After spending 14 months staying home with her son, Laura Byrne jumped at the chance to return to her career in TV news, as a fill-in traffic reporter. She’s a #glowgirl who’s making motherhood “work” for her, and today, I’m honored to share her inspiring journey.
After 11 years in TV news, what made you decide to stay home in the first place?
I was coming up on the end of my maternity leave when I decided, in a split-second, that I couldn’t go back to work. It was a game-time decision, and I had to trust my gut. I was so exhausted I couldn’t think straight, and I didn’t think it would be fair for me (or my employer) to return to my gig as a TV reporter on a morning newscast. (I can’t blame “mommy brain” for every live TV stumble, right?!?) I was also breastfeeding on demand and didn’t want to give it up, since I’d worked so hard to maintain a regular flow. I was sad, but I knew work would always be there in the future. It may not be in the same capacity as it was before, but I knew I’d find my passion and place eventually.
And you did. How did you end up returning to work?
The current traffic anchor at my old station was going on maternity leave, so my boss called me and asked me to come back, on a fill-in basis. I had previously pitched the idea when I first made the decision to stay home, so I was thrilled my former managers decided to give me a chance.
What was your first day back to work like?
I was super excited to get back to work, but of course, I also had some anxiety about leaving my son. At the time, he was still waking up at least once during the night to breastfeed, and I was worried about missing that time with him, even though I knew my husband would be there. Honestly, the biggest hassle that morning was making sure I had time to pump before heading out the door! You should have seen me! Hooked up to a breast pump while applying makeup and finishing my hair! What a mess!
Once I was at the station, it felt like no time had passed, even though it had been over a year since I’d been there. And, I realized: I truly missed working.
What does your average work day look like, and since it’s fill-in, how much notice do you get?
I usually have a few days to a few weeks notice, but there have been times when I’ve gotten a last-minute phone call. I always try to say ‘yes,’ even if it is going to cause a ruckus in our family schedule, because I believe we have to make ourselves available if an opportunity arises. No one wants to hire someone who is inflexible.
My usual fill-in day goes like this: the alarm goes off at 3am, I turn on the coffee pot, get ready (thank goodness I kept all of those work dresses!), and make the 10-minute drive to the station. Once there, I usually spend the first hour preparing the traffic maps and updating the social media accounts. At 5am, the show starts, and it’s a mad dash all morning long! It’s a busy 4 hours, but it’s great!
How do you handle childcare for your toddler while you’re working?
I have to give serious props to my husband. He is the epitome of flexibility! While I’m working, he’s at home making our son’s breakfast, and if it’s a preschool day, he packs his lunch too.
Even though I am not working full-time, we decided to put our son in part-time preschool when he turned 18 months old. I hate to use the term “mommy guilt,” but I definitely feel it at times. (I know! Ugh, I said it.) There is a part of me that feels so badly about having someone else take care of my son, but it’s something that needed to happen. He’s at an age where it’s impossible to work on a computer without him wanting to “help,” and there is absolutely no way I can bring him with me to meetings. Anyone who has raised a toddler can understand!
Ultimately, I think preschool has been good for both of us. My son loves his school, and I love the time I get to devote to whatever project I’m working on. My favorite part of the day is picking him up from school. I’m probably more excited to see him than he is to see me! I usually have to pry him away from the toys or play sets in his classroom.
How did your going back to work benefit the family?
It’s been a great way to test the waters of working again. It made the weaning process a bit easier, and it also forced us to put our then-14-month-old on a sleep schedule, which made all of our lives easier. The baby was sleeping better, and so were we. (I still don’t know why we waited so long! I’ll chalk it up to a first-time parenting mistake. I’ll definitely be more consistent with the next child.)
What does working bring to your life that parenting doesn’t?
Being a mom is the most important role I will ever take on in my life. It is also the most fulfilling. However, there was a part of me that wanted more. I took my son to playgroups, story time and music classes, but deep down, I knew I needed something that was just for me.
I’d find myself daydreaming about my old news reporter days. I truly loved it. It was something new and fresh every day. I saw the worst in people and the best in people, and I realized I missed that connection with my community. I missed the rush of breaking news and being able to share what’s going on with the viewers at home. It’s not that being a mom wasn’t intellectually stimulating, it’s just different. I still have to figure out how to deal with difficult personalities everyday. Only now, it’s the roller coaster of toddler emotions.
Now that I’m doing freelance traffic, I feel like I have the right balance. I have flexibility, and I’m still using those reporting skills, just in a traffic role. I’ve also found other, smaller gigs that speak to my skill set and passions, including writing articles and shooting and editing videos for the non-profit I’m involved with. I may not be getting rich, but I’m having fun and feel like I am contributing.
Have any of your stay-at-home mom friends had a hard time understanding your decision?
Not at all. In fact, my mom friends totally get it because we all had really great careers before we decided to stay home. Some of us decided to go back to work, some didn’t, and we all support each other either way.
Honestly, I think all of us moms are doing the best we can for our families. I also believe there is no right or wrong way to mother, whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom. I grew up in a household where both of my parents worked, and I don’t think it had a negative impact on me whatsoever. If anything, it reenforced a positive work ethic. I would never judge another mother on her decision to stay home or go back to work. We all love our children just the same.
What advice do you have for other stay-at-home moms who want something more?
Take one of your talents, and put it to work for you! There is nothing like being your own boss and the master of your own universe. You may have to work harder, so don’t think it’s going to be easy. But try it! Maybe you have a knack for designing children’s clothing or restoring old furniture. Maybe you used to be an attorney and can offer your services, on a freelance basis, to a law firm in town. Craft your own role, and pitch it.
The worst someone can say is ‘no.’ And, if they do, shake it off! The sky’s the limit. You just have to have faith in yourself that you can do it.
Congrats to Laura and her husband on the birth of their second son! Thank you, Laura, for sharing your story, and for inspiring us to “own” where ever we’re at in the parenting journey. #youglowgirl You can follow Laura on Twitter at @LauraHKByrne, or leave a note for her in the comments section below.