Being a working mom is never easy. But Stacie, 44 and owner of a PR consulting business based in Los Angeles, knows being a mom over 40 can be brutally tough.
Stacie did what many women plan to do: she waited for her husband to arrive in her life before planning a family. What she didn’t plan on was that event taking longer than she expected — putting her in the “older mom” age bracket, throwing her career for a tailspin when she tried to do it all, and causing her to candidly re-evaluate the pros and cons of being a 40-something mother.
Not what I signed up for
Stacie’s career background is in television production. Throughout the time she was pregnant and had her son, Milo, she shifted gears and was operating a successful PR business. But when she got an offer to produce a major national TV show — starting just four months after her son was born — she simply couldn’t resist the opportunity.
“My passion superseded the practicality of what that might look like,” Stacie explains. Stacie and her husband agreed that she had to give this a shot or else she could face major regret, so she took the job offer and dove right back into the world of TV.
For the first few months, life was fairly manageable. Stacie was home by 6 p.m. as the show had not yet started to air. Once the show aired, there was a change in upper management, and “life went into a crazy time,” she reflects.
“I was working 12- to 13-hour days and some Saturdays and Sundays. My husband and I had to hire a night nanny. There was pressure from the network and meetings every day, and then the format of the show completely changed. It wasn’t what I signed up for.”
Time to make a change
Finally, Stacie’s husband came to her and expressed concern. He told her she wasn’t being herself, she wasn’t sleeping and she was stressed out constantly. He told her they had a baby now, and that something had to budge.
Stacie’s closest friend at work called her out as well. The friend walked into Stacie’s office one day and told her that she has a great job, a great husband, a wonderful new baby and a successful PR business. “She asked me, ‘What are you trying to prove?’” Stacie recalls. “And then, there was total silence.”
Stacie just sat there for a moment, realizing it was the first time she had a few minutes to herself to ask those tough questions. It was almost a spiritual moment for her to realize that she had to make a change. And when she came to that realization, she quickly made the decision to give her notice and walk away from the producer job, seeking to regain her life balance and happiness.
For the first few months after quitting, she “felt displaced and confused. I felt so lost. I was only a mom for about four months before I left for work, and I didn’t really know how to be a mom just at home.”
Working smarter, not harder
Stacie returned to her PR business, but she found she had to completely change the structure now that she had Milo. She had to shift her priorities and expectations. “I had to work smarter rather than harder.”
To do this, Stacie found that she had to come to grips with the fact that she did not have as much time to hand-hold or mentor her employees; she just let that go. She stops working each day at 2 or 2:30 p.m. to be with her son. She has a nanny in the mornings, but the afternoon is 100 percent Milo time. She uses her nanny as much as she can and isn’t afraid to ask for help. For example, rather than having the nanny sit and watch Milo sleep, Stacie doesn’t shy away from asking for help with a meal, cleaning up or running quick errands. Having things in order and being organized mean she can really have quality time with her son later in the day.
“Set your life up so you have the support you need,” Stacie says.
Career moms over 40
Being a working mom over 40 can be hectic, stressful and exhausting, but Stacie has learned to own up to who she is and what her limitations are. To women like her, Stacie advises, “Be honest about what you need. I’m not 30 years old, and I don’t play the keep-up game. Tell yourself that’s not who you are… you are 40-something. Don’t feel ashamed.”
When it comes down to it, Stacie credits many things to the success she has found as a mother, wife and entrepreneur. First, the support system she finds in her spouse. “Don’t pick your fantasy husband,” she explains. “Marriage is not about that, it’s a partnership. You need to be a team.” Second, the wisdom that being 40 has brought her. “That’s the benefit of being older,” she says. “You have a lot more life experience. You see things more clearly and can be less emotional about stuff.”
Beyond support and expertise, Stacie has grown to believe in the power of “me time.” To avoid burnout, she sometimes tells her husband, “I need an hour and a half by myself. I just need to be alone.” And she uses that time to do whatever she feels like, whether it’s to just relax, take a bath or read. “When they walk back in the door, I’m a better mom and I’m a better wife.”
Most importantly, Stacie explains that making it work requires self-acceptance. Her advice to other career moms over 40: “Let go of all that perfectionism. Our kids are not predictable! Take what works to your advantage and let go of the rest.”