A mother and business owner reflects on her need to always be busy

With a toddler and a newborn—as well as three businesses—she's trying to learn to take a break
By Talia Haykin  Published on 07/31/2018 at 2:52 PM EDT
Talia Haykin, with her youngest daughter, in the cidery she and her husband own

“Mama, what you eating I need it!” That was earlier, when I tried to eat a yogurt in front of my toddler—whatever I have, he has to have right away. Now, I am sitting here at the kitchen table typing this with one hand (my non-dominant left) while I nurse my 10-week-old holding hwer woth my right hand. My left arm is gettimg fatigued. My spellinh mistakes are so rampant that my editor suggested we leave them in, to illustrate what we’re dealing with here. Middle school typing class didn’t prepare me for this.

This is what motherhood looks like in 2018, at least for me. Two kids 2.5 years apart, three businesses between me and my husband (the most recent a hard cider company that opened exactly six days before our daughter was born), and an insane number of projects–home garden, growing apple trees, volunteering with organizations I am passionate about, helping the preschool with social media, etc.–that we committed to because we enjoy them. Or at least we did when we committed to them.

Since the new baby was born, everyone has approached me in a tentative way: “I know you must be slammed but…” “I’m sure everything is crazy but I was wondering…” and I don’t blame them. I’ve given off the workaholic vibe for a long time, even before my children were born. Hell, I was answering emails from my hospital room hours after I delivered my daughter. Almost immediately, I moved from labor and delivery to checking emails and working. There was no sitting on the couch eating and feeding my baby while watching crappy television, letting my body recover from the massive and intense experience of childbirth; no saving my strength for chasing a toddler and being up all night with a newbie. I had to grow our businesses, raise our children and maintain my relationship with my husband, and I had to do it all at the same time. No wonder people think I’m too busy.

Momming is, honestly, the job I’ve always wanted, but becoming a mom has changed how the world sees me… and how I see myself. Previously, I was known in my field as creative, innovative, astute; groups brought me in to speak to their staff about my professional achievements and to train them on social media and content curation. I was proud of that. Now I can pump while I rock the baby with my foot in her rock ‘n play and read all about the diggers in Little Excavator and the double basses in My First Book About The Orchestra to my toddler. It’s a different kind of multitasking, but I am proud of that too.

Talia’s toddler gets curious about cider

Yet there are moments that challenge me and the different roles I play, like when I have to tell the almost-3-year-old he has to be quiet “like a mouse” because I have to call a vendor in the car while I drive him to school; inevitably, I will have to apologize to the vendor for the toddler introducing himself (repeatedly shouting “HI I’M DAVID”) and the baby screeching in the background. And sometimes, you’ll find me sitting at the kitchen table in my frilly 1950’s housewife apron while I encourage David to eat the yummy green beans (come on kid, I put extra butter on them!) while I e-deposit checks and finalize details on my phone. Is this the existence that I want? And, with my son treating every possible thing, from an old meat thermometer to a rather large piece of tree bark, as a phone on which he says he needs to “do his emails,” am I setting a good example of work-life balance for him?

Truth: I want to sit my happy butt on the couch and snuggle the baby while watching an eccentric guy from the Northwest build extravagant tree houses or a bunch of women who are famous for their rich housewife status have cat fights. But I also love being intellectually engaged with my peers and I love building a new business with my husband, even though that’s hard work with no vacation days.

I’ve come to understand that the reason I’m not getting a break is because I am not making space for a break. Maybe there’s a part of me that doesn’t really want that break: my identity is built on all the things I do, from being busy in my professional field to feeding my emotional mama self through the snuggles and the screeches, and reading Llama Llama Time To Share approximately 150,000 times. (No. Joke.)  I’ve come to realize that it’s part of my personality to want to be busy. Each time I could relax, I find more things to do.

The author and her newborn at the cidery

Our culture encourages this inclination of mine: we value “busy-ness” and whereas the sign of success used to be having leisure time, it seems now that we define success as being the “most busy.” Many of us have forgotten what it’s like to find the joy in leisure; instead, we measure ourselves by our productivity, often taking on more and more to prove how good we are at…something. And we are infusing this idea into our kids’ lives too, overscheduling them with sports and arts and millions of activities as soon as they are potty-trained (and sometimes before). No wonder I feel like I have to work on my laptop while my husband and I “relax together” by binge-watching The Crown or Fauda.

But I’m starting to learn that every mama needs a break. We recently hired someone to help out a bit at home and watch the baby, which has enabled me to go back to yoga and to take walks with our dog, not to mention get a few hours of uninterrupted work done (although, yes, I understand this isn’t really a break). Hiring someone to help initially made me feel like a bit of a failure that I couldn’t manage it all, but a few weeks in, I feel like I can breathe a little more. I have crossed projects off my to-do list  and have been able to be more present with both my husband and kids during the times I would be normally be washing dishes or folding laundry. Now the next step is to unplug from the devices and actually relax and talk to each other, but that’s what Shabbat (or a digital detox) is for, right?

Through this process, I’ve learned that sometimes we have to get creative and use our resources in a way that makes life more fun/liveable. Motherhood, just like every other aspect of our world, keeps evolving; we need to be realistic about what we can do and understand that we can’t do everything. But we still try, because we’re modern mothers and this is what motherhood in 2018 looks like. It’s exhausting, trying, frustrating, and exhilarating. But most of us wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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