Balancing Work and Motherhood with Michaela Edwards
Tell us a little bit about yourself, how did you end up living in NY?
I was born and raised in Norway with parents from Stavanger and Cape Verde islands. I've always had an affinity for math and the drive to expand my horizons, so I pursued a career in finance which brought me to London, where I lived and worked for five years in investment management.
During that time, I traveled to New York for business frequently and fell in love with the city; it's energy, vitality and diversity. So when an amazing career opportunity presented itself in New York, I jumped at it. I moved here not knowing a soul: no friends or family. I’ve lived here now for over a decade, and have never regretted it for an instant. It has been an incredible adventure becoming a New Yorker, building a social circle of friends who I now consider family, and ultimately meeting my husband.
How do you juggle all the demands of your finance career, motherhood, and everything else?
Time is extremely scarce when working at the office for 50 hours a week, raising a precocious two year old, spending time with my husband, and attending social obligations. You have to figure out what really matters to you and let go of the things that are not a priority. As a modern working mom, you become an expert project manager in multi tasking and time management.
I also stopped striving for perfection. What's the old saying, “perfection is the enemy of good”? I allowed myself to be good enough and to stop feeling guilty for all the things I wish I did better and more often. Being a working mother is about counterbalance - being present when I'm present. At work and on business, I am fully focused on the task at-hand. When I'm home playing with my son, he gets my full attention. While at dinner with my husband, I'm 100% wife. Counterbalancing the different roles means I feel I'm giving each my all.
You recently participated in Mitera’s first Talking Motherhood event as a panelist. What was your takeaway from the event?
There are some amazingly talented and stylish modern mamas out there! It was such an inspiring event to be a part of and really exhilarating to meet so many like-minded women. The realization that many first-time mothers experience an “identity shift” was eye-opening. I especially enjoyed discovering that common bound, but also really appreciated learning all of the different philosophies on parenting and modern motherhood.
Coming from Norway, what do you think about parenting in America, and in particular, NYC?
Being a working mom is challenging. In Norway there is subsidized child care, yearlong parental leave and a societal structure to support working parents. In New York it's every working mom for herself!
What I love about raising my son in New York is the diversity and tolerance of different parenting styles, which I found up-lifting. I found great support from fellow moms in Dumbo, my neighborhood in Brooklyn.
You have a soon to be 3 year-old son. How did breastfeeding go?
Breastfeeding came naturally and I cherished that time with my son. However nothing prepares you for the reality of breastfeeding - the engorgement, the pumping, the clogged milk ducts and constantly being on call to feed a little human being.
Did you always know you would be a working mother?
My own mom was a working mother and in Norway a household with two working parents is the norm. Being a working mom is something I thrive on, grow from, and love. I believe I am a positive role model for my son. I feel a great responsibility raising this little boy into a responsible man for whom gender equality is second nature. Teaching our girls about their societal value beyond gender norms is crucial, and so is teaching our boys.
What support do you wish you had in your day-to-day life as a working mom?
Neither my husband nor I have family in New York. It would be wonderful to have that local support system, and for my son to see his relatives more often. But we are acutely aware how extremely fortunate we are to have a loving and engaged caregiver.
I do hope one day the United States will catch up to the rest of the developed world in terms of paid parental leave. It’s not just a benefit for families: empirical research shows clearly the benefit to employment retention, worker efficiency, and it narrows the socioeconomic income gap.
What does a brand like Mitera mean to a modern working mother like yourself?
It represents freedom of expression. To be able to be stylish, yet comfortable in your pregnancy and while breastfeeding. It’s simple, yet revolutionary. I absolutely love the Charlotte dress. It would make me feel comfortable walking into any business meeting and confident that I could hold my own.
Would you give us a glimpse into your typical weekday and a weekend day?
On weekdays my morning starts in the gym at 6am for a one hour workout before going into the office. My husband will get our son up for milk and some daddy time before our nanny arrives by 8am. I'm back home by 7pm for Norwegian story time before our son’s bedtime.
On the weekends it's all family time. Usually we go to our house upstate. There we enjoy shopping and outdoor activities in Hudson, the art fair in Great Barrington, or music at Tanglewood. If we stay in Brooklyn, we get bagels and watch the news in the morning, before hitting Brooklyn Bridge Park and the playgrounds, or going into the city for any of the museums (the new Whitney is our family favorite) or zoos. We usually have family dinner at a restaurant on the weekends before my son’s bedtime.
Did motherhood change you in anyway and if so, how?
Becoming a mother has been the biggest identity shift in my life. Nothing can really prepare you for the joys or challenges of motherhood. There seems to be a million books on what to expect from pregnancy. I'd love for there to be a book addressing the aftermath of birth, like the physical and emotional readjustment. Every new mom I know has her own stories about this journey through motherhood we’re all on. The Mitera event highlighted this perfectly, and I am grateful to Mitera for being part of the discussion and providing a platform for modern motherhood.
Personally, I've also become fiercely involved in women's issues and rights. I support the Fistula Foundation and the EngenderHealth as well as actively leading the Women's Initiative in New York for my firm.
I’ve found that I am more patient, more forgiving of myself and others. Being a mom is hard, we need to uplift each other whenever we can.
Last question: How did you break the pregnancy news to your husband?
I’d just returned from a business trip and went immediately to the pharmacy. I had all these pregnancy symptoms while traveling and called my husband at work and told him that all three pregnancy tests showed the same result - that we were expecting!