Transcript: The Challenges of Balancing Motherhood With a Successful Career
This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called The Challenges of Balancing Motherhood With a Successful Career and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.
Helen Thompson: This week on First Time Mum’s Chat, I’m revisiting the challenges of balancing motherhood with work. I’m speaking with Nicole Cumberbatch, who as a corporate VP in Florida, faced a challenging transition to motherhood when she gave birth to her son. During our chat, you’ll hear Nicole talk about the challenges of managing her time, balancing a busy work schedule versus the time needed for her young son, how as a successful woman, her expectations that motherhood would be easy were quickly quashed and the challenges of handling employers who can be inflexible and lack empathy for new mums…
And so, so much more.
Hi Nicole, and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. I’m delighted to have you here, and I’m really looking forward to hearing about your journey into motherhood and what you’ve learnt about balancing it all with the needs of your son. Can you start by telling us about your background and your podcast?
Nicole Cumberbatch: Thank you so much, Helen, for having me on, it’s an honor. So yes, a little bit about me. I am a working mom. I think I consider myself kind of a fairly new mom. My son is five. So definitely a first time mom. This is my first child and probably will be my only. I don’t foresee us having any more children. Worked in corporate America, I live in South Florida and last year I pivoted to where I left my corporate VP job and wanted to do things on my own because I was not getting the support that I needed from my employers.
I’m an employee that always gives 110%. I worked on the weekends, I was always giving, and after having my son, my priorities changed and I realized that if I was gonna work and spend 8 to 10 hours away from my child or my family, I wanted to be fulfilling. I wanted it to be worthwhile and I felt that wasn’t happening and it wasn’t reciprocating of the amount of work I was putting in, they weren’t doing for me. So I left and I started my own business, have a consulting business where I help business owners with their accounting
and then I also have the Motherhood Village that I started from a podcast and I offer resources here in the South Florida community where we do a support group for moms, I do workshops for moms. I have an annual summit, and then of course I also have the podcast.
Helen Thompson: I was privileged to be interviewed on your podcast and it’s a really good podcast. It’s good to have that village and hearing mothers like you sharing because I think that’s what a lot of first time mums need to hear that it doesn’t have to be hard because you’ve got the support of other moms around you, whether that’s through the internet or whether that’s through your friends and family or whatever.
It’s good to talk with somebody who has come from the corporate background and who has experienced what it’s like to be a corporate woman and then choosing to be a mother. So can you share a little bit about your transition from being a corporate woman to now a working mother.
Nicole Cumberbatch: Sure. I would say actually it was a big transition and what I’ve learned with my podcast, especially being a career mom, which was interesting and I’d love to dive deeper into this, is that a lot of mothers I realized who were in the corporate space, a lot of us, myself included, suffered either postpartum anxiety, not necessarily depression, anxiety, and a lot of us suffered this career identity crisis and I think now a 100 and something episodes in and talking to the women, I can kind of correlate it because when we’re in corporate, we have this, we’ve made it, right, especially if you’ve worked your way up. I know for me I’m like, oh, motherhood’s gonna be easy, I’ve managed teams, I come equipped. I come equipped with certain skill sets that I thought for sure I can transition into motherhood and truthfully, some of them have helped, but motherhood is a whole new world. The hormones, the this, they don’t tell you that your relationship with your husband may change and not every child is what the books tell you. So I think a lot of moms in the corporate space struggle with that because I think we have such high regard that we can make it, we can do it, motherhood’s gonna be easy because we survive corporate and then motherhood comes and it’s a totally different experience.
So that’s one and then number two, the anxiety aspect, at least for me, it was just very overwhelming. I did not expect to be so overwhelmed. I didn’t expect for it to consume me as much as it did, and then with the career identity of saying, okay, I worked so hard to be a VP. I mean, I’ve been working since I’m 16 in the banking sector, I’m 39. That’s a long time of working like a corporate job professional, right? I worked for a bank at 16, so my identity a lot of times was wrapped up in the role, the company I worked for. Then all of a sudden this child comes and you’re like, well, can I do both, will I be able to do both?
What does that look like, which is why your podcast, my podcasts are so important because hearing from other women that have gone through a lot of the same struggles that you have, there’s something special and like a sigh of relief, like, okay, I’m not alone. You’ve experienced this as well. You hear me, you understand me. So yeah, so that’s been my experience in corporate and now motherhood and from some of the women I’ve talked to that have been in corporate that are also now business owners and that are mothers.
Helen Thompson: I think that the transition between being a business owner, you’ve still got that corporate experience, you haven’t lost that and I think a lot of mums, from my experience, do have the anxiety as you’ve just mentioned, but they’ve also got that base that sometimes they forget about that just because you’re now a mom doesn’t mean that you can’t do what you want to do, you’ve just got to balance and do it differently and that’s the hard part. The balancing of being a mom and the balancing of having a child. Cuz your child is number one, but then your career and the juggling and the balancing is the hardest part. How would you say you’ve coped with doing that?
Nicole Cumberbatch: Truthfully, I’m still coping. I mean, my son will be 6 in November of this year and like I stated, number one, when he was first born, I should have asked for more help. right, I should have had better questions. My company, I think also wasn’t equipped to really have the proper maternity leave, which could be a whole different conversation of how in the United States we don’t really support our working parents the way we should. So I would say step by step to not overload it. Step one my son is here, now I’m like, oh yeah, he’s top priority. I left that employer because it just wasn’t working, I wasn’t happy, I realized it was a toxic work environment and truthfully, that was 2018. For almost 3 years I struggled to find my place of what’s next. I worked for different employers, different things and then Covid hit unfortunately, and I literally had the owner of the company I worked for at the time, my son’s school had just closed, I was VP of finance and HR for this company and I was on the phone with her and I said, you know, let me just be honest and I said, look, I’m gonna be transparent, I don’t know what to do, my son is home from school, can we do a flexible schedule, like I’ll come in on the weekends I said, but I can’t and she literally told me, it sounds like you’re choosing your family over my business and I said and I remember because my son was screaming for me from the patio, and this goes into your how do you juggle it because it is very difficult and I paused and I said, with all due respect, absolutely.
It was just the start of the pandemic, so I said, we don’t even know what this is. I said, I’m not asking for much other than flexibility. I didn’t say that I would leave, I didn’t ask for more money, I just said I wanted flexibility and then right then and there I said, something has to change. So now you fast forward, I become a business owner and I still struggle, right, because now it’s on me. When you’re a business owner, it’s different where I think if you’re working, even if you’re a high end corporate, not that you can turn it off, because depending on the position of the company you’re working for, you might still have to be on your phone. So what I will say is now transitioning to a business owner, what’s tough for me and slowly figuring it out, is at the end of the day, my son just wants me with him when I am with him, right? He is more vocal now. When he was a baby, it was a little easier where I can give him to my husband or whoever and then we’re fine. Now he’s vocal, so he’ll tell me, ugh, do you have another podcast, ugh, do you have another meeting, mommy, can we play and hearing his voice.
So now what I do is cuz you can’t juggle at the same time, right? I can’t be on this podcast with you. Well, technically, I guess I could and then be a mom, I have to be present, so what I’ve learned and in talking to other women is, when I’m with my son, I am with my son. At least I try and be. I I try not to be with my phone because what I’ve also learned is when I look at emails while I’m with him and if I get a good or bad email, that changes my energy right? So then I might change my energy when I’m with him. So I try and be conscious of it, I’m not always the best at it, of putting it away so that when I’m with him, I’m with him. And then when we’re not together, I try and be focused. When I’m with my clients, when I’m doing a podcast, when I’m doing the things, then I try and be focused and to me, that is the only way, to be completely in the moment and everything else falls by the wayside.
Helen Thompson: I think it’s so important, I thought it was really interesting what you said about your conversation with your ex-boss how she said, you are taking your family first and not my business. I’ve worked a lot in childcare and I’ve worked a lot with moms, and I appreciate the value of what moms do, and because I’ve worked in that situation, I’ve worked with moms like you, who have been overwhelmed, who have been stressed, who’ve dropped the kids in childcare and I can see that they’re just wanting to be with their kids. They want to go to work, but they’re in that balance of, I want to go to work. I’ve gotta go to work, but I also want to be with my child. But hearing what you said about that woman, I mean, you’ve gotta have that balance from the employer side and from what I pick up, well that just doesn’t happen these days. People expect mums to be there 24×7 regardless of whether you’ve got kids or not.
Nicole Cumberbatch: Correct and actually, there’s a whole caregiving situation in general. Not just the aspect of your children, but caregiving for your parents, caregiving on many different places. Cuz there’s some women who don’t want children. So, to your point, yes, but I could tell you horror stories of working in corporate. Truthfully, I could probably write a book and I don’t wanna make it seem like every organization here because my husband, we were very, very thankful, the company he works for, he got 8 weeks of parental leave. He was able to take 30 days of like time off.
Oh, we were extremely grateful for that. But I will say to your point, cuz there’s something that you basically mentioned there, cuz she wasn’t a parent, but I guess you understand cuz you’ve worked there, to anybody listening to this podcast, I will say it is a transition. It may possibly be a difficult transition for you if you’re a first time mom and you’re going from maternity leave back to work and trying to juggle all of the things.
I think what would’ve helped me, had I had more employer support, or if I would’ve just been able to speak up and say, look, I need more time, I am struggling with this because there were times, and even to this day, I went to my client’s office. I had a rough drop off with my son and that’s another thing we don’t talk about is the transition from dropping them off and let’s say they’ve been yelling, they’ve been screaming, and then I have to come into the office and say, good morning. Where I’m still at a heightened level because my son just had a breakdown and now I’m having a breakdown and I walked into my client’s office. Thankfully they’re all women, they’re all moms and I said, I need a moment and I just broke down. I said, you know, he’s crying. He’s like, why can’t, literally, my son, my four-year-old son said, why can’t you quit your job? Why can’t I stay home with you? I don’t wanna go to school. I just wanna be with you. And to hear that, oh my God, it’s heartbreaking but I cried, I let it out and I knew at the end of the day, I am doing what I want to do and what I’m doing affords us to travel, affords us different things, and truthfully, it does uplift me. I enjoy it. All I can do is cry, let it out, I had my moment and then I promised him I’ll pick him up from school. We went to have ice cream afterwards and it was good. I had my day. I picked him up from school like I promised him and that’s another thing for first time moms, maybe listening if you’re juggling. Just make those dates, have those moments. If my husband goes to the gym on a Saturday, I try and make one-on-one dates with my son as often as possible.
We’ll go for ice cream and we’ll just do the things that I know that he likes to do, to kind of make up for those moments where yes, he’s like, but I wanna be with you, I don’t wanna be without you, can I just stay with you? And I can’t because I have a meeting to go to, or I have a podcast to record. So it’s possible. I just think as an employer, you have to be able to support your employees and give them a safe space and then as the employee, you have to be able to say, this is what I need. And even just people to vent to and cry to and say, let me release this, let me let this out, okay, good now I can start my day.
Helen Thompson: I guess that’s the same of what children are doing with temper tantrums. It’s something that I’ve learned a lot also in my childcare career, but more so recently by talking to other moms, a temper tantrum is actually a child venting, saying, I want you, I want to be with you and it’s a matter of how you approach that. If you keep going, oh no, no, I’ll deal with that later, or I’ll come back later, you are not encouraging that child to express their feelings and I think that’s another part of it as well.
You put your child in childcare, they’re venting because they don’t want to be in childcare and as you said, you say to your child, look, I promise you, I’ll pick you up and we’ll have a ice cream or something afterwards, but it’s important to follow that through, follow your promises through. I’m a great advocate of doing that. If a child asks me something when I’m working in childcare, or nannying or something, if I know I can’t do it, I’ll say, I don’t want to commit to that at the moment because I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to do it, and I’m honest with them. You’re still juggling as a nanny because you are juggling when the mom leaves and you’ve gotta take that child away from the mom.
Nicole Cumberbatch: That’s a good point.
Helen Thompson: And that’s a hard one because you’ve gotta take that child away from the mom and you’ve gotta calm that child down and that child is crying and having a temper tantrum because they want to be with their mom and it’s a hard transition for me as a nanny, childcare worker and I’ve just gotta do what you do and just breathe and calm down and if I’m calm and support that child, well, then I feel I’m doing my job.
Nicole Cumberbatch: Yes oh my God, that’s such a good point and we had a nanny, we were very fortunate, the first from six months to he was a year and a half, so basically a year and oh man I adored her and I told my husband, we need to make sure she is good. To your point, she’s watching our child, right and like you said, a good childcare worker, a good teacher, a good nanny recognizes and says, well, I can’t take this personal of what this child is doing, they really want their mom, so all that I can do is give them a moment and make them have the safe space, to replicate the safe space that they’re missing from their parents leaving or their mother leaving or whatever that is. And I just wanna go back cuz you mentioned, and I think this is key as well, that I’ve learned and in talking to the people I’ve talked to on my podcast is, yes, don’t promise something to a child that you cannot keep. They will call it out, they recognize BS. Kids, I think even more so nowadays. Sometimes when I even have it on my face, my son will look at me. He’s like, are you mad at me, what happened, what’s going on? Kids recognize everything. So I think that’s a good point to say. So I try to say what I mean and mean what I say with my son and only promise what I am truthfully able to deliver and there are sometimes I have told him, baby, I love you right now, but mommy needs a moment. I’ve had a very long day. Just let me have 5, 10 minutes and then we can connect, but I cannot do it right this second. So I loved how you mentioned that because that is a key, kids, they smell it.
And I think one of the things, I had a therapist on this show tell me that kind of stayed with me, which I’m sure on your podcast you have little nuggets that kind of stay with you, is she said, from the time children are young till they’re older, we’re building trust with our children. Now, whether you’re a parent, whether you’re a childcare, you wanna build the trust in the bond so that they can feel safe and secure, fine. But if over time you’re breaking that trust by lying occasionally or they feel like they can’t count on you, they’re like, listen, every time mommy says she’s gonna take me here, but then she doesn’t follow through on her promise, how can I take her seriously so that when that time comes, when they do go to school and they meet people who have a bigger influence and whatever you’re slowly breaking that trust to where now, it almost kind of hinders. So you wanna make sure that that ball of trust that you have with them tries to stay intact as long as possible and then to your point, it is okay with saying, look, I don’t know the answer right now, I don’t know this right now, but let’s figure it out together. As opposed to the old generation of thinking, I know everything, what I’m saying is correct, because we don’t have the answers, we don’t know it all.
Helen Thompson: Yeah I’ve learned that in my childcare, and I’m not perfect, and think it’s important to teach your child that you are not perfect, and it’s okay to have feelings and if you build that trust from a young age, then hopefully when they get to 5 and you keep building that trust and not breaking the promises, it does make it easier.
Nicole Cumberbatch: Well, you hope it does. I know one of my fears as a parent, the social media and my son’s struggling with that and when that time comes and we have drugs and stuff and things of the peer pressure. So those are things I struggle with, of fear that I have. So I try and make it a safe space for him to express himself in all shapes and sizes and forms of whether he’s happy, sad, etc. I think children, they thrive when they feel that. I think they thrive more if they feel, and at least I hope, like I said, this is my first and he’s only 5, but I could only hope and pray that the foundation that we’re trying to build so that as he gets older, he can carry it with him.
When he gets angry, I say, get angry, you’re allowed to get angry. If he expresses himself, I say express yourself. We’re like two peas in a pod and there are certain times I’ll go to kiss him and he’s like, he wipes it off, and he’s like, I don’t wanna kiss right now. I say, okay cool and I mean, we’re two peas in a pod, so in my mind I’m like, you don’t want mommy’s kiss?
And he is like, not right now. I say, okay, no problem. I think all of that, for them to have the autonomy over their body is so super important and to respect it and say, okay, no problem, let me know when you want mommy to give you a kiss. All right, we move on. It’s important.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think it is cuz they learn that autonomy early and as I said, it’s not always that easy to do. There are sometimes when you are stressed and they want your attention and vice versa. You’ve just gotta say, look, I’m wanting time and I respect you if you want time as well.
Nicole Cumberbatch: Have you recognized or come across this, cuz I was talking to my husband about this. I didn’t realize, but I know there’s a new term called the sensory overload with parents, particularly mothers because there’s this whole thing of being the on-demand parent and I feel like I am the on-demand parent with my son.
My husband could be right there and he’d be like, mommy, can you get me water and I’m like dude daddy’s right there. It’s the one parent that they zoom in on. But I have a sensory overload. If I hear mommy more than quite a few times, if I’m with him, let’s say, like an all day thing on the weekend and he’s like, mommy, mommy, mommy and I’ve had to tell him. I’ll look at my husband, I have to go away for a second, I need a moment because it’s the mommy and the follow up questions and to your point, I think one of the most difficult things about parenthood, cuz I’m sure fathers deal with this as well, is trying to be mindful and do all of the things we know we should be doing with our children, giving them the autonomy, giving them the respect, pausing et cetera, et cetera but when we have our own stuff to deal with. Me trying to leave my work at work and not carry it over. But that is one of the most difficult things because I’m thinking about the emails I haven’t responded to, I’m thinking about the deadline, I’m thinking about all of these things that start growing and I hear, mommy, mommy, and I feel it. I can literally feel it and I’m like, I need to take a step back because I’m about to lose my S H I T and I have, and of course there are moments, Yes. but the beautiful thing is he then calls me out. My son has been like, whoa and then that’s when it kind of brings me out. I’m like, okay, we’re having, you know, it’s, let’s, let’s and then I kind of step away and then regroup. But it’s a very, very real thing when you are on the constant go and how that bubbles up.
Helen Thompson: Yeah that’s exactly the point. You are not perfect and I think that’s bringing it all back to what we initially said, that you both need that space and as a mom it can be very tough.
Nicole Cumberbatch: Yes, it can.
Helen Thompson: Is there any final tip that you’d like to give to a mom that you feel is really valuable?
Nicole Cumberbatch: Give yourself grace. Remember this too shall pass. That was the big one for me I think sometimes we’re in the thick of it and we think this season is the most stressful, and then you’re like, oh. Then you get another season, you’re like, oh, that wasn’t hard, this is hard. So embrace it as much as you can and know that it’s just a season, it will pass. Ask for help. Find your village as much as you can. A village can be a podcast, it can be a book, it can be friends. I think a lot of times women also get overwhelmed if, let’s say they don’t have family nearby and they’re like, oh, I don’t have a village.
And I’m sure that could be tough cuz then you have to seek out people you can trust but that’s it. Seek it out, join groups, listen to books. I always say, as a mom, it’s so important to have that toolbox of resources that you can tap into because to your point, we’re not perfect and yes, sometimes I have to start over every day and start again because yesterday was on overload and I had the guilt because maybe I yelled at him when I didn’t wanna yell at him, or I just got overwhelmed, or whatever it is. So it’s so important that you have your toolbox of resources that you can tap into to give you those reminders. Have positive affirmations, and just surround yourself with love and light, and people that empower, inspire, and uplift you because that will definitely transition to your child, to your family.
Helen Thompson: Thank you. I love that. So If anybody wants to get in touch with you or if they want to find out about your podcast how do they get in touch with you?
Nicole Cumberbatch: Sure very simple, you can go to TheMotherhoodVillage.com. You can listen to podcast episodes there. I have more to come on the website. I have a YouTube channel coming. You could subscribe, I do a newsletter and yeah, you can reach out to me from there.
Helen Thompson: Well, thank you Nicole for being on the podcast. I really enjoyed talking to you and I look forward to putting all this in the show notes so that other moms can reach out to you. So thank you so much for joining me. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Nicole Cumberbatch: Thank you so much, Helen. You have a wonderful day. Take care.
Helen Thompson: I hope you found hearing about Nicole’s motherhood journey as inspiring as I did. I highly recommend checking out The Motherhood Village Podcast where you’ll hear Nicole educate and empower mothers through open and honest, informative, and impactful conversations.
I’ve included links to her podcast, website, and social media in the episode show notes which can be accessed at MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/108.
Is your little one suffering from colic, constipation and having problems sleeping? Baby massage may be the solution you’ve been looking for, to help you experience less crying, less stress, and have a happier, more contented little one and household. I’ve created a free introduction video to Baby Massage that demonstrates its many wonderful benefits and how it can help both you and your little one. You can access this video by going to MyBabyMassage.net/Intro. That’s MyBabyMassage.net/Intro.
Next week, I’m chatting with transformational and emotional mindset coach and disability advocate, Shanice Green, who talks about her journey bringing up her children with the challenges of being disabled.
I’m sure you’ll find Shanice’s journey as inspiring and motivating as I did.