My Beautiful Patchwork Life
I think of my life as a patchwork quilt. The more layers I add to it, the richer, more complicated and more beautiful it becomes.
My career always came first. Having a baby had never been in the picture. Then, at 39, my husband felt we should reconsider parenthood. My world was turned upside down. Could I really be a great mom and a successful art director at the same time?
After some deep soul searching and the help of a therapist, my husband Bob and I began to try for a baby. Months and years passed. The celebrities lie—babies aren’t easy to make after 37. Not at all. As a result - we tried everything under the sun. From acupuncture to IVF, to just plain giving up.
At 43, I finally became pregnant. It had been such a long time coming, and to me it was nothing short of a miracle. Now, I wondered how I would handle it all. We had just moved to LA, and I had been hired as a creative director managing a team of 20 that spanned the country.
I figured I would put the baby in a Pack-n-Play while I worked two days at home, and the nanny would take care of him while I was in the office from 9 to 7, on the other three days.
Boy, was I wrong.
When “Little E” arrived, he was a beautiful sweet boy. I was in love, but also panicked. I didn’t understand that post baby blues could also rear its head as anxiousness and dread. He was colicky and the crying sent me into tiny panics. I was distressed at the thought of my husband going back to work. I cried many days just trying to get through the monotony and fear.
When the baby was three months, I started relishing the thought of going back to work and seeing my team. I started calling them again and getting caught up on projects and feeling a sense of excitement for creative campaigns and pitches.
And then came the call.
It was the day before I was about to go back in to work. It was HR and my new boss on the phone with news.
"Rebecca we’re sorry. Your position has been eliminated due to new business requirements for the role”. I was in shock. But not 100% surprised. A new department head had come in just before I was about to go on leave. While I was gone, she restructured the department so that all of her direct reports would be with her in the Midwest office. I was devastated nonetheless. This had been my dream job - a position I had worked to get all my life.
At this age I had been through so many ups and downs I could accept bad news with grace and knew that with persistence I would bounce back. What I wasn’t expecting was to never go back to a full-time job. That wasn’t the plan.
Finding a new job in LA is exceptionally challenging. LA is big and commutes are long. I tried it for a few months, but found that road rage was not a good look on me.
Then there was my age. At 44, it was hard to get an interview, never mind a second interview. I was no longer the hip and on-trend 30-something that agencies liked to hire. Also, I didn’t want to be away from my new baby boy for the typical 10-12 hour agency day, so it was difficult finding a position that would accommodate my schedule.
I don’t think at that point I had made up my mind yet to venture off on my own. It was a slow brew. I focused on what I did have at this stage of my career—talent, knowledge, perseverance, resilience and hustle. Reaching out to past colleagues and friends from NYC to Boston I was able to secure a few long-term clients—and that kept me very busy.
For the past three years I have worked from my home office with nanny in tow. Slowly over time, I built a roster of clients while taking lunch breaks to feed my son a bottle or change a diaper. At 48, I’ve realized that I absolutely love being a mom and want to always be there for my son, and the way to achieve this is to continue growing my own agency and working my own hours.
The ad world needs moms like me. If they want real insight into family life, or to know deeply the person who holds the credit cards and purchasing power—well that would be me. I have the agency skills and I live the life. You would think ad agencies who are selling products to moms and families would be clamoring at my door. Times are changing though, doors are opening, and I truly believe with persistence our voices will be heard. Even if there’s a child knocking on the door in the background calling “mom”.