My son Zane is turning three on Thursday and we’re going to celebrate at a cheesy waterpark. It was actually this time last year that we began for the first time ever to notice that Zane wasn’t hitting all of his developmental milestones, specifically with regards to speech. Like many mommies, I was glued to Baby Center’s milestone tracker. People kept telling me that one day, he would just start talking. It would be a “speech explosion,” but by his second birthday, I just knew deep down that there was something wrong. It was like he was going backwards, maybe even losing previous milestones and retreating into his own little world, and his new frustrations seemed more than a terrible two tantrum. The happy little guy once featured on an American Express commercial didn’t seem that happy. Since then, we’ve been through the ringer dealing with a dreaded diagnosis that I initially refused to accept—autism. He now gets 36 hours of therapy a week from a number of specialists. And my guilt over the work/life balance has skyrocketed. I’m not just a mom and the CEO and founder of my company, Happy Family, but I’m the mom of a special needs child on the autism spectrum who needs more of my time and energy than ever.
The work/life balance has always been a struggle for me. When I started Happy Family, I basically sacrificed my (social) life and spent all of my time building Happy Family into the #1 premium organic line for young families. We have grown into the only mom-owned business of our kind. Happy Family is dedicated to providing babies, toddlers and kids the healthiest start in life with our enlightened approach to nutrition from a sincere desire to change our children’s health. Unlike any other company out there, we make every bite count by adding Choline, pre- and pro-biotics, vegan and non-GMO DHA, and the supergrain Salba to many of our products. We give back to children in need and we do everything with a spirit of social responsibility. My life was 100 percent dedicated to my company. I even considered it to be my first baby, nurturing it from the start.
Then, Zane was born, after 22 hours of natural labor and an emergency C-section, and I found out first hand that the age-old “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Zane in the baby carriage” falls short of preparing you for the reality of starting a family. It should be finished off with something like, “…and diapers, and food, and cribs, and breast pumps, and sleepless nights, and then unimaginable worries when real problems happen…” Or you fill in the blank.
As any working mother knows, the only thing that doesn’t change when you start a family is your professional life (or at least the expectations that come along with it). While I still haven’t figured out the magic solution to balancing my work life with my family life, I’ve found that my guilt is assuaged (at least a little bit) by the fact that I’ve created a company that offers the most enlightened, healthiest, allergen free (and therefore helpful to a lot of children like Zane) products available. This has not only made me feel like I’m a tiny part of helping other families, but I also feel good about giving Zane everything we make—and that they are so convenient that meal time takes a little less time. And while this last year has been rough emotionally, we do have so much to celebrate. The business is thriving; meanwhile my most beloved baby is making progress slowly but surely.