The New Working Mom

In this corner, in a pencil skirt, heels, and a gauzy blouse unstained by spit-up or yogurt squeezer is WORKING MOM.  The woman who Does. It. All.

In this corner, in sweatpants and hair she washed just last Tuesday is STAY-AT-HOME-MOM, the woman who can whip up a baby food purée like nobody’s business.

It’s a fierce match, even more so because the media love to pit these two against each other. But when they enter the ring, the truth is that no one wins. Because it’s all hard, this mothering thing, no matter how you do it. That’s why more and more women are defying the old mommy-wars molds, and are redefining motherhood, and their professional lives, for themselves.

Essentially, more and more women are refusing to choose between their kids and their career – instead, they are setting out to find ways to have both. Hence, the rise in women who are freelancing, starting their own businesses, and using innovative co-working spaces like Durham’s Nido, where women can work with other professionals while their kids attend preschool in the next room.

It’s a lifestyle that is nothing if not flexible. This morning, I wrote some killer copy for a local entrepreneur’s website and made a batch of muffins for my kindergartener’s field trip to the zoo. A morning like that usually feels like a victory on both fronts, but it’s also a little crazy-making to carve out time for your own work between karate class and violin practice. I carry my laptop around with me most of the time. That way, if my kid falls asleep in the car, I can pull over and squeeze in fifteen minutes of revision on a blog that’s due the next day. Next to my desk at home is a basket of laundry that needs folding. When I need a break from brain work, I fold a few piles of laundry – it helps to clear my mind and, let’s face it, there is never, ever a shortage of laundry to fold.  In short, there’s not a lot of down time, and that’s hard on anyone. Chaos is just part of this lifestyle, and yet out of the chaos (if you can make yourself embrace it), comes creativity and even productivity. 

See, we reject the notion that all this splitting of our time makes us less capable, less creative, or any less driven than our male counterparts. It might be true that having children causes you to lose just a little bit of brainspace (in those first few months, at least), but children also inspire creativity in a way that is unmatched. Want creative ideas for your business? Seriously, ask a mom – they’re forced to look at the world in different ways every day (every moment, for that matter). Our kids might actually make us better at our jobs. Detail & Design client Nikki-Nicole Miles is a lighting designer and owner of Glimmer & Glow, an architectural lighting and design firm. She says of her two daughters, “Work is more meaningful and rewarding because they are my motivation. They push me to achieve a work-life balance… The same way I juggle sippy cups and lost toys, I juggle project deadlines and large design budgets – with grace and accuracy to get the job done and on time. Being a mother has enhanced my professional career because it forces me to hone in on my craft with laser-focused passion.” I also feel that my multi-tasking, stay-at-home-work-at-home lifestyle has made me sharper and more focused. I find more and more creative ways to get the items on my list taken care of, and I take pride in what I’ve completed – not only for myself but for my children, so I can say, “Hey, look what mommy did.” In fact, it was motherhood that forced me out of the box of a 9 to 5 teaching gig and pushed me to consider other options. What was I good at? What fulfilled me? What did I want to spend my days doing? My answer was writing, and since I have opened that door, affirmation (in the form of actual copywriting jobs) has poured in. I thank my kids for that.  

It’s hard to raise kids. But the only truth about motherhood is that there is no right way to do it. The same is true for building a career. At Detail & Design, we’re all about women defining those things for themselves. We applaud all the moms, and all the ways they’re making it work.

Kate Van Dis is Detail & Design's lead copywriter.