Mamas Making it Work! interview with Emily Mitchell
Hello Emily Mitchell,
Please describe your favorite pair of work shoes and what sound they make?
I work from home, so in the summer I’m usually barefoot (pad-pad-pad), and in the winter I’m wearing slippers (schwoosh-schwoosh-schwoosh).
What is your occupation? Literary agent
What age children do you have? 15 and 12. Plus a three-ish-year-old dog.
What does your child think you do all day? (please ask them and tell us in their own words if you can!)
Look at Facebook. (*cough* monitoring social media IS PART OF MY JOB, CHILDREN *cough*)
How do you and your family benefit from your being a working mama?
In my particular case now, working from home means I can do what I love, get a paycheck, and still be here when they get home from school and need to be chauffeured everywhere. When they were littler, they were in daycare when I worked, or in school and at the town’s after-school program till I got home. Meeting and learning from other adults (and other kids) has helped them understand themselves and their roles in our shared community.
What are some steps (pun intended!) you took that helped make the transition back to work, work for you and your family?
I went back to work when each kid was three months old, so they didn’t really experience a transition – this was just the way it was. I worked part-time (three days/wk) for most of their young childhood, so we had mom-at-work days and mom-at-home days. Neither kid experienced much separation anxiety or troubles with transitions into preschool or kindergarten, thankfully.
What is one of the challenges you face as a working mama? How do you navigate this?
The logistics. DEAR GOD, THE LOGISTICS. As soon as the kids could manage, they were responsible for packing their own lunches. (It may have been a cheese stick and a Capri Sun, but I didn’t have to manage it so I did not care. And once they started school and could get school lunch, NO MORE LUNCHES, PERIOD.) Figuring out the family schedule for music lessons and other after-school activities is also a challenge, particularly when the kids were still in car seats (carpools are so much harder to figure out when car seats are involved). As the “default parent,” most of this fell, and still falls, on me: my husband travels often for work, and I have more flexibility to be at my desk or not during the day.
In Mama’s Work Shoes, Perry shows some of the big feelings she is having about Mama’s return to work by clinging to her, pushing food off the table, and even hiding mama’s shoes! How did/does your child reveal any big feelings about separation?
See above: mine didn’t really experience much of this. I actually think they may have loved their daycare provider more than me. (She was much better with babies and toddlers than I was, so that makes sense.)
What has your child done or said which indicates that, despite challenges, they are doing mighty fine?
Earlier this week we let my daughter stay home from church, which we never do (she was still asleep when we needed to leave). She was so alarmed by the unexpected freedom that she tidied up her room, emptied the dishwasher, and collected the recycling for the weekly pickup without being asked. Somehow they do internalize what it takes to run a two-working-parent household . . .
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to future working mamas?
Pumping is terrible, even under the best of conditions. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work for you. Actually, that goes for pretty much everything around working parenthood: Find what works for you, don’t beat yourself up when things go wonky, and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. You’re doing great.
What’s one question you’d love to ask other working mamas?
Do you have an office Uber Mama – someone who, whenever a coworker brings their kids to the office, immediately snatches up said kids and entertains them for hours? When I worked in an office, I did (thanks, Connie!). It was so reassuring on those days when I needed to bring the kids with me for some reason (teacher workshop, daycare closed, kid not sick anymore but not officially well enough to go back to preschool, etc.).
Thank you for taking time to share your working mama story!
Mama’s Work Shoes (Abrams) text by Caron Levis, art by Vanessa Brantley Newton
All about the adjustment a toddler makes when her mother returns to work, this humorous picture book takes on a big emotional milestone with a light hand.
Perry knows all of Mama’s shoes. She knows that the zip-zup shoes are for park. She knows that the pat-put shoes are for the rain. And she knows that no-shoes are for bath time and bedtime. But, one morning Mama puts on click-clack shoes, and Perry wonders what these new shoes are for. When Mama drops Perry at Nan’s house, and the click-clack shoes take Mama away for the whole day, Perry decides she hates these shoes! Perry later hides the click-clack shoes . . . and all of Mama’s shoes, just in case. Mama then explains that the click-clack shoes bring her to work in the morning, and they will also bring her home to Perry every single evening—clickety-clack fast!