Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I'm the mother of two children, Charlotte, 6 and P.J., 4, and I think what makes my life perhaps somewhat unique is the major change I’ve undergone with my husband in the past two years in order to prioritize our lives. I don't believe there is such a thing as 'having it all' really. Something has to give. In my case, I decided that I had to find a way to keep my career and be a very active part of my children’s lives.
A southerner by birth, I moved to New York City in my late twenties to pursue a career in advertising. I moved up the ranks of some of the largest advertising agencies in New York City and tried to take advantage of every minute I had in the city. Along the way I met my husband and we moved out to Connecticut to start a family. Fast forward two years, the birth of my two children and I was itching to get back into my career. However, as I began to contemplate the reality of having a career and raising young children in the northeast, I took a hard look at what my day would be--an hour plus commute one way to the city. That was more than I was willing to sacrifice. My husband and I had always toyed with the idea of moving south and we felt that now was the time to consider a big move since our kids were still preschool age. So, we put our house on the market. We didn't expect it to sell in three weeks (and looking back I think there was a part of me that hoped it never would!).
That was two years ago. Today, we live in Nashville, Tennessee, and I am the communications director for BOHAN advertising. I am also the editor of the agency's blog, Why Moms Rule, all about marketing to moms. Editing a blog is a new challenge for me and one I don’t think I would have pursued working at a larger agency. Because of my experience coming from the NYC ad world, I have been able to work out a very flexible work schedule and can be an active mom in the daily lives of my children. And, in a very funny turn of fate, I still get to work with some of my old colleagues in New York as I sit on the public relations committee of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. It feels like such an exciting time to live in Nashville as the city is experiencing huge growth and we’ve made so many good friends.
What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
On days when things are falling apart, I use music to (help) transform my mood. I try to sneak off to the kitchen and turn on Pandora. I pick a song from a very carefree time in my life and try to get back to that happy place in my mind. Or, Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” is my go-to feel good song. And, if I can’t escape from the kids, the Bare Naked Ladies have a lovely children’s CD called “Snacktime” that is fun for all of us (of course, my kids don’t know the name of the group!).
Also, texting my best girlfriends and unloading always helps. They are usually in the throws of kids/laundry/work chaos themselves and seeing just a few words of encouragement from another mom in the trenches always helps.
Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
It was the day of our big move from Connecticut. The movers had loaded up all of our earthly possessions and my husband and I loaded up the kids and began our drive down south - what I called “the trail of tears.” To say that I am not very good with change is an understatement. I was an emotional wreck. To add insult to injury, halfway into our 15 hours drive, I discovered my daughter had lice! And guess who else did? Me! My daughter and I have some seriously thick hair—think the Kennedys. A real nightmare when it comes to lice. When we arrived south, we felt like a group of
refugees emerging from a long, dirty ship voyage! My husband really came through and spent hours each day for the next two weeks picking nits out of my hair, while I picked nits out of our daughter’s hair. It actually became something we laugh about now, but at the time, it felt pretty bleak.
Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
My close friend, Annabel Kelly, a working mom, is a great role model for me. She has a remarkable way of staying grounded and cutting through any BS to make sure she is spending her time on what really matters in her kids’ lives. She seems immune to the peer pressures of modern parenting and refuses to over-complicate her kids’ lives with too many activities, TV and plastic toys. That’s something I try to emulate (but it’s a constant struggle).
I also greatly admire Sheryl Sandberg and her “Lean In” movement. Some may say it’s just a big PR ploy, but I believe her when she says that she went against her advisors to champion this topic. I think it takes a person with her gravitas to take it on. Sure, she has nannies and opportunities that many women do not have but that goes with the territory of being good at what you do. She’s a real inspiration.
Doing it all doesn’t work for me. At one point, I tried to schedule my work so that I could be home with my son on the days he didn’t have preschool and work on the days he did. What ended up happening is that I had no time to run errands and organize the house, so the together time I had planned for us became me trying to catch up on everything I had to get done. Now, I have regular help and have learned that it is better for all of us when I’m not trying to do it all. “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
It’s hard for me to remember what I felt like at 18, and at 18 I don’t think I could even imagine being as old as I am now! But, I would probably be most surprised that I married a Yankee and lived and worked in New York City for as long as I did. And, I’m sure I would be surprised at how much children have transformed my life for the better.
Relate to what Hollie is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.