My husband and I first met while backpacking through Europe. I was traveling solo, and he with his brother, when we had a chance encounter at a hostel overlooking the romantic beachside city of Nice. To cut a very long story short, our European rendezvous quickly evolved into a two-year long-distance relationship before he eventually left his native Arizona to marry me on a Gold Coast beach in Australia. Skip to a year later, just a few months after our first wedding anniversary, and you can imagine my shock at seeing those iconic blue double lines. I was pregnant. This was followed by tears—a lot of them. My husband laid down quietly on the bed and didn’t speak much for at least a week after. You see, pregnancy wasn’t part of the plan at that stage in our lives. I was 25 and had just scored my dream job as a fashion journalist for the local newspaper.
Since my husband had only just immigrated, his spouse visa was still being processed, and employment in his line of work (denim design) was pretty scarce in a town where board shorts and bikinis were the local uniform. But what choice did we have? This baby was coming whether we were ready or not, so it was time to get organized and make it work.
I was extremely lucky to work for a company that had a very generous maternity leave package. Even still, I worked right up until a month before our son was born. I will never, ever forget the day I held our son in my arms for the first time. Giving birth was the most unbelievably powerful, heartrending, exhausting, exhilarating, and excruciating experience of my life, but the reward of creating new life was worth every second of it. I was completely and utterly in love with this beautiful little soul. He was so tiny and precious that I immediately felt an innate sense of responsibility to do everything in my power to protect, nurture, and, most importantly, provide. My husband and I are both very career ambitious, so whether I would return to work post-baby was never a question of do I or don’t I.
I stayed home for the first year after Neon was born. He was a colic baby, so I was too sleep-deprived to even think about leaving home before then. But I never stopped working. I started my own blog during that time—they were the new black back then—and I was pretty keen to keep my brain stimulated between breastfeeding and burping. When I eventually went back to work, my husband willingly stayed at home for the next year to take care of our son. He cherishes those memories. For the entire seven years of our son's life, we have always shared the responsibility of raising him, from alternating the days off work to care for him when he’s sick and sharing school pickups and drop-offs to cooking the meals and putting him to bed each night. We are partners in life and in parenthood, and I couldn’t do it without him. They say gender equality begins at home, and our family is living proof it works.
Even after spending a year at home, my returning to work was still met with some criticism and comments such as "Don’t you miss him?", "Don’t you feel bad?", or "But a child should be with his mother." The answer to all of those will always be a resounding yes, but I can honestly say that our son has 100% benefited from having a working mom and dad. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel some guilt during those early years, but not anymore. Because when he isn’t with me, he’s growing into his own person, discovering the world on his own terms, and learning new things from his community of caregivers, and from this he is a confident and discerning little man with an independence that belies his years.
But don’t take my word for it; there’s a string of recent research that proves kids benefit from having a working mom. Not only are these kids more likely to succeed and earn more money, but they also will eventually restore balance to the family home and encourage gender equality for future generations. Pursuing my passion and contributing to the world is important to me and my husband; it also gives us a sense of purpose. My son sees the joy this brings us too. When we do spend time together, it’s quality family time, just the three of us, and we value this more than anything.
So in conclusion, can women really have it all? Can you be a great mom, a successful career woman, a loving wife, and a caring friend? Yes, absolutely, just not all at the same time. For me, having a little help from a supportive partner, family members, and friends along the way was key to getting me through it. But it's truly amazing how we can summon the strength when we become a mother.
Read some of our favorite books about working moms, below.