I Have Become “That Mom”

"Mom Making Breakfast" by Thomas Abeyta at age 4.

“Mom Making Breakfast” by Thomas Abeyta at age 4.

I have become that mom.

I’m the one who shows up over three hours late for school registration and endures the rolling eyes of parent volunteers who can’t imagine anything more important than standing in long lines to fill out identical information on eleven different forms – the same information, by the way, from the packet I sent back to school only a week late last year.

I used to be on the other side of the table, the one who watched the moms who showed up at school in their business suits, fresh lipstick and high heels. I used to sigh quietly, judging them just a bit for their choices, for not putting their kids first, for picking their career over family. I used to feel pretty smug about it, too, because I saw myself as making all the right choices.

Sure, I talked the right talk and said polite things in public. I’d say things like, “Oh, I admire working moms, because they have it so much harder than me. I don’t know how they get it all done. I could never do that.” Or sometimes when I was talking to a working mom, I’d tell her, “You know, it’s all about choices. As long as yours fit your values and your lifestyle, that’s all that matters.” But inside I had my own opinion about the kinds of values that a working mom must have to make the choices she did.

On the inside, I was judging. I was weighing her choices in the balance and believing that mine were far superior. I was so involved with my kids that I often lobbied for new PTA committees that I could run. I was the teacher’s right hand man. I was “in” with the school administration, and it felt really good.

And to be honest, I loved my life the way it was. It worked for me, and it was a privilege to get to stay home. I wouldn’t trade any other choice for the time I got to do that, because it made me happy and, thus, made my kids happy.

When my husband and I sat down five years ago and talked about the changes that would come if I did, indeed, launch my own company, APPCityLife, we talked about what it would mean for our home life. We made the choice together that it was worth it and that I should pursue this passion.

Let me just say I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. I knew I’d be busy and that my time wouldn’t be completely my own anymore. I knew that there would be events at school that I’d have to miss and that sometimes my youngest would have to let himself into an empty house. I figured that there would be a trip here and there that would mean that the older kids would have to step up and help out with things around the house and with watching their younger sibling. But I had absolutely no idea the extent of the demands that would be placed on me or how little of my time would actually be my own. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know what was coming, because I might have missed out on one of the most challenging, exciting and rewarding experiences of my life.

And so now I’ve come full circle to being that mom – the one I used to judge. Now I miss some of my kid’s school events because of a meeting with a client. Supper is late almost every night, and it isn’t the gourmet version we enjoyed when I stayed home. Actually, far more often than I ever thought possible, supper is a carton of leftovers eaten cold at 9 PM when I finally make it home. I’ve had twenty-four hours on the ground between business trips in separate countries, and the bottom of the laundry basket hasn’t been spotted in months. The fold and delivery service I used to provide to my family has become more of a that-basket-of-laundry-is-clean-so-dig-around-and-find-what-you-need service. And I’ve even had to tag team a pediatrician appointment with my husband so we could get our sick kid to the doctor and still make our meetings. I’m sure that one raised eyebrows, but I was too busy rushing out of the examining room to get to city hall on time to even notice or care what anyone else thought.

So the next time you look at someone and judge her as being that mom – whichever side of the table you find yourself on – just remember that life might just give you the opportunity to walk in her shoes, and you may find you like it.

If you relate, you might want to join our I am That Mom Group on Facebook

This blog was also published on Huffington Post.

Why one Group of Travelers Hope I Don’t Win Mother of the Year

imageFor me, one of the strangest parts of traveling for business is how much it has changed me as a mother. Gone are the days where I am accessible all day every day, and it’s meant I’ve had to give up on the idea that I can somehow control the outcome of things happening several time zones away. It also means that sometimes, when things go south on the home front, I end up having to parent through an iPhone. This leads to some seriously awkward moments.

Here is what yesterday looked like:

4:00 AM: Alarm on my iPhone informs me that, whether I like it or not, four hours of sleep is the limit. I drag out of bed in the dark, fumble around to find the “on” button for the coffee maker and get dressed in the dark, hoping that my husband can get a few more minutes of sleep before he has to get up to take me to the airport.

4:15 AM: I make a cup of coffee and say good morning to my husband who is now awake and drinking coffee. I mumble um-hmm’s in my husband’s direction, hoping I haven’t distractedly agreed to anything I’ll later regret.

4:30 AM: I dump out my untouched cup of coffee, realize I didn’t tell my sons goodbye the night before and leave for the airport with a pang in my heart that I missed a goodbye.

5:00 AM: I kiss my husband goodbye and roll my carry on suitcase into the airport only to realize that our usually empty TSA line is snaking through enough velvet rope to host a red carpet event. I spend the next half hour regretting that I didn’t get up earlier, wondering if I am going to miss my flight.

5:30 AM: I am at the front of the TSA line and hand the agent my iPhone to scan the QR code for my ticket. Why do I always worry that this isn’t going to work despite having done it many times? She hands back my phone and grunts for me to move to the right. I wish I’d saved my fresh cup of coffee for her; she needs it worse than me.

5:35 AM: I join another line of people in varying stages of partially disrobing before entering the scanner so another TSA agent can finish disrobing me with their camera. I’m waved over to a rubber mat where yet another TSA agent asks if she can touch my hair. What am I going to say? No? She probes around my up-do, asking if there is anything under there besides the barrette she feels. No, I tell her, there isn’t. If I was wearing a beehive, I’d get the question. I used to hide all kinds of things in my mom’s beehive while she was sleeping.

5:45 AM: I run into a couple of friends who are building another tech startup in our state. We chat for a few moments about the challenges of building a startup in the middle of a desert – and about the fact that we wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else. I text a flurry of I-love-you’s and goodbyes before boarding the plane.

7:30 AM: I land in another city and turn on my phone. It starts buzzing as almost three hours’ worth of texts, emails, and social media interactions vy for my attention.  I check my texts first.
HUSBAND: our youngest says he is too sick to go school
SON: Dad is trying to make me go to school sick.
HUSBAND: he is taking a shower but says he is going to throw up
SON: (litany of complaints about the unfairness and cruelty of his present circumstances.)
I sigh. You have to understand, this is an ongoing issue and due more to anxiety over a change in routine than to any real illness.

7:40 AM: I find my suitcase at the gate and make my way to a very long, slow line waiting for a shuttle to the main terminal. I decide it is time for some iPhone Parenting.
SON: (croaking and weak voice for effect) hello?
ME: What’s going on?
SON: Long, dramatic story of how horrible his life is at the moment. His voice has miraculously recovered.
ME: You’re going to school.
Strangers turn their head slightly, only hearing my side of the conversation.
SON: Impassioned plea for mercy. Gory details of throwing up.
ME: You’re going to school.
SON: But I’ll throw up.
ME: That’s fine. You can throw up at school. If you stay home, you will lose your X-Box until summer break. (By the way, I haven’t thanked Microsoft properly for giving me such a wonderful bargaining chip.)
SON: Unidentifiable mumbling and a grumpy goodbye.

7:41 AM: The man in front of me turns fully around and gives me a nasty look. Another couple exchange a “look” and shake their heads visibly so I will know they disapprove. Another woman cluck-clucks her tongue.

7:43 AM: I receive a text from my son. He is going to school. The lady inside my head does a little happy dance and then sits down in the corner to feel just a tiny bit guilty about being such a mean mom.

It’s a different life, this journey of being a CEO and founder of a company while being a mother, wife and daughter. But I’m figuring it out one day at a time and making peace with the realization that I’m going to have to do by making up my rules all along the way.

11:45 PM: I receive a text from my older son.
SON: It might be the food I made for supper, but I’ve been throwing up…

11:46 PM: It dawns on me that I probably sent a sick kid to school and infected his classmates and teachers.