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Having it all, or losing my mind?

The other day I did something I thought I would never do—I took a phone interview for a job I really wanted with a 4-month-old strapped to my chest.

Before you resign to thinking I’m crazy, let me explain. I recently quit my marketing job in hopes of truly having it all—staying home to raise my new baby while securing satisfying (not scammy) at-home employment, getting back my bikini body, and having homemade dinner on the table every night.

In hindsight, go ahead and think it. I AM crazy. In the first couple of weeks since I’ve been home, I’ve been trying to take calls and speak with potential employers or clients at precisely the same moment my little bundle of joy starts to scream his head off. His crying may or may not be detected the person on the other end of the line, but for me it is slowly tearing away at my heart strings (and sanity) with each passing second and each labored wail.

“My baby needs me,” I think to myself desperately while not quite halfway engaging in the conversation. I lose track of what I’m saying, what they’re saying, and needless to say, I haven’t landed work from these fruitless and painful conversations. Luckily, he has remained asleep for enough of my work time that I’ve been able to get through a few successful calls and land a few jobs. But each call I wait with baited breath for the screaming to begin, and I can therefore never fully devote my thoughts to the matter at hand.

After all, as much as I want to be gainfully employed at the same time I stay home to raise my child, I always know in my heart that I’m a mom first. And it’s why his yells for me are so heart-wrenching—I feel just as I did when I was working a traditional 40 hours in an office—like I have to choose to put work before my son.

So that brings me to the baby carrier phone call debacle. My interview was at one, and like all my “phone call” days, I carefully planned his feeding and nap schedule to perfectly coincide with my phone call. But as anyone who has ever had a 4-month-old knows, they like to eat perfectly planned schedules for breakfast and throw them up all over your sweater.

Not me–this is a lovely model using the fabulous (and sanity-saving) Moby wrap

As the time drew nearer, I heard him begin to stir in his crib. I couldn’t bear the thought of enduring the entire (important) conversation with him progressively screaming louder and louder. I knew I would be useless. I needed a plan B.

As I frantically paced the house thinking of ways to make him happy for one full hour while I took the call, it came to me. The only time he is (usually) completely satisfied and calm is when he is tucked in his little Moby baby wrap: attached to my chest. I thought it was risky, but it just might work.
Initially, all was well. I could concentrate on the call because I knew my most precious job was taken care of. Baby was happy. Until he wasn’t.

About 25 minutes into the call, I notice the telltale signs of an impending tantrum. I panicked. What do I do if he starts to scream? What is my explanation? Here I am trying to convince this organization that I can easily balance remote work and maintain a professional demeanor, and I have an infant about to lose his mind directly into the phone.

Fortunately, the job to which I was applying involved mostly non-phone work and writing, so I thought it may be OK. And when the crying started, I dealt with it as graciously as humanly possible. He settled soon after I wrangled the binkie into his mouth and my interviewer seemed to accept my hasty apology.

I don’t know if I got the job, but at this point it’s not looking good. And that’s OK. I am continuing to learn how insanely tough and rewarding it is to be a mom, and how my strong motherly instinct continues to surprise me. As naturally ambitious as I am, I am far more passionate about being a mom than advancing my career.

Having it all may be tough, or it may be downright impossible. All I know is I am on a journey to find out.

104 thoughts on “Having it all, or losing my mind?

  1. Impressive! As a mother of a three-year-old in daycare 4 days a week, I am beginning to accept that guilt, insanity and deep satisfaction are all a part of being a mom trying to have it all. Good luck!

  2. Hello, while I was reading (and enjoying your post) I kept thinking “this is me” – Left my demanding 40+ hrs/wk job to dedicate time to my newborn (who is 9 wks and my other princess who is 3 yrs) and man…. being a stay at home mom is not for the faint of heart ! … but like you said it is the most rewarding experience.

    … And I also relate to the person “on the other side of the phone”. I am an recruiter and often time I conducted phone interviews, and it is definitely a big “no-no” to have distractors (like crying babies, dogs barking etc) while on the interview. I’d say this was my biggest professional pet-peeve —-before I had kids my self—

    Try to get someone to help with the baby during phone screens :)

    Best of luck on your career advancement.

    • Thank you for your reply.

      In my not-so-distant past life before I had my son, I would be the person on the other end of the line getting annoyed with the children crying or the dog barking in the background. Life is good at doling out a good dose of humility when we need it :)

      My very supportive husband works odd hours and can sometime watch the little guy during the day–that is definitely my plan for the next phone call!

  3. It’s a difficult balance, for sure! And at 4 months, you’re still figuring out who your baby is and how to do the whole parenting thing – nevermind that silly complexity of a job being added in! So keep at it. Cut yourself some slack when it doesn’t pan out, rejoice on days that go well, and enjoy that little man every step of the way!

  4. I can so relate. Thank you for writing about your experience. It makes me feel like I am not so crazy afterall : ). -Cheers suebthefoodie

  5. I hear you loud and clear, congratulations on being freshly pressed. I am a silver citizen, with mad skills and work ethics and experience, energetic, and lots of time on my hands with a new degree last year. However I am not getting employed, go figure. Love your blog, cheers!

    • I know what you’re going through–it is a shame the current job market is lagging the way it is when there are so many smart, motivated people out there waiting to get in the game. I wish you good luck in your job search!

  6. You know what they say — you can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once. This super-demanding stage will pass, and you can ease back into a having at least a bit of a life outside the house if you like, but it’s hard going at this point.

  7. I am sure that pretty soon (if not as I am writing this response) you’ll be flooded with messages from women who identify with every word. I live in Canada where we get 1 year off as maternity leave and still having my son start daycare at 13 months and me starting a new job was one of THE toughest things I ever had to do. I am now on maternity leave with my almost 4 month old and I share your crazy fantasy. Maybe we can’t have it all, but we have to fake it and pretend that we can, that way we will at least cover some of it. :-) Good luck with the interview!

    • Thanks for your reply. I have been truly amazed at how my story relates with so many other moms out there.

      I received 10 weeks maternity leave total (I had to get special permission to take unpaid leave since 6 weeks was the limit) and I thought to myself more than once that we should move to Canada for the longer maternity leave :)

      Unfortunately, though, its not the length of the leave that is the problem but the unrealistic expectation to be everything to everyone at the same time! So like you say, I fake it sometimes and just do the best I can.

      Thanks for taking the time to reply!

  8. As naturally ambitious as I am, I am far more passionate about being a mom than advancing my career. <—–I've heard a lot of career oriented women express this same sentiment once they have their first child. And personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. :) Congrats on being FP!

  9. Wow! This was a great read! I’m in the same situation – a stay at home mom trying to have it all. Balancing is tough but I will say it gets easier as they get older. I’m excited to read more from you!

  10. I worked from home for almost 2 years and had several of those conversations. I am sure the people I was speaking with probably thought I was insane because I couldn’t even complete a full sentence without interrupting myself. Now I have a 2 and 5 yr old and it doesn’t get any easier! Good luck with the interview!

  11. I remember going to work with a breast pump over one shoulder and a briefcase over the other. It’s always a compromise. There’s not a “right” or “wrong” way; just your way.

    • That’s how a lot of amazing women I know (including my mother, whom I adore) did it too. I think it is all about learning what works for you and making tweaks along the way.

      Thanks for your reply!

  12. Oh the work life balance…and who amongst us has the answer?? meditating actually helps I’ve found in trying to prioritize and find that balance. Is that too far fetched with a four month old? I wish you all the best, its tough!

  13. It’s probably not possible to “have it all”, but you’ll figure out how to have what you need. Sometimes the work will rise to the forefront, and other times it will be very far in the background; just accept that you have multiple commitments now.
    Care for yourself with softness and grace.

  14. This article just got read by me and my soon-to-be a mom friend. We both liked it and we both wish you luck with raising your child :)
    You are truly an inspiration for mothers on the world !

  15. I once did a job interview hiding on top of a washing machine so my kids couldn’t find me. It does change as kids get older because the demands are different. Seeking a balance will always be front and centre though…remember to think of yourself in the mix as well.

  16. I worked from home for six years with my kids. I pulled it off, but I’d hardly brag about the meals I served or the state of my baseboards.

    The real answer: You can have it ALL. As long as you have the right definition of ALL.

    • Thanks for your reply–I think you’re exactly right.

      As long as you have your priorities straight and define “having it all” as doing the best you can for yourself and the ones you love, you can have it all :)

  17. Isn’t it horrible to be a mom in modern times? There is so much pressure to be both super mom and a career woman. It’s really tough to make the choice between a child and a career, and trying to do both at the same time is almost impossible; if the child is at home while you are working, you can’t do justice to either the child or the job. And no matter what you choose you get criticzed from all sides. But I do wish you good luck and don’t worry if it akes a few more months to get a job; you won’t regret the time you had with your baby! They’re only young once.

    • Thanks for your reply. There certainly is a lot of pressure for mothers to be everything to everyone, and for me a lot of the pressure comes from within. I feel blessed to just have the opportunity to try to get in some work while he naps or my husband cares for him.

      You’re very right, though–I’m sure he will grow up before I know it, and I am trying to enjoy every moment :)

  18. As a working mother who has experienced exactly what you are when my daughter was younger I will say that it does get easier. You can in fact have it all without loosing your mind. It takes time to adjust to a new baby and learn how to work around the challenges of work and motherhood in an organized way where everyone is happy and satisfied. It is possible Trying to schedule your child around the interviews as far as feedings and naps is a great start. Over time you will get into a routine and you will learn how to schedule all your calls and appointments around your child and it will all come together. You are not crazy! Try not to panic and just take it day by day! It will all come together and work out in time!

  19. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, all thoughts of career advancement went out the window! Love the Moby wrap too, it’s a life saver, especially when you’ve got a tiny prem baby who doesn’t fit in any other baby carriers!

  20. You sound like a great mom who just wants to feel useful in the work arena while you tend to your child’s needs. You shouldn’t be punished for that and I believe an opportunity is coming you will feel comfortable with. Do not despair!

  21. For me, I couldn’t bear the thought of a babysitter taking care of my newborn so I stayed home for almost 8 years. It was tough financially but like you, my motherly instincts totally took over my desire to have a career. If you don’t have to work while they are young, there should be no guilt. It floors me that women get a bad wrap for wanting to be homemakers. Go with your gut instinct. I am back to work part-time thanks to a super flexible small business employer. Hey, at least you are honing your writing by blogging. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  22. I think Dr. Seuss says it best “So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? ”

    Good luck to us all!

  23. I was lucky enough that all of my kids had their mom home as they grew. I think its worth the challenge and sacrifice. One thing I have also learned, since my kids are all grown up, is that you baby will make it no matter how difficult it may seem to be raising them. I tend to disagree that it is almost impossible to do both at the same time. In the end your baby needs food, shelter and Love. You can give them all of that easily and still work at home.

    • I’m right with you that it IS possible to do both (work and stay at home raising the kids). It takes some good time management skills but once you get the rythm, you’re good. Like you, I feel lucky to work from home, and being there for my kids. Some days can be challenging but it is worth all the sacrifices in the end :-)

  24. I was very excited when I came across your blog post. Today I wrote a similar post! I work from home and frequently have to entertain a 6 month old and 2 year old while carrying on a conversation. It’s a skill!

  25. Oh sweetie I go back to work next week and have to put my angel in daycare. Its killing me especially since I am working with other people’s children. I have no idea how I’m going to pull it off but I have been through some tough stuff coming up but this may bring me to my knees. I hope you land the job you are looking for and that you do get your dream of doing it all, the homecooked meals and taking care of baby. Let me know if you land something you got me interested in what happens next!

  26. Perhaps it’s been written already, but what about a mother’s helper a couple of hours a day? If you could get a 7th, 8th or 9th grader to be at your house for an hour or two a couple of times a week, you could possibly schedule some calls/get some work done then.

  27. As a work-at-home-mom (mainly editing and writing) it IS crazy just trying to have some semblance of order at home! My boss understands the screeching and yelling in the background when we have skype conferences..LOL good luck and I hope you get the job!

  28. Way to go! Go ahead, take that interview call. I am still working at the company that did a phone interview with me while my now-four year old was in a sling, nursing, while I did dishes and homeschooled my other children at the kitchen table. Mommy multi-taskers are in high demand these days…balance comes with the yield of seeking.

  29. You’ll be amused about that phone interview some day. It get’s easier and harder, too. I’ve had important events go off the rails for me because one of my teenagers had gone awhol for a day and a half.

  30. Nice blog you have here! I really enjoyed this entry. I’m a mother of two (very young ones) so I can empathize with what you’re saying. Good luck with the interview – I hope you land the job! If not, rest assured that you’re already succeeding at one of the hardest jobs out there – being a mom! – and try again for something else later. :)

  31. Like the other responders, I can well relate to your predicament. My children are now 8 and 6 and I juggle part-time work, volunteering and a demanding chronic illness. I was working one day a week from home doing marketing work when my son was born and this seemed so easy. The ideal solution to combining work and family. In retrospect, it seems crazy because I had no childcare and I was needing to look after him at the same time I was trying to work. I live in Australia and it is quite I guess the norm to have 12 months maternity leave and many mums return to work part-time. They are not trying to juggle the demands of being a new mum and getting used to looking after a little person while working and being in such a pressure cooker. I am quite an active feminist and for me that also means trying not to self-destruct. For us, especially given the auto-immune disease I developed after the birth of our second child, we have had to adjust our financial aspirations. We have a modest home and a relatively low mortgage. I don’t have to work but I can. In some ways, this is a form of alternative lifestyle but we are not under constant financial stress and that is kind of liberating.
    I struggle as a Mum but am finding my feet as the kids get older.
    I would recommend joining a playgroup and getting to know some other Mums in your area where you could help each other out with some reciprocal babysitting or just spending an hour at your place while you make these calls. We still need our women’s networks and to be part of a community. You need that extended network. I’ve found since my kids have started school, I often need friends to pick the kids up if I have an appointment as afterschool care finishes too early. Good luck and best wishes,
    Rowena

  32. I had a year at home, before returning to work. At which point I was READY to be out of the house and my son was ready to spend the day with little ones his own age. But there are still days when he looks at me and says, “Mommy, stay home. We read a book.” and I have to leave and spend the entire commute thinking “This is having it all, right? RIGHT?”It never gets easy, but it does get easier. Best of luck!

  33. I interviewed for a job with a state Attorney General while rocking my three-week old son in his carseat in the center of a table around which all the division heads were sitting in suits. It seemed perfectly sane at the time. . . and I did get offered the job :)

  34. You are an inspiration! I’m graduating from university in April and people always look at me a bit funny when I say that my goal come graduation is to start my own home based business so that I can eventually be a stay at home mum with rewarding work on the side. Not only are you being an incredible mother by taking a stab at balancing, but you are also acting as an amazing role model for your child by demonstrating that although society tries to force it’s expectations on everyone, there are people (like you!) who refuse to accept them and live life their own way!

  35. Wow! We recently covered this topic in our New Era Moms Show last week! We called it “Is Balance a Myth?” We used words that in reality it’s a compromise….It boils down who is your “troops” to provide you the support structure you need so you can be productive when you have that “work” time to get “things” done. We are on the look out for real moms to join as guests for our show and welcome you to check it out: https://rivvid.com/watch/2913-episode-1-is-balance-a-myth

  36. As a soon to be first time mom, I admire your commitment to your child and can relate with your want to balance both motherhood and a professional life; this is something I currently find myself worried about. Great blog, I enjoyed reading it. Best of luck.

  37. My “baby” is 22 years old…I advise new Moms to plan on getting NOTHING done, except taking care of the baby…then if you get to brush your teeth, comb your hair, and Yipee! take a shower…that’s a hug blessing day!! Ha!! I’m praying for your sanity, ’cause your baby will be fine! Amen! Loved your post!

  38. Best of luck to you! I’ve been a freelancer for nearly ten years so I could stay home with my kids. I stuck with editing for years, but in the past year I’ve begun interviewing people over the phone to write articles again. Even with a 9 and 7-year-old, I hold my breath sometimes, but so far, so good. ;) You’ll find that balance.

  39. Having a 13 year old and a 3 year old I have come to only one conclusion…as long as they spend less than half their time in therapy discussing me then I have done a pretty darn good job. Right now I spend my time doing the best I can. I think it is all any of us can ever do..oh and quick thinking on the baby carrier..nice job! Best of luck with your interview!

  40. Loved your post. I cannot say that I identify with you because I am yet to be a mother. But I hope that when I finally have a child, I have the type of clarity you have about your life and choices.

  41. Ah, the juggle in its purest form. god bless slings, that’s what I say. Relied on many times by myself when he and she were younger; got me through meetings, calls, article writing and much much more… Great writing, much enjoyed.

  42. It IS a tough balancing act, but you know what? I found that jobs come and go and with time, they’ll be a blurred memory. The memory that will stay with you the most will be the times you’ve spent with your child.

    Good luck with both :)

  43. If they don’t want you on board because you have a child and you are otherwise qualified, my hope has been that someone would take this sort of thing to the courts as a form of gender discrimination. You’d have to get them to give you some feedback on your interview and the child’s presence during that phone interview. Maybe they would comment on that in a way that gives you a starting point on evidence. There is ample evidence that Moms at home bonding with babies and toddlers, particularly while breast feeding, are not only an American institution as real and right as Apple Pie and Baseball, but really, truly and unquestionably good for the country. I’d like to know the progress on this, and the outcome. Makes me wanna rumble.

  44. Balance is the daily challenge of the motivated and inspired. We tend to find ourselves spread a mile wide and only an inch deep. I’m a mother of three, a teacher, a musician, an artist, a youth leader, and an author but not all the time and never at the same time. I’ve learned, as I age, to go deep rather than wide in the things that satisfy me at the time and I find it results in less frustration. Good luck with the balancing act!

  45. I never thought I’d stay at home, but after 8 months of my husband’s schedule accomadations, and juggling friends, and babysitters, all in an effort to avoid daycare, I found myself at home, looking for a job that I can do on the computer, while my son either naps or plays. And I STILL have guilty feelings, because I am on the computer when he wants me, sometimes (so what’s the difference between that and daycare?).

    I also nursed until he was 14 months old, and I feel guilty for not nursing longer. Maybe motherhood is just about guilt.

    Hey, if you want to team up with me (I live in Israel), maybe we can make some kind of company. :)

    • I never thought I’d stay home either. In fact, people I haven’t talked to in a while are very surprised to hear of my choice. But I think motherhood really changes a person in ways they never anticipated, and I am working “going with the flow” much more than I ever have.

      Thank you for commenting!

  46. Oh sounds just like me. I have a 7 month old and just getting over post natal depression (mild), i’ve finally almost finished studying and im heading into this new venture: writing a blog and a book about the skin and hints and tips about looking after it. With my little one i struggle to do it. I had a job interview the other day and had to cancel because he was sick..i feel my life is getting nowhere but i know it will pass. Feel free to look at my blog, and facebook page http://www.facebook.com/skinsitefoodforyourskin. I have only just started and would like some support and can do the same for you. It’s hard to get out the the world. I hope it all goes well for you! I’ll be keeping posted!! Good luck! :-D

  47. Your blog made cringe. The more I think about motherhood and about what I want, the more I learn about what to expect. I want to work but I want what’s best for MY baby. As a momentary babysitter to families with workings parents, I know what you’re doing puts you in hero status. Having it all is an impossible balance to achieve. Thank you for some true insight into a new working mothers life.

  48. Good on you for giving it a go…and the best of luck. Getting that balance right is surely the never ending challenge for a mum. I left my full time career as a TV presenter in Australia and moved to Hong Kong (pregnant) with my hotelier husband two years ago. As a stay at home mum now working casually, I’m still coming to terms with all the changes and wondering how to ‘get it right’ (for all of us.) It takes time and a lot of adjusting….but I’m told it definitely gets easier. Cheers, Nicole

  49. Good luck on finding balance, it’s a never ending journey. I have four kids and I might have balance for a bit but then something teeters somewhere and I’m off again, haha! It’s hard, sucky, amazing, and a growing (sometimes insane) experience…… And I would never change it! You are doing great! The Moby was a necessity around here! Glad I found your blog!

  50. Being a momma that works (full or part time – or in any capacity) is so hard! I recently went on a job interview and realized part of the way through that I had boogies on the shoulder of my suit. A lot of them. I told the interviewers the truth after I realized it and we had a good laugh. What can you do, right? My son is 8 months old and had a cold. Good luck to you!

  51. I’ve been there my friend!! I have 3 children and was blessed to have had the luxury of staying at home with all 3 of them during there infancy. That being said I, just like you have the desire to work whether it be outside the home or in.
    About 10 years ago after my second child I buckled down and took some a course to become a certified in transcription. I had it all planned out and was ready to get the work done so I could find some work and have the best of it all, except that it wasn’t. To this day I have never held any position that required transcription knowledge or certification.
    I have always been and believe will always be a marketing person. I love it and have a passion for it but being a mom and a marketing manager doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
    I eventually did return to a full time position once my children were all older and approaching their school years.
    I can offer you this… it does get easier, but I must warn you, my children are now between the ages of 11 and 7 and you would think that at those ages I should be able to have a phone conversation without crying or something going down… this is not the case. It never fails, I swear they have some sort of radar that goes off when I get on the phone. So unfortunately that doesn’t really ever change but I believe you’ll find something that suits your needs and enables you to be at home where you’re needed and wanted.
    good luck to you!

  52. that balancing act is a tough one! I’m a first time mom to a just under 4 month daughter and recently made the decision to SAH, too. Due to financial constrains I have to work one day a week for a 16 hour on-call shift as a therapist where I primarily take and make phone calls. My husband helps a lot, but that instinct when you’re a mother is brutal when you hear them cry. Let me know if you find some magic recipe on how to make it work! I haven’t tried the babywearing strategy yet, but I’ll definitely give it a go!

    • Good for you for making it work from home! I am learning that planning to have at least someone there to help helps me. I still take phone calls, but I try to have my husband or someone in the house who can stave of the crying at least for a little bit. Good luck to you!

  53. I feel like I struggle with the same challenges… wanting to have it all and knowing that I can’t. Sadly (or maybe not so sadly), I can’t just quit what I do to be home with my kids. I love my kids and I love what I do, so being away from them is okay with me. When my second baby was just born, I took him to everything I could… in the Moby wrap, nonetheless!

    • To this and your other comment–I know what you mean! When I left my job, it was just that–as job. It seemed silly to have something that didn’t mean much more than a (not-so-big) paycheck stand in the way of staying home. But I really think loving your job is the key to happiness and in the long run, kids always benefit from a happy mom. My mom was (and still is) one of those women who always loved her job, and shes is the most amazing person I know!

      Good luck to you!

  54. I feel the same way, I don’t regret struggling a little financially so that I could focus more on my Lil’ Bit and graduate school when I dropped down to part-time at work and part-time in my NP program. It took five months but I began to resent my career and all the time it was taking away from my baby. I wish you the best of luck and congratulate you on your decision to put the baby first!

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