Oh how time flies when in good company…!
This Month marks three years of “How They Do It” stories. Three whole years… Writing down this very sentence and reflecting upon this brief but powerful realization brings me chills; a lot of water under the bridge in only a few of years’ time, and look how far we’ve come, together!
May 2019, was the month that the first “How She Does It” story came out, featuring my dear friend and comrade in personal growth Artemis Evangelidi. Three years worth of interviews later, having overcome my fear about reaching out to working parents asking them to share their stories, I can admit that I never expected this column to grow into the voice of the global working parenthood community! The stories are by far the most visited segments of this space, and spark comments, messages and conversations in literally any platform they appear on!
To date, in 36 month’s time, 31 interviews have seen the light of day. Every month, diligently and meticulously, through late at night writing or stealing time off naptimes and weekends, amidst a global pandemic and all that jazz, the “How She Does It” and “How He Does It” columns are filled with new stories. In the course of time, they seem to have built up their own character, and occupy their own space. Space where people are eager to openly discuss the complexities of working parenthood. Space for working moms and dads to inspire others. Space filled with Men and Women with a vision to belong, to share and to connect. Space to discuss the hardships, point out the mishaps, underline the tips and celebrate the wins. Space in the era of speed and movement. Breathing space.
For this space right here, I am continuously grateful and proud. And had I been given a chance to revisit my decision three years abo to create this column, I’d do the same thing all over again and by following the same pathway. No doubt about this in my head. Because being a working parent means a ton of hard work. And being a working parent oftentimes gets you misunderstood. Oh, and being a working parent is a controversial experience where you get to miss your child while at work, and still miss your work when you stay at home with your child. And that feeling, the graceful Ashly Stewart who is this month’s esteemed guest, has felt it right to her core. Here’s her story!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I oversee content and marketing efforts for Enterprise clients at Personify. I have a bachelor’s degree in Writing and English thinking that I would be an acquisitions editor at Random House or spend my days teaching Shakespeare to college students. Even though I’d still love to both of those things, life has led me down the path of marketing and creative direction, and it’s been a fun and rewarding challenge as well. My husband and I were married a few years ago, and our little boy, Calvin is nearly two! We also have a big fur baby named Guilford; he’s a 2-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog. We live in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
My passion in life is to help people find and use their voices. That’s why I consider myself an editor as much as a writer – a good editor doesn’t simply fix your sentences and words – they should help you communicate your best ideas. Another life mantra I say in jest, but I actually do believe, is that I love conflict, but I hate drama. Ok, I don’t love conflict, but I do enjoy testing the norm, having important and difficult conversations, which means I have to embrace conflict. But drama, in my mind, is full of egos, inefficiencies, and ill-intentions, and I want no part of it!
Stemming from your personal experience, what is the toughest part of being a Mom, and how do you manage it?
I was always very intimidated by motherhood and for a long time, I didn’t think I wanted children. I’ve been so surprised at how rewarding motherhood has been and how natural (though not easy) it’s been. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that it’s not motherhood that’s really overwhelming, it’s trying to be a mom, plus a good employee, plus a good wife, plus a good friend, plus a good volunteer — all those other roles women feel like they need to fill. I honestly haven’t found a good answer to trying to juggle all those roles, but I’ve been trying to be really honest with the people in my life if I’m feeling overwhelmed and need to scale back things that I do.
I’m also fortunate enough to work for a company that has Unlimited PTO and a manager who encourages me to use it, so I’ve been more conscious than ever before of taking a day off if I feel like I need it when Calvin’s in daycare, the dog’s in daycare, etc., and for a day, I have no responsibilities.
Who is (are) your go-to person(s) when you need support as a Mother? What type of support are you mostly in need of?
My sister! My sister and I have always been close, and even though she’s younger than me by a couple of years, I’ve always looked up to her. She’s such an amazing, natural mother, and we have a total, judge-free relationship and give each other the space to ask any questions and admit all of our mom fails.
When it comes to support, I find that it always makes me feel better and gives me confidence as a mom when I don’t feel alone. It’s so easy to isolate yourself and think you’re the only one having issues, you’re the only one having certain thoughts, your child’s struggles are unique. But online communities like LinkedIn, Elpha, The Mom Project along with a Slack channel at my company have made me feel less alone.
What’s the No1 Skill (or Ability, or Knowledge) you have found handy in your role as a Mom?
I’d say that my 6th sense to anticipate what my son –and even other people!– are thinking, has increased a lot! Not that I have telepathy or anything, I just think that having Calvin has made me more observant of people’s behavior, more empathetic to other people’s needs, and I listen more intently. All those things combined have served me as I’ve had to make big decisions regarding my career, where to send Cal to childcare, etc.
What advice do you have for a new Mom?
Please, don’t be too hard on yourself, new momma. It’s so easy to do, but you are your child’s whole world. Which can seem really big and intimidating, and it is, but it also means that their first instinct and memory is to love you. So even when you “do something wrong” you’re still amazing in their eyes.
Also, try and feed the parts of yourself that existed before you were a mom. This is so hard, and I don’t always do it well. But if you can take a half-day to do something you loved before you had kids (taking yourself out for breakfast, shopping on your own, etc.), great. Sometimes, it’s something small. Like, I have a few playlists that I created before Calvin came along, and there’s something about listening to that music as I’m getting ready for the day or cooking dinner that takes me right back to who I was pre-momma. It’s not always a huge gesture, but it’s enough to remind me that I’m more than “just a mom.” There are other aspects to my identify that are important to maintain so I can be the best mom to Calvin that I can be.
And I think that’s true of all moms.