It’s the mother of all scheduling conflicts.
You head to work and while you’re out hustling, your kid does something amazing. For the first time. Literally something they will never do again, in that same way, and you’ve missed it.
It happened to me. It’s probably happened to you. This weekend, it happened to Serena Williams. The G.O.A.T. The one and only.
While Serena was out practicing for Wimbeldon, one of her biggest tournaments since becoming a mother, her 10-month-old daughter Olympia decided to put her best foot forward.
“She took her first steps… I was training and missed it. I cried,” Williams tweeted.
And the Momternet showed up for her. (Seriously, if you want to feel good about life, read the response tweets. Sometimes the Internet can be a beautiful thing.)
“Ah Serena. I’m with you there. I’m in Russia at a World Cup. I watched mine take her first steps on a video she’ll be proud of you when she goes [sic] up (I have to keep telling myself),” tweeted Alison Bender in solidarity. (Bender is a soccer correspondent and is in Moscow for the games. )
“She is practicing so you can see the real ones,” Chrissy Teigen chimed in.
I’ve missed more milestones that I can count, so I’ve just stopped counting.
My daughter Satya rolled over for the first time when I was at the Today show for work. Since then, I’ve missed more milestones that I can count, so I’ve just stopped counting. I went back to work when she was just six months old-a generous maternity leave policy by American standards and I knew that. But she was just a little nugget when I headed back to my job as a newspaper editor and the hours were long and the schedule was demanding. I missed her first steps and her first solid foods, a Halloween parade and endless spirit days. And I’m not even counting the stuff I forgot: crazy hair day, pajama day, soccer jersey day.
When I dropped her off to daycare as a baby-even when I thought she was too young to really understand-I would say a version of the same thing I tell her now that she’s a wise four-year-old: “Mama is going to work. I love you. I love my job. And we’ll talk about our days when I get home.”
Sure, there are days the sting is worse than others. Recently Satya drew a family picture at school, but there were only two people in it, Satya and my husband Agan. “The mama is at work,” she assured her teacher. (She’s not wrong. I work a lot. And most days, I love it.) In her spare time, Satya plays office. She has a laptop, cellphone and money machine set-up that includes a Hello Kitty mirror, a broken Motorola Razr, a jeweled calculator and a vintage children’s cash register. She holds the phone to her ear, ferociously taps at the calculator and makes loud sighing noises. A few weeks ago, she seemed pretty stressed out so I asked her what was going on. “Don’t talk to me because I’m very busy,” she said, clearly annoyed. I pressed on, asking what she was so busy with.“Work! Just like you!”
When she talks about being an adult, it almost always involves a job of some sort. “When I’m big, I can be an engineer like my dad, a lawyer like Bindi Maasi, an astronaut, a teacher or a Big Bad Wolf. But I’m a writer, Mama. And I’ll work at Dow Jones with you and we’ll hold hands and go to work, open the door and say hi to our friends.” True, her version of work usually involves some sort of Big Bad Wolf chasing and space travel or alien visitations, but hey, I’ve been to enough corporate meetings to know her version isn’t all that far off from reality.
That’s the thing about being a working mom, it’s impossible to win at home and at the office, everyday, all at the same time.
I’ve brought her to my office and let her sit and watch me while I work from home. I want her to see my hustle, not just imagine it in her head. I’ve even taken her to see me speak on panels, do TV segments and host on Sirius XM. Because as much as I’m out there grinding for myself, I’m doing it for her, too. I want her to see what’s possible when you put in the time and feel the respect that’s earned when you do the work. I want her to know that being her mom has lit a fire in me to want more, to demand more and to do more. Most of all, I want her to be hungry for success and to know that none of it is easy, but it’s so worth it.
That’s the thing about being a working mom, it’s impossible to win at home and at the office, everyday, all at the same time. Some days I’m a better mom than editor, other days a better editor than I am a mom. There are very few days that I suck at both of my roles, so I try to focus on that. But that takes, well, baby steps.
Raakhee Mirchandani is an editor at Dow Jones. Her first children’s book, Super Satya Saves the Day, is out this September and available for pre-order now.