"I Have My Son Visit Me At Work So I Don't Feel As Guilty"

Much of the parenting conversation has centered on the notion of having it all, but anyone who has even some of it knows that it’s less about “having” and more about “doing.” In our series Mother's Day, we ask some of the most highly functioning parents we know exactly what they fit into a typical day, and how the hell they do it.

Having a kid is a full-time job. But for Alexia*, 34, an L.A.-based wardrobe stylist for film and TV, it’s a full-time job on top of her more-than-full-time job — and she’s doing it solo. During filming, she sometimes has to leave for work at 4 a.m. and won’t get home until midnight. She says there's no such thing as "balance," anyway, so she's just striving for harmony. Read on to see how she’s managed to raise a totally go-with-the-flow 4-year-old, who knows his “mommy’s always there, even when she’s not.”


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Job: Costume designer for the actors you'll see on a TV show or film. I work 12 to 16 hours a day when I am on a production (with a few weeks off when we wrap).

Parenting with:
MYSELF! Life after divorce has left me to single parent our son (my ex’s choice), but my village consists of A LOT of people: my mother, my grandmother, my father, my sister, and I just recently hired a part-time nanny. They help with dropping off and pick-ups, getting Aaron dressed, breakfast. During production, the village also prepares dinner and does bedtime.
When I am filming, I have to be at work sometimes as early as 4 or 5 a.m., so my sister does the whole morning routine. I get to set before the actors, so I can start putting clothes in their trailers. I go over the shooting schedule for the day and what's needed for the next few days; if we find out something's missing, I'll have to run out and go shopping. I'm all over the place while we're in production, always zipping around with wardrobe bags in hand.

If I'm prepping a job (the period of time before we actually start filming), my work day starts around 10 a.m., so I'm able to accomplish a whole lot in the mornings. I wake up 30 to 45 minutes before my son, around 6 a.m. so I can peruse Instagram, kinda chill. The first thing I do is stare at him for a bit. He's a true boy these days, running, jumping, so it brings me a lot of peace to watch him sleep. Then I snap out of it and remember what a hurricane he is once he wakes up, so I run to bathroom for my alone, quiet bathroom time. Which is mostly a distant memory since I became a mother.
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Aaron wakes up by himself around 7 a.m. He's eating breakfast at 7:15, dressed by 7:45, out the door by 8, and dropped off at 8:15. I pack lunch and gather school supplies the night before. I drop him off at school, and I'm at the gym by 8:30.
By the time he started school at 2 years old, we were both really, really ready, so the transition was pretty much us throwing up the peace sign to each other. He started to get separation anxiety around 4, so I bring his gummy vitamins to school to distract from the fact that I'm about to leave. When I'm on a project, my sister drops him off, and his nanny picks him up — and they have no problem. Just a reminder that my kid punks me daily.

Pre-baby? I was buried under my career, and I didn't think there were any more hours in a day. Boy, was I wrong.

Since you asked what my partner's role is in the morning routine: Ha! I wish I knew what my ex-husband was doing; he’s probably somewhere picking his toes wishing he never fucked up our marriage.

After I work out, I come home, shower, and get dressed. My day-to-day fashion consists of layers to pop on and off as I go in and out of meetings, in and out of malls, on and off sets, in and out of fittings. My staples are: leather jacket, white tee, great-fitting jeans, boyfriend blazer, long scarf, big shades, shirt dress — I can get a million looks out of those seven items. I've always been low-maintenance as far as makeup and hair go. The only difference is I'm way more tired now, so I probably actually need the makeup. Next, I figure out what'll be for dinner and leave notes for the nanny; then I head to work.

A prep day looks like this:
I meet with my team (five to nine people, usually) to go over scripts (to determine how many days there are and to find any specialty wardrobe notes hidden inside). I make storyboards based on all this information, present them to the director, and then send to the prop master, hair and makeup, and the production designer, so they can see if my concept affects their work. If it does, that's another meeting. Once we are all mapped out, my team and I start shopping to prepare for fittings. Without my village keeping me updated on Aaron, I'd have no peace of mind at work at all.

On filming days:
I can work up to 17 hours, and we're always all over the place, without any routine schedule or real breaks (most of my meals are craft service). Regardless of the chaos, I still think and talk about my kid ALL THE TIME. I'm the mom who’s like, "Oh, speaking of Dior — I remember this one time Aaron spit up all over the sales clerk!" I don't realize how much I do it until I'm driving home and think, Urgh I was totally one of those whack-ass kid-obsessed moms tonight.

Staying home full time would be WAY harder than my 17-hour workdays.

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I love my son and I'm parenting him with intention, but I don't put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect. I let him be a kid, and I'm grateful he lets me be a first-time mom. We kinda wing it for the most part. I pretty much made him adapt to my life instead of me to his. Because of that, he's fairly easy. I still eat at the same restaurants as before. I have a small massage spot that I sneak into often. I work out more often now — still working on that snap-back that never quite happened.

Now that he's potty trained and I'm sans breast pumps, bottles, and changes of clothes, it's like, cool, let’s go! But man, pre-baby? I was living in New York, buried under my career, and I didn't think that there were any more hours in a day to take on more duties. Boy, was I wrong. Staying home full time would be WAY harder than my 17-hour workdays.
Weekday Evening Routine
Aaron gets picked up at 6 p.m. When he gets home, he eats what’s left in his lunch box as an afternoon snack. I pay $850 a month for childcare plus $600 a month for the part-time nanny who works a few hours a day. She brings him home, starts dinner and homework. (Yes, he's only 4 and his school gives him homework. But giving a 4-year-old homework is basically giving ME homework — so thanks, school.)
I get home most days around 7 p.m. when I'm not filming and prepare dinner. We eat from the Whole Foods hot bar a lot (saves a ton of time, since it's just the two of us). If I'm not home, we FaceTime at 7:30 every day no matter what. I make sure to include myself in his day even when I'm not there.

Then, it's bath time, 10 minutes of TV while he eats a bedtime snack, two books, and bed at 8 p.m. But bedtime gets pushed back so often, it's actually more rare for Aaron to be in bed on time. So rare, that I could just be honest with myself and say Aaron's bedtime is like 9:45.

I know me trying to make up for missed time is part of the problem. I let him sneak into my bed, because I love getting that time together, but then he's not asleep until after 10. Here’s the kicker: When nanny does bedtime, the lights are out at 9. I’m not sure how she does it, and I can't ask her, because she doesn't know that I don't do it.
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After Aaron goes down for bed, I return emails, send texts, and give my assistants their list for the next day. Then I make Aaron's lunch. I go to bed around midnight.

When I'm filming I don't do any of that. I usually walk through the door around midnight feeling super guilty, kiss Aaron, see the nanny out, and roll into bed. Sometimes I have to be back at work before he even wakes up. Those days are hard, so on occasion I'll have his nanny bring him up to the film set to have dinner with me. My son thinks craft service is a gift from God. He eats all organic, non-GMO, blah, blah, blah usually. So on set he gets a "treat"; we bend the rules for him being such a trooper. I like that he can put a visualization to "mommy going to work" instead of that just meaning "mommy's not home."

Every once in a while when I get home really late, and I know I have to leave again before he wakes up, I'll put a little lipstick on and kiss him on his cheek or forehead, so when he wakes up he has proof that I was there and that I love him. Later, when we FaceTime, he'll say, "You kissed me last day?"

It would be nice if I could get a break that didn't cost me guilt or money.

I wish my son’s father... Would spend way more time with him. Obviously, so my son has a great relationship with his dad, but I also need a break from time to time, and it would be nice if I could get a break that didn't cost me guilt or money.

The one thing that would make it all so much easier is... Although I don't want any more kids, it would be easier if my son had a sibling to play with. I would get so much more done, but since I'm the 'friend,' I'm playing Legos when I should be doing laundry. And if I'm doing laundry, I feel so guilty for not playing Legos.

How do you feel about your body now, and how is that different from your self-image pre-baby?
Ha! I wish I would have appreciated my body so much more before baby. I was so hard on myself. I see pictures and can't believe I used to complain about it. I'm just trying to get that ol’ thang back.

When did it really dawn on you that you are “a mom”?
My first parent-teacher meeting, I was like, This is hilarious that these teachers are talking to me like I'm the mom...Oh shit, I am a mom. 'Okay, repeat what you said about my son’s education.'
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Once I walk in the door, he's not sharing me with the phone or computer.

Anything you think working moms NEED to know?
My client [motivational speaker] Lisa Nichols told me balance is a myth; harmony is key, and that kind of changed my life as a mother. There's no way you can do everything evenly. Instead, get all the must-dos to work in harmony with each other. That's why we sometimes have dinner together on set, even though it screws with bedtime. Then I don't feel as guilty when I come home and he's asleep.

I also draw hard lines around my time at home. I sit in my garage for 10 minutes and alert people that I'm off the clock. So once I walk in the door, if I only have two hours with Aaron, he's not sharing me with the phone or computer. My days off are called Aaron Day, and we do whatever he wants, no matter how silly.

The nanny keeps me filled in, so I can leave notes that remind him his mommy’s always there, even when she's not. For example: ‘Hey Aaron, I am so proud that you won musical chairs at school, you are so fast! And thank you for eating all your dinner last night; you are going to grow so big and strong.’ And then we FaceTime to see who can make the other person laugh first. That's harmony.

Ed. note: Names have been changed.
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