Stilettos and tailored skirts, the smell of coffee on my perfectly arranged white desk, eloquently placed in the corner of the 3rd floor of a massive multinational. This was my happy place… I was born to be in corporate. The busy diaries, the impossible deadlines, meetings, late nights and early mornings. It all gave me a thrill. Advertising specifically, I don’t think I’d feel the same way about any other line of work. Working my way up this massively convoluted and complex corporate ladder, I had it all figured out, and was well on my way to seeing ‘corporate success’ before I turned 30! Until a quick stop at the doctor to treat a bladder infection turned out not to be a bladder infection at all… “It’s not a bladder infection my dear, it’s a baby” – A WHAT?? What do you mean a baby? I can’t have a baby!
The shock and fear set in almost immediately, a thousand things went through my mind, but there was still no possible place for a baby in my highly driven, fast paced, corporate lifestyle. It wasn’t long until the physical changes started, but mentally not much had changed. I could produce a full marketing plan and deliver massive campaigns in my sleep, but raising a kid? I was lost, overwhelmed, and still shocked. But I realise why as women we need to be ‘with child’ for 40 weeks… it was the exact amount of time I needed to prepare myself, by the 38th week I was round all over… and so ready to meet this little person. Still scared and worried, but by this time I had repositioned my mind and life to accommodate this little girl.
My corporate dream had taken a back seat, so did my heels and pencil skirts –sadly. I was waddling around in tent like shirts and pumps. The smell of office coffee now made me want to hurl, and my perfect white desk was filled with Preg-Omega and whatever my baby wanted us to eat that day! I became another ‘employee’ – that got in at 9 and left at 5. I wasn’t in my comfort zone, I was in a maternal zone. And although excited to meet baby, it sometimes saddened me, I almost felt like I had lost a part of me, who I was born to be. I watched corporate junkies run to meetings in heels I couldn’t dream of getting into and skirts the size of my wrist, I watched my life, and took a step back- my confidence at the office had somewhat decreased, I became withdrawn. I became what I thought a ‘MOM’ had to be. I lost my drive, excitement and burst of energy for what was once – just 9 months ago – my absolute passion point.
Finally what was thought to be a bladder infection made its way into the world – and she was a beautiful, perfect little girl, who I fell in love with instantly. She immediately consumed my entire world, days were filled with watching her sleep, and there was nowhere else I would’ve rather been… she had become my new Happy Place. However D-day was looming and I had to make my way back to the corporate jungle. I felt confused, lost and didn’t quite know how to make the transition. Being a single mom I knew I had to get back on track, but more than that I needed to fast track my ‘plan’. Someone had to buy formula and nappies. But HOW?? I didn’t feel like the old me, and I hadn’t quite found the new me yet either, a great mom AND a career goddess… does that even exist??
Being back at work and thankfully back in my heels and summer dresses, I had a slightly different perspective. Corporate doesn’t change, no matter how much you do! Before I knew it, I was back in the crazy bazaar swing. It felt great! And what’s even better I got a promotion – YUP!! Talk about fast tracking that plan, which led to another move, and an even more senior position within about 8 months!! AMAZING right? WRONG!
I was working 12 hours a day. I’d get home to a sleeping baby, and I’d need to do it all again the next day, sneaking out before she even woke up. Even weekends were filled with meetings, shoots or approvals before Monday morning. I was running faster than before, the young girls that was once me, were now reporting to me. My neatly placed corner desk had transformed into a chaotic corner office. But more than anything I was filled with ‘Mom Guilt’. The type of guilt that consumes you. It’s a sinking feeling that never really goes away, and can bring any working mom to tears, at the most unfavourable times… I would suddenly get a lump in my throat, trying to understand why I am sitting in a strat presentation at 6pm on a Wednesday evening and NOT feeding my daughter sweet potato and carrots which would ultimately land up on me and all over the floor. But I had no choice. I needed to give her everything she needed, and I didn’t hate my job, but I wanted to be a mom too… tears would fill my eyes as I wondered what she was doing, and continued to plough through another late night.
Until one day… leaving the office after 8pm, it started… weakness throughout my body, sudden sharp pains in my lower back with a force that didn’t stop…I found myself in hospital, starring into the florescent lighting – I realised that SOMETHING NEEDED to change. Tears ran down the sides of my face, as I realised I had missed so much of her.
That afternoon she spent the day on my hospital bed eating, and messing, climbing on top of me trying to impersonate the nurses while having long conversations with anyone that would listen… she had grown into a little girl so quickly, I couldn’t miss another moment.
Finding balance and making sacrifices is what I had to do. I didn’t have the answers just yet, but I knew what the outcome had to be. I prayed and prayed about it and not long after I got a call from another company, which is something I had never considered, I loved the business I was in! I worked hard to get to where I was, they had invested so much in me, and implemented a clear 5 year growth & development plan. The calling company was in the same industry, the team was very small and because most meetings were internationally based I had the option of dialling in from home. It was a massive change, moving from a busy office of over 500 people to a small office of just 8 people, moving from a business that offered me so many opportunities and amazing future growth. I loved the corporate buzz, but I loved the idea of being closer to my daughter even more. So… I made the shift, with many mixed emotions.
My crazy corner office has become my dining room table at home (although I do go into the office). I am enormously blessed to still have a great job. I gave up the crazy buzz that once gave me such a high, and corporate as I knew it – but I gave it up to listen to how her day was and watch her fall asleep. I’ve found balance, some days I’m in training tights and sneakers as I juggle school drops, emails, netball matches, conference calls, and princess bed time stories. And other days I get to squeeze into my pencil skirts and heels.
Becoming a mom changed me, at a relatively young age, perhaps I wasn’t mentally prepared, and my life wasn’t perfectly set-up as society would expect it to be. I pushed myself way too hard, to the point of breakdown… and only when I sat back and took stock of where I really was – did it all fall into place. I didn’t give up on my dreams , but I had to make a few adjustments, it’s not the exact picture I had in my head… its richer; richer in love, stability, time and importantly richer in happiness for both my daughter and I.