. I was excited and scared all at the same time. It’s not that I didn’t think I could do the job, but I’m responsible for more than just this one role. I’m also a wife, mother, sister, daughter and best friend. With those roles comes an awesome amount of responsibility and their own separate job description. I wondered how I would serve each of those roles adequately without losing my freaking mind. I literally began to doubt whether I could do it. Hell, even my friends were giving me a doubtful side-eye glance.
According to the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It (and I imagine this must be true on some level) there’s a study which showed that 64% of women with small children don’t sleep through the night. Why? Because at night, women all around the world do “the list”. Here’s my list on any given night:
- Plan this week’s dinner menu
- Schedule a dentist appointment for me
- Schedule a dentist appointment for Bryan
- Schedule a doctor’s appointment for Noah
- Finish Start the laundry
- Fold the load in the dryer
- Mop the kitchen floor
- Clean out the cubby in the kitchen
- Take down the Christmas decorations
- Buy M&Ms for Noah’s art project
- Buy pull-ups for Noah
- Potty train Noah!!
- Call my dermatologist
- Order contacts
- Clean the guest bedroom
- Clean Noah’s toy corner
- Take clothes to the drycleaner
- Pick up clothes from the drycleaner
- Clean the house (bathrooms, living room, kitchen and bedrooms)
- Call Orkin
- Get the estimate for the renovations
- Call the contractor about upcoming projects
- Schedule time with manager to discuss budget for client X, Y and Z
- Delegate items A, B and C for client X’s project D
- Schedule time with partner agencies to discuss ongoing initiatives in 2013
- Learn client Y’s products
- Draft content for client Z’s marketing magazine
- Decide creation direction for client’s marketing materials
- Draft two blog entries for Client X
- Call husband and remind to … sigh … just do it yourself
- Order Noah’s custom birthday party invitations
- Retrieve kid’s names from school for invites
- Address / Send birthday invites
- Plan party menu
- Research sitter / nanny services
- Research housekeeping service
- SEX! Jeez … have sex with husband
- Wax … everything
- Make hair appointment
- Buy tampons
- Get a manicure / pedicure
- Schedule Noah’s birthday party and alert family
- Buy suit for little brother in law school
- Call BFF to get the download on her personal life/advise/love/release
- Call to check on little brothers
- Call mother
- Call mother-in-law
- Don’t smoke. Don’t buy cigarettes!!!
- Go to the gym *inner laughter*
- Tell Hubby to … ugh … who am I kidding?? Just do it yourself!
- Noah’s crying … go check on the baby
Seriously. This is the sh*t that goes through my head on any given night. Not to mention that at some point in my crazy busy week it all has to get done. Somehow I have to split myself into 5 or 6 different people to yield maximum results. So … how does she do it, you ask? She doesn’t. Most weeks I achieve a small percentage of the things on my list. And slowly, but surely, I’m learning not to beat myself up for it.
When I first had my son, it used to tear me apart that I couldn’t do it all. In my mind, I saw my Mother do far more with far less and all on her own. She never complained. She never hinted that it couldn’t be done. I saw her raise three kids alone with no money and we NEVER went without. Somehow, she always came through. With that example in mind, I set out to be the perfect wife and Mom. I set out to be just like her. I cleaned my own house, I cooked for my family every night, I served my husband on-demand *smile*, I worked 50 – 60 hour weeks, I nurtured my son and I was dying. I was literally on the brink of a nervous breakdown. The thought that I was failing at these tasks was tearing me apart. I couldn’t fathom hiring someone to help because it felt like an admission that I can’t take care of my family. I’m not woman enough to be all that I need to be to operate in this role. The thought shattered me.
And then one day, God spoke through my friend, Julie Gaskin. We were having one of our random weekly girlfriend lunches and I blurted it all out. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I buckled to the pressure. I ranted about failing Bryan, my inability to be perfect, my lack of confidence and my fear that no matter how hard I try, I can never seem to please everyone or get everything done. She touched my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “So what?” I looked at her in amazement! What the hell do you mean “so what!?!?” She said with love, “You do an amazing job as wife and mother. So what if you can’t clean the house and do all that other sh*t too?! Hire a housekeeper. Get a sitter. Do whatever you need to do to reduce the stress in your life so that you can focus on the stuff that matters.”
I couldn’t take her words in at that moment, but today I totally get it. Sometimes (like right now) the house is a mess and the Christmas decorations are still up and the baby is sick and the laundry is waiting. Sometimes you have to give your husband a quick noonday love session rather than an all night, Beyonce “Dance For You” fantasy fest. Sometimes you need to sleep in rather than go to church (yeah … I said it). Sometimes, you get to be imperfect. And it’s okay. You juggle, prioritize, and more importantly, you let yourself off the hook! I realized that the only person putting pressure on me … was me! I’m learning to give myself a break. No more browbeating. No more feelings of failure. It’s time to celebrate the things I can accomplish in a week and praise God for the time given to complete the rest at another time.
As long as your family is feeling loved and your house hasn’t burned to the ground and the car is still running and the phone is still working and God blesses you with another day to check off a few things on that ridiculous list, count yourself lucky. Life will be a crazy, unorganized mess, but it’s your mess. And somehow, someway you’ll find a way through it. Just like me. Trust me. You’re not a failure simply because you’re not a magician.
God bless every working Mother out there. And remember, while you’re busy wondering how to get it all done, everyone else is looking at you thinking, “I don’t know how she does it.”
All the best, AskThePRGirl