During Making Things Happen Atlanta, I said something that almost knocked me over. I felt the words come out of my mouth like someone else put them there.
“Life is too short to keep apologizing to myself . . . for not being a full-time Mom.”
Who says that? And what does that mean? Before Brady’s birth, I planned and planned ways to mesh together my roles as Mother, Wife and Designer. Not to mention Friend, Daughter, etc. I was ready. But suddenly, the week before I was due to return from maternity leave, I burst into tears. I cried and told my husband I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go back to the work I loved. I loved Brady too much and I wanted to be a full-time Mom.
No one knows that.
At first he was stunned. Then he listened. And realized what I was going through. This new love had found its way into my heart and had set up CAMP. The fear we faced for ten months, coupled with the postpartum emotions, multiplied by a chubby little hunk of goodness changed me. My little heart was like a pie – certain slices had been reserved by certain parties. None to be shared or borrowed. That afternoon, I cried my face off, quite literally, while I walked six week old Brady in his stroller around our neighborhood. Extra large Audrey-Hepburn sunglasses can’t even cover those tears. I just knew it was absolutely, positively impossible to love anything else other than this little boy. Especially as much as I loved my work. There was no way TWO things could occupy my attention, my love, my focus at one time. I remember thinking that everyone around me would think I was choosing work over Brady if I continued. I remember thinking… what will everyone think if I give in to this overwhelming, stomach-turning feeling I have right now and let it all go. What if I packed up all those late nights, all the sacrifices, all the tears, all the celebrations, all the paper, all the Pantone chips and turned off all the websites. What would my everyone think of me? What would Brady think?
And that was the only question I needed to ask myself. Lisa, my dear friend and Brady’s Godmother, talked me off my little postpartum ledge that afternoon. Lisa is an amazing full-time mom (to adorable, adorable little five year old Kirsten). She helped me realize one of the single most important realizations in my life and career thus far. She helped me marry together my loves – blend all the pieces of my pie. She helped me define my un-apology – the words that formed that day and didn’t find their way out of my mouth until four months later in a room full of (then strangers) friends in Atlanta.
I am finished apologizing to myself for not being a full-time mom…
… because my work fills my cup and allows me to give even more to Brady. We’re all so different and find our fill different ways. For me, I have found that doing the work that makes my heart sing… it makes me the best Mom I can be. As mothers (working, stay-at-home, work-from-home, single, married, whatever), we are teaching our children life’s most valuable lessons by the choices we make. Dedication, persistence, big-dreaming. Lisa told me that day, “Because you have followed your passion, Brady will watch you create something from it. That is so valuable, Emily. Think of what he will do with that kind of inspiration and example.”
And I cried some more.
Being a mom of ANY sort is the most important job there ever was. Becoming a new mother means facing head-on a lot of new feelings and emotions that don’t just creep up gradually. Oh no. They boil up and smack you in the face when you’re least expecting them. Good ones and tough ones. That afternoon, as I sobbed and pushed Brady around my neighborhood and spilled my feelings to Lisa, then my sweet Mom, then Bryan… I found my footing and my place. God instills values and abilities in us all – to be used in different ways and through different channels. Until we learn to marry them all together and define them all by one giant purpose – no matter what choices we’ve made regarding work and family – we can’t find our true footing and that true centerdness.
And it was on that day that I realized why I do what I do. My life’s purpose (as a designer, a mother, a wife, a friend, a stationer, a mentor, a teacher, a blogger, a writer, a brand creator, a daughter, a Christian, and about ninety other things) is to build. (Lara I will never be able to thank you enough for eliciting that word out of me in Watercolor, Florida in December of 2009): to build a family full of character and priority, to build a home full of love and tradition, to build memories on experiences and challenges, to build brands and businesses out of passion and authenticity, to build children into admirable adults who give and teach, to build products that make women feel special and in control, to build simplicity into the lives of women determined to do it all. My mission is to serve my family with my gifts and to help other women simplify, build and grow.
And a little secret, Emily Ley (the brand) has grown up. And this is it. In the next few months, I’ll be unveiling a new everything. New products. New websites. New services. New logo. New brand. New headshots. New collections. When I think about this unveiling, it doesn’t make me anxious or even want to shout it from the rooftops. It makes me stop and breathe and smile. Discovering and weaving my passions – including my role as a mother and my life’s true purpose into this brand… well, the new Emily Ley brand just fits like a knit-sweater. Comfy.
Image by my favorite Gina in the world. Gina Zeidler.