Ask Keri: You raised (and are still raising!) two kids while also building a successful business. What have you learned along the way?
Keri Says: Being a mom was always one thousand percent something I was going to do.
From the day I was born, I knew I was going to be a mom. Even though I was super ambitious in terms of my career, I knew that motherhood was going to be the foundation of my life.
That’s obviously not true for everyone, and you’ve got to do what’s right for you. But a lot of younger women who do want to have kids as much as I did often tell me they don’t know how they’ll possibly do it all. That they’re scared it will be too hard and they’re already so busy and overwhelmed trying to get ahead at work and that they’re afraid they just won’t be able to do it. My first tip is…
1. You’ll make it work
If you want to do it, you can and you will. That’s not to say there won’t be some challenging years. It takes a while to settle into a pattern and routine, but you do figure it out. The trick is: you make adjustments.
Over the years, I’ve changed the way I make decisions about what is and isn’t essential. When I spend time with people, it’s people I really want to spend time with. For work events and meetings, I take serious stock in asking “is this really important for me to do?” since I know that’s an hour I could have with my kids. When the kids were really little, there were so many things I just decided I couldn’t do “during waking hours,” like exercise. (I’d have to get up at five or sneak in a naptime workout if I really wanted to fit it in!)
You plan and prepare, a lot, but also, this is key: there’s a lot you can’t plan and prepare for. You just have to get into it, and it’s going to be a little hairy. But here’s something that will help:
2. You know more than you think you do
Whenever I’m in a tough situation, I always think, “What advice would I give my kids? It could be anything—with a friend, a colleague, a relative. If I imagine myself talking to my kid, I’ll suddenly know what to say. Sometimes it’s hard to give yourself or others certain advice, but when you think about how you’d tell your child to handle it, it’s all of a sudden obvious. Think about it: your six-year-old’s feelings are hurt and you don’t hesitate. Maybe you tell her, “You’re good enough. You’re smart enough. This will all feel better in the morning.”
My point is that you start to realize that maybe you’re a little stronger, smarter, or more insightful than you give yourself credit for. Once you have a child to give it to, some of your best advice can suddenly come out.
3. You can’t be in a million places at once
This might sound like a cliche, but it’s so true. When I was younger and was juggling so much with them and building my business, often it was hard to be in the moment.
I never had a nine-to-five. I’ve always organized my schedule to be home with my kids a lot. Even if I work 70 hours in a week, even if I’m working at 5:00 a.m., I organize my time to be home with my kids. But when they were young and needed a million things at every moment, sometimes it was even harder to be in the moment because I was always trying to do both. I felt like I was scattered and in two places mentally; I should be at work, at home, at work, at home. That was a lot of wasted energy.
The better organized I’ve become, the more I’ve learned to slow down and be fully present in the moment on both ends, and things started to change. If you can separate the two, you can have better quality time with your children and better quality work, too. Now, the mental tug-of-war has dissipated. When we’re doing something together, I am there and fully present. Our time together is so much better, and I cherish it more than anything else in the world. Kids grow fast, and when you realize how fast everything is going, you want to hold onto every single moment. At the end of the day, if you accomplish all you want to accomplish business-wise, it will only be meaningful if you feel satisfied and fulfilled with your relationships, too. It took a while to get there. You really have to make that conscious decision.
Also, how each mom approaches managing work and kid time is different, and there’s no judgement. I could never handle not being with them for a certain amount of time every day. I knew that I would be so unfulfilled and wouldn’t be able to enjoy my career. There are other moms who don’t get home until late, kiss their kids goodnight, and save their quality time for the weekends. I literally used to be jealous of them. And of course there are also many moms who don’t have a choice when it comes to working a nine-to-five (or longer hours) to support their families. I know how lucky I am to be in a profession that allows for flexibility and to have the resources I do. Whatever routine you choose or have to make work, own it. Don’t judge other moms, and don’t judge yourself harshly, either.
At the end of the day, it’s all about what makes you happy. I know if I don’t have a certain amount of time with my kids, I’m not happy. If I’m not happy, I’m not going to do well with my career. It would be self-defeating. Speaking of happy…
4. My kids are the highlight of my life!
I’m nauseatingly mushy with my kids. I still give them tons of kisses and tell them how much I love them over and over. I’m a pretty mushy person in general, and with my kids, it’s mushy on steroids. I can barely start talking about them without wanting to cry.
That’s not to say it’s not still difficult. I’ve got a whole lot of emotion going on in my house at all times, and there are so many days when I feel like I’ve expended an incredible amount of emotional energy…and it’s only 8:30 in the morning. I do feel drained, a lot, but there is never even a hint of a moment when I’m not thinking that being a mom is the best thing I’ve ever done. I have this uber sense of pride in the people they’re becoming, and it’s all beyond worth it. It’s the most fulfilling job in the world.