At the beginning of the month, we took our first road trip as a family of four to Ohio to visit Zayla and Zarene’s cousins. As a kid, my family always road tripped everywhere. Many of my most cherished memories come from those road trips, so I wanted to see if it was possible with my own children.
Luckily, it worked out pretty well! It definitely takes longer than you expect, but the girls did great. Zayla was so patient. She enjoyed our very Midwestern car game of looking out for the next water tower on the road. Zarene only had one minor episode of throwing up, but otherwise was also quite calm.
A trip with kids is definitely not a vacation. It’s a trip, and you have to be on all the time. But, it was so rewarding to witness our kids playing with 12 of their cousins, ranging in age from 22 years old, to Zarene at 4 months. Plus, with so much family, we didn’t have to take care of Zayla at all! She had so many cousins to play with her, and it was a wonderful experience for her as well.
I’ve been thinking recently about how that roadtrip serves as an example of what it has felt like overall in coming back to work after my second maternity leave. Everyone has been asking me what life feels like now that I am a mom of two. I’ve been sharing an idea that I heard from another friend that really rings true: zero to one is emotionally taxing, because your life completely changes, but one to two is more physically taxing. You need more man-on-man coverage. Both parents need to be stepping up at all times, and that’s especially true when traveling. There are no breaks. But—the reward is tons of heart explosions, all the time! 💗
Prior to my second maternity leave, I’d shared a big limiting belief I’d been working on transforming: “I can't grow my family and my company at the same time.” Several (normal!) doubts were floating around my head:
- How am I going to be both a present mom and a present coworker?
- How will I do my best work with such little sleep?
- Am I going to miss important milestones in my kids' lives?
- Am I still capable? Do my co-workers still need me, or will they realize I’m replaceable?
- Will I have enough time—for work and for kids, but also for: working out, having hobbies, seeing friends, connecting with my husband?
I’m still navigating a lot of these questions in real time. Zayla will sometimes pretend to be on a laptop and say things like, “I’m working! I’m having a meeting!” It’s kind of cute, but also kind of sad—I’m honestly not sure how I should feel about it sometimes.
The amount of time we spend with our kids matters, but research shows how we spend that time matters a lot more. So to me, the most important thing is to be super present during our daily rituals, especially now that a lot of these rituals have had to change with the arrival of Zarene. We always have breakfast as a family — that’s our sacred time together. And then after breakfast, we have 10 to 15 minutes of Anita-Zayla time, where we play whatever she wants to play. We draw, or read, or play games, or dance, to show her that she has my undivided attention.
Still, I have to admit that attention is definitely the most challenging part of being a new mom of two. There’s a quote I love that says paying attention is the most basic and profound expression of love, and I really believe that. With two kids, it’s harder to figure out who to give my attention to in any moment. There’s a new human to care for, but also a toddler who’s having a lot of new feelings. And of course, there’s also my business! (Side note: My husband aptly pointed out when proofreading that he wasn’t even included!)
When the more existential moments of doubt come, the first thing I do is think about what I would tell my daughters if they came to me, feeling these same things. I want to be able to show them that I was able to overcome challenges, like fundraising in a tough economic environment while pregnant. I imagine myself telling them: “You just have to keep going. If you believe in something and you feel so strongly about it, then you need to keep moving forward, until you find the people who can dream the dream with you.”
I want to tell them that becoming a mom makes you realize how much more you are capable of doing than you thought. That you find this awe inspiring strength and magical power that you did not even realize you had. That you really do become a super human. Not someone who doesn’t feel the toll of it all, but someone who learns that they can step up to it. You have a sleepless night feeding your child, rocking them back to sleep, and then the next morning, you have a really important meeting and you think, “How am I even doing this right now?!” But somehow you are doing it. That strength is just there. And you become more effective at time management and prioritizing the most critical things that you need to do, because you just don't have as much as time as you did.
As a mom, it’s paramount to be working on something that feels like an extension of who you are. Something that’s aligned with your purpose and the impact that you want to make on the world. Time is now so precious. Every minute I'm away from my daughters has to be dedicated to something that feels really meaningful to me. It’s incredible to come back to The Grand and not have to question why I’m here at all.
Of course, the old adage is true — it really does take a village. My husband, my parents, my in-laws, our siblings and our friends have all helped make it possible. Also, just knowing that there have been people before me who have done it and having that community to rely on is critical. That’s why we’re kicking off a coaching group specifically for ambitious working moms to support each other in both the work and life journey as a mom. If you’re interested in that, please email me: email@example.com to learn more!
I’m excited for the prospect of meeting regularly with a group of moms who just get it, and to coach each other on everything under the sun, big and small, children and work and our ever-evolving identities. As mothers probably already know, there are so many tiny moments where you want to get a quick gut check, and other tiny moments that you don’t want to forget. Together, we can co-create a space to feel less alone in times of doubt, reflect on the richness of heart explosions, and find grounding for our shifting identities.
As much as children can be challenging and exhausting, they can also be our greatest source of strength and resilience.
A few mornings ago, Zayla was “reading” Aladdin: “He had no money, no job, but he was in love!” My husband and I just burst out laughing at how cute it was. Every morning, I see Zayla waking up and giving Zarene kisses and wanting to hold her. And Zarene just had her first full-belly laugh this week. How can you stay in a bad mood with so many moments like these?
All the challenges at work just kind of disappear, because you’re filled with gratitude for all these little magical things in your life.
Being a mom is definitely harder with two, but it’s sweeter too.