Tell us about yourself and your current role.
I am a new mom of a six-month-old baby girl, and I am also an Account Supervisor at a digital-first marketing agency in NYC - Situation. I’ve been at Situation for nine years and in this role for three years. In a nutshell, I am the liaison between our clients and the internal departments within the agency. My core responsibilities are to work with our internal teams to develop a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that addresses the client’s objectives and needs, ensure that our internal departments are fully briefed on the current state of affairs & focus for the clients, and to manage the growth and development of junior team members. I am also involved in improving existing agency processes and interdepartmental workflow.
What is the culture like at your agency?
Situation is a very collaborative agency filled with passionate people who strive to do great work. The company gives monthly perks and coordinates cross-departmental events to encourage authentic collaboration between the 90+ people within the agency. It is a fast-paced, ever-changing environment, and while it’s not expected nor required that you’re “always on,” due to the nature of digital and live entertainment, the work never stops (but it’s always exciting).
How does that culture mesh with the juggling act that is being a working mother?
On a personal level, I feel I have a great support system within the company. Since most of the folks in leadership positions at Situation are parents (mostly of children under the age of 10), they have a level of understanding and have worked with me to ensure that I had a smooth transition back to work.
However, the always-on mentality that accompanies agency life – especially in the digital space – is one that’s sometimes hard to shake. Even if you set boundaries for yourself that you will leave at a particular time and not bring work home with you, that does not mean that the work stops when you leave the office. It’s a constant balancing act to determine how much effort and energy I can give to work itself, without ending up drained by the time I get home to see my daughter (all the while trying not to lose myself along the way). To counter this mindset, something that has worked for me is to dedicate the time that I get home until the time my daughter goes to sleep as family-only time, where I do not check in on my email and instead focus on playing with toys, feeding her, bathing her, and putting her to sleep. I allocate 30 minutes after she goes to bed each night to check in one time to ensure nothing urgent or time-sensitive has cropped up since I left the office, and then I spend 15 minutes outlining my priority list for the next day, so I know what needs to be tackled and in what order.
One thing I’m incredibly grateful for is the steps the agency has taken to support working mothers – particularly new mothers. With a pumping room, separate refrigerator, unlimited work-from-home policy, and other perks, the agency gives moms healthy space and opportunities to be both a great employee and a great mother.
In what ways has being a mother changed how you approach certain aspects of your job?
The terms “delegation” and “time management” have taken on a whole new meaning since I returned to work. I no longer have the luxury of time, and the days of staying late to wrap something up or logging back on when I get home to get ahead of tomorrow’s priorities are long gone. I have a new perspective on what is important and how I want to be spending my time. As a result, I have been more diligent about prioritizing what needs to be accomplished in a day and who should be the one to do it. I also find that I now have more patience at work, and I don’t sweat the small stuff as much.
What would you say are some of the most rewarding aspects of being a working mother?
I love the idea that I am setting an example for my daughter as a strong and independent woman. Being a mom is not the only thing that defines me, just like working in advertising is not the only thing that defines me. While it can be exhausting to go to work every day and then go home to my other job as a parent, I’ve found that I value and appreciate each moment that I spend with my family even more so now than I ever thought possible. What was surprising to me is that I also found myself reinvigorated at work after some time away, and I was excited to dive back into it. Juggling multiple things that I love has amplified my balancing skills, and I’m grateful for how this has changed the way I live and work.
What are the biggest challenges that you’ve dealt with?
The biggest challenge is coming to terms with the fact that I cannot be fully present and focused or give 100% of my effort and attention in any aspect of my life anymore – whether at work or home. At work, I’m missing my daughter and wondering how her day is going at daycare. How much has she eaten so far? How long were her naps? Does she still have that cough? If she rolls over for the first time, will anyone catch it on video? How will I feel having missed that moment?
I race home at 6pm to pick up my daughter by 7pm (she’s usually the last baby left at daycare at that time). Then, instead of focusing all my attention on her for the hour and a half I have with her, I find myself thinking about what emails I still need to send or what meetings I need to prep for once she goes to sleep.
The other challenge is balancing my meeting schedule and my pump schedule. Despite blocking myself out for two sessions a day, I often need to move or cancel at least one pump session to accommodate meetings, and then I feel a level of guilt for not prioritizing my daughter’s nutrition (though I know she is perfectly fine and supplemented with both formula and pureed veggies).
While these challenges exist, I’ve found solace in knowing that this is a familiar feeling many parents work through when returning to work, and it doesn’t mean I’m not doing a good job at work or as a parent. It just means I need to be even more mindful and deliberate about how I’m spending my time, and I need to look for opportunities to streamline my workflow even further.
What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
Before returning to work, I re-evaluated what was important to me. I set boundaries before I got back into the thick of things and identified old habits that I knew were no longer sustainable. I decided that I would arrive at work at 9:30am every day, I would leave at 6pm every day, and I would no longer bring work home with me to maximize my time at home with my daughter. I communicated this goal to leadership before coming back to work, and I’m grateful I was met with support. I was also allotted a transition period when returning to work, utilizing vacation days to come back in a part-time capacity for 4-5 weeks before jumping back into my full-time position. This was a suggestion given to me by another new working mom in the agency, and it turned out to be essential in helping me shape and define what my role as a working mother could look like (since I was given the space to do so before I was back to having a full-time workload). Setting boundaries as a new parent can be hard because of the expectations you have on yourself, and the expectations society has for you, but I now see how important those boundaries are when the expectations I care most about are my daughter’s who cannot yet voice or advocate for what she needs.
Where do you see the possibility for change for future working parents?
The support that I’ve received in the short time I’ve been back at work has helped to ease the transition into being a full-time working mom. When I sat in HR meetings before my maternity leave, I didn’t know what questions to ask, and I didn’t know how to advocate for what I might need (since I had no idea). Once I came back to work and quickly learned what challenges I might be facing, leadership heard my concerns and promptly considered my needs and implemented changes within the agency to allow for me to feel entirely comfortable. This not only made me feel that I was a valued part of the team, but it has also motivated me to do even better work. I think if companies take steps to show their employees that they truly value them and want to help ease pain points working parents may experience, it might lead to a more engaged and grateful staff.
Who are some working mothers that you admire/look up to?
I truly admire all the working mothers at Situation. I’ve watched how they have navigated the joys and challenges of motherhood while balancing a heavy workload in a fast-paced advertising agency culture, and I’ve learned so much from them.