I don’t recall if I was especially miserable, ugly
or sad, but something inspired my husband to come
up with the most insane and brilliant idea. Right
there, a year ago August, on Seventh Avenue and 41st
street, he changed our lives. "Instead of buying
that weekend house we talked about", he said,
"we could live there full time and do our business
full time right from home." I signed up on the
For 15 years I had worked as a fashion designer for
great houses like Bill Blass and Charlotte Neuville.
I worked with a lot of wonderful, smart, clever people,
and learned a lot from all of them. I traveled to
Europe on shopping trips, stayed in the best hotels
and ate in the best restaurants in Europe and Asia.
I had fabulous wardrobes made for me exclusively,
and worked, worked, worked on my career. In addition
to my more-than full time job, I had started a business
in the winter of 1992, where I designed, and together
with my husband, manufactured Designer sweaters under
my own label. Surprisingly, it was a hit from the
beginning, and we soon found ourselves in prestigious
stores like Saks, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus. Finding
time for the business in addition to my job seemed
hard at the time, but when I look back on that now,
that was a piece of cake. I was enjoying myself, doing
what I loved to do, gaining a good reputation, and
feeling confident in my art.
Until last August, when my husband picked me up from
work a depressed woman. Trapped is more the feeling.
At the time, I had what so many people would consider
a glamorous job, but believe me there was nothing
glamorous about it. I was working for a large private
label company that manufactured sweaters for the chain
stores – Wal-Mart, Kmart, etc. (Doesn’t it sound glamorous?)
I had the fancy title of Design Director. I loved
that title. It made me feel good. I had a staff that
I was responsible for. I was what I considered to
be a good and fair, but strict boss. I lavished praise
upon my designers, but I never let anyone miss a deadline.
For 4 years at this company, I worked long hours,
weekends, and 8-day weeks in Hong Kong, Greece, and
Europe. On trips, I often worked until 2 or 3AM with
no days off, sometimes never leaving the hotel for
the duration of the stay. Basically there was nothing
they couldn’t ask of me. They were paying me more
money than I had ever been paid, and I felt it was
my duty to offer up my life in return. I was loyal
to the end, no matter what that meant, and everyone
knew that I was the favorite employee; I could do
Until I did the unforgivable – something so awful,
so hideous and disloyal that it had enormous and shattering
consequences. I had a baby.
I took 3 months maternity leave, working right through
it, at home and sometimes in the office. Aware of
the fear in my employer’s eyes that I might decide
to stop putting my job first, I had written a mission
statement for my maternity leave that was worthy of
the war plans for Desert Storm. I hired a nanny at
6 weeks and tried to ignore the new feelings I had
that were shaking up my priorities.
5 months later, when my husband picked me up from
work, I hated my job. My bosses didn’t like what was
happening, and my morale was low, and getting lower.
To my female boss, babies were like kryptonite – I
believe that she feared them because they took away
her powers – and she couldn’t understand why I would
want one. To the male boss, I was just lazy. He wondered
why I needed to leave work at 5:30? Why did I have
to take time out to go to the pediatrician? Why did
my baby have to come to work with me when the first
nanny quit? Why couldn’t I work on the weekends? Why
didn’t I see this before?
This was not where I wanted to be.
I had been through two nannies by that point, and
the one we had now was a nice woman whom I trusted,
sort of, but of whom I was exceedingly jealous. She
got to see my daughter all day long, whereas I got
to see my daughter for 1 ½ hours in the morning,
and then again in the evening.
I was not becoming a confident mother. I was actually
afraid to spend an entire day with my baby, not being
very familiar with her, and used to someone else making
decisions about her day. She cried when the nanny
left, but never cried when I left. I videotaped the
nanny every day and watched 10 hours of tape on fast
forward, every night, looking for signs of neglect
or abuse, but mostly just re-living my daughter’s
It was not where I wanted to be.
That day in August, sitting in the car with my husband,
I felt there was no way out. A lifestyle I enjoyed
just 15 months ago, was now a prison. How did other
working mothers do this? Should I just accept my role
as CEO but not participant in my daughter’s life?
Should I just shut out this part? Seek therapy to
learn to accept it? I still don’t know the answer
to that question.
My husband, baby daughter and I are now living in
the country -- the most country of country you can
imagine. Why my family is here is clear; we did this
to raise our daughter without the aid of caretakers,
or rather, without a caretaker raising her instead
Our doctor says, ‘You are lucky to be able to do
this," but I don’t think it is luck. As a matter
of fact, that takes away any value I attach to this
decision. It’s a risk, and I guess that’s why I have
that kind of walking - on - a - tightrope - high -
in - the - sky feeling to my life. Luck would have
been winning the lottery and then being able to live
without the fears and worries that come with a life
altering decision. This is Risk, honey, and it doesn’t
feel as easy as I imagine luck would.
We’ve been living in the country now for over 7 months.
We work on our business seven days a week, and take
turns caring for our daughter full time. We have almost
no friends, have an awful time trying to find time
to work, we’re always behind and lacking in sleep,
and both families wish we’d just get real jobs. Not
much has gone smoothly since that decision one year
ago; and that has become "business as usual".
Oh, except one thing. Now my daughter has a FIT when
I leave the room, and a part of me just has to smile.