Growing up, my mom had a mug with a little cartoon of an exasperated woman. The bubble above her head read: "I have a husband. I have two kids. I have a full-time job.
I'm nuts." The thing is, I had no idea that my mom struggled to juggle her family and her career responsibilities. Sure, I wished she could sew amazing costumes like some of the moms at my elementary school (she did try to make me the hoop skirt of my dreams — and it was a good effort) and I would have liked to go home at 3:00 p.m. instead of staying at after-school care until 6. But I never felt like I was missing out on anything. My mom was always around when I needed her the most, and on those days when I got a bad grade or didn't get a role in the school play, she always answered my frantic phone calls. When I first started my career and was putting in crazy-long hours, I would sometimes stop and think, How did my mom do it? I can barely get my laundry done, and it's just me. Now that I'm getting ready to have a baby of my own, I truly have no idea how I will follow in her footsteps. I just feel lucky that she'll be around to offer support. She's retiring after 30-plus years as a pharmacist to help me raise my baby, and even though I'm a full-grown woman, I have no problem admitting that I don't think I've ever needed my mom more. On the days when I wonder, What the hell am I doing, I take a deep breath and remember I'm not doing this alone. I have an incredible role model in my own mother, but I'm also surrounded by other amazing women who manage to have thriving careers and families. I know it won't be easy, but I also think it will be worth it. Ahead, 10 working mothers — from Jenna Bush Hager to Isabella Rossellini — share the best advice they received from their own working mothers. Even if you don't have kids of your own, it's the kind of wisdom every woman should hold onto for those days when you need a little reminder you've got this.
Photo courtesy of Ivanka Trump.
Ivanka Trump, Real Estate Executive, Fashion Entrepreneur, & Founder Of IvankaTrump.com "My mother has been a role model to me my entire life. She was a very early inspiration for my #WomenWhoWork initiative on IvankaTrump.com, because she truly embraced being a hands-on parent and an incredibly driven professional, even when my brothers and I were young. Perhaps my mother’s most enduring piece of advice for being a working mother is to focus on your passions and set your own priorities. My mom has often said that in the '80s, in her social circle, she should have been dressing up and going to ladies' luncheons every day — and occasionally she did, but only when it made sense with our school and her work schedules. She didn’t operate by anyone’s rules but her own, and she kept her focus on the things that mattered most to her: first, her family; then, her career."
Photo courtesy of Jenn Lea.
Jenn Lea, Performance Coach & Director Of Client Training At The Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute "When I became pregnant with my first son, I remember telling my mother that I was scared of the change from working woman to working mom. One night, during a mommy-breakdown moment, my mother looked at me and said, 'You’re his mommy, and he will always love you, no matter if you work or stay home. Always remember that you are the only one that can successfully wipe away his tears and comfort him when he is upset. When he is with you, he is home. You are no less of a mother because you work. When you are with him, make the best of each moment, because one day soon, he’ll be a teenager, and you’ll give everything to have only 30 minutes with him.' "As I wiped away my tears, she asked me this question: 'I worked for the majority of your childhood; do you love me any less?' In that moment, I changed my story. I often think of her advice when I start to feel guilty about being away from my children, and it helps me to remember that in the end, it’s all going to be just fine."
Photo courtesy of Laura Bush Hager.
Jenna Bush Hager, Today Correspondent & Author Of Our Great Big Backyard "My mom taught me the most important job we have is raising our children. Even when she was First Lady, she always made Barbara and me feel like we were her number-one priority, and I think we were. She traveled often and worked hard, but when we were together, she was present. She also showed me how fun motherhood can be. When we were children, she would lead Barbara and me in nightly dance parties. We did a wild Congo line in our entryway to the Pointer Sisters' "Fire" — laughing hysterically. Now that I have two girls, after work, before the girls go to bed, we dance with abandon around our living room. And sometimes my mom joins us."
Photo: Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images.
Isabella Rossellini, Actress, Philanthropist, & Author "Most of the women of my mother's generation didn’t work unless they had a 'call' or were so poor that they had to. My mother wanted to be an actress; it was a strong call for her. She loved her work and always encouraged me to work, too, telling me it was great fun. But I grew up mostly believing I should find a husband who would take care of me. Balancing children and career has become a wide problem since most women work nowadays. As for my mother, she came up against many obstacles. She was even denounced on the floor of the U.S. senate and declared 'a powerful influence for evil' for women. The idea was that a 'good woman' had to stay home, take care of her children, and be faithful to her husband. My mother worked, had affairs, lived life on her terms. Stig Bjorkman recently made a documentary about her that highlights the struggle she faced in family and career. "
Photo courtesy of Gail Simmons.
Gail Simmons, Top Chef Judge & Food Writer "The best advice I ever received from my mother wasn’t necessarily in anticipation of me going out into the world, but more upon my return home after my first failed attempt at adulthood. When I asked her how she could let me go off and do something knowing there was a good chance I may not succeed, she told me she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if she had tried to stop me, I would have done it anyway, and I would possibly also resent her for not supporting my choices. She knew I was smart and would recover from the ordeal, and that this way, win or lose, she could be there with open arms to welcome me home, talk me through it, and get me back up on my feet again. "As cliché as it may sound, she always said that in parenting, you need to be able to give your children roots to ground them, but also wings to allow them to fly — even if that meant the occasional crash landing. Which she did."
Photograph courtesy of Ginger Zee
Ginger Zee, Chief Meteorologist At Good Morning America "I’ve only been a mother for four months, and I must say — I appreciate everything my mom has done for me so much more now. The love you feel for your child is unmatched, but the level of responsibility and work is unparalleled, too. "I think my advice so far, though I still feel like I have a ton to learn, is that scheduling and organization is key. At this point I am working full-time, doing Dancing With The Stars, traveling across the country each week, L.A. to NYC, and still making my son a priority. Fending off mommy guilt is probably my biggest challenge. "My relationship with my mother is what helps me get through that mommy guilt. She worked a ton, was always working on a second or third Master's degree, and set a great example even though she wasn’t around all the time. It gives me so much peace knowing that my time away from my sweet boy while I am working won’t change our relationship in the future. I just focus on being present with him with any time I do have."
Photo courtesy of Julia Hartz.
Julia Hartz, Cofounder & CEO Of Eventbrite "There are two pieces of wisdom from my mother that I carry with me daily. The first advice she gave me was to learn how to ask for help. It’s easy to think that you need to be superwoman and that you’re expected to juggle everything on your own. Some people even think it’s brave to do that! My mom always instilled in me that it was braver to ask for help when you need it. That has absolutely stuck with me over the years, but became even more important in practice once I became a mother. "The second was to always make sure to surround yourself with people who make you stronger and better. It may sound trite, but the concept of 'it takes a village' really could not be more true. I’ve made a conscious effort to build a tribe of teammates, trusted advisors, friends, and others who inspire me, push me, and support me daily, and it has made a world of difference."
Photo courtesy of Letisha Ghanbari.
Letisha Ghanbari, OnStar Emergency Advisor "My mom has worn many hats as a working professional. She got into nursing later in life and is still a nurse today, working in the mental health unit. I always watched her growing up and noticed how important education was to her; she was always learning something new. "My mom always stressed the importance of growth as a working professional, and she taught us that you don’t have to stay in one place if you’re not happy. There are other opportunities out there; there’s always another road off of the main road. "She also stressed family-first values, no matter what you’re doing. And the people you work with should be an extension of your family. "That’s how it is for me at OnStar. I could pick up the phone and call a coworker, just like I would call a cousin. When I had my daughter, my mom told me to make sure that I raise a strong woman. She said that I can be her mom and baby her until she’s five; after five, I need to start letting her make her own decisions and be accountable for those decisions. "I always admired my mom’s strength as a working mom and how she always excelled at everything she put her mind to, and I aspire to be the supermom she has always been to me."
Photo courtesy of Joy Howard.
Joy Howard, Chief Marketing Officer At Sonos “My mother was a very successful leader and single mother of three girls. Her two pieces of advice that stuck with me as I became a mother were, first, to 'fire fast and hire slow.' She saw me agonizing over decisions and being distracted by work. She got right down to the business of helping me become more effective at business so that I am able to be more at peace and present at home. "The second, as a good Southern mother does, she reminded me to find the time to take care of myself and look my best: 'New clothes are an investment in your future and your career.' Since this is my firmly held belief, my husband has never once inquired about our family’s investment in my sneaker collection!”
Photo courtesy of Maria Black.
Maria Black, President At ADP TotalSource “The faster you realize that parenting is not a 50/50 split in terms of responsibilities, the happier you’ll be. There are some things just for moms, and some just for dads. Embrace them.”