I’ve worked in the world of entertainment PR for almost two decades. In the beginning of my career, I hustled. I commuted into NYC from central NJ on a smelly, crowded, sweaty bus for an hour-and-a-half each way, without traffic. In the summer or if there was a traffic jam, those 90 minutes turned into upwards of three hours. Then, once I arrived at my tiny cubicle, I worked until the very late hours of the night. At least I think it was night, because there wasn’t a window to tell if the sun went down. It was an unhealthy lifestyle but necessary for an ambitious, driven young woman in an industry that unapologetically ate the weak and spit their scrawny asses out on the sidewalk before a second cup of coffee. I had something to prove. I wanted to leave my mark and make a name for myself.
I volunteered for every shitty task that no one else wanted. Who wants to go down to the loading dock at the ass crack of dawn in the dead of winter to get 300 copies of the morning newspapers, go through them for every tiny press mention, and make 500 collated copies? Me. Me. I’ll do it. Who wants to hand deliver magazines across town, in the rain during rush hour because even the messenger service isn’t crazy enough to do it? Me. Me. I’ll do it. Who wants to sit for 10 hours straight and transcribe countless hours of anchor chat, writing down every single “ah,” “eh,” “umm,” and loud, awkward clearing of the throat, “ahh-amm”? Me. Me. I’ll do it. Who wants to accompany the bitchiest anchor at the network to an appearance, carry her 50 pound Louis Vuitton purse (worth more than my monthly salary), write her entire speech for her, wait on her hand and foot, and be treated like a bug under her very expensive stiletto? Me. Me. I’ll do it. I don’t need a “thank you!” No, I like being told I could use the extra cardio. Who wants to carry huge bags of props in a hot subway, then schlep them up 10 flights of stairs, make seven trips to the drugstore and grocery store for missing items for a TV segment at 6am? Yea, okay…I’ll do it. And I did so with a plastic smile painted on my eager face for almost eight years straight.
Then, a life altering moment happened: I became pregnant! I knew becoming a mother would change my career. In fact, to be honest, I wasn’t sure at the time if it would end my career. In my industry, and many others, when you have children, employers look at you differently. And, reflecting back, I get it. Being a mother became my first priority. If my child was sick and I had no babysitter, I would call out and stay home to take care of him. But I didn’t want to totally give up a career that I fought so hard for. I still wanted to make money and feel like I was contributing to my profession. But, in the end I left corporate communications, the commuting, and my 1-by-1 cube for uncharted waters. In other words, I became a freelancer.
Working at home with one child was difficult. Ha! I laugh at my old self because I manage to do it with three now. What a naïve little lamb I was. Here’s the part where becoming a mother made me a better publicist. While I was navigating my way through babydom and how to be the best mother I could be, I was learning how to manage my time, multitask, and delegate (something I never did before!).
Let’s be real for a moment. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. I’ve been sleep deprived for 11 years. I’ve been puked on, pooped and peed on, bled on, cried on, screamed at and choked within an inch of my life. My daughter could make that bitchy anchor from my past cower down in a corner and sob uncontrollably. My son is the greatest combination of clumsy and fearless; therefore we are on first name basis with the local ER staff. What does this have to do with PR you ask? One of the many tasks a publicist has to handle is crisis management. When shit hits the fan, you need to be able to think quickly on your feet and take action. And of course, do so while never allowing anyone to see you sweat. You may be crying and convulsing on the inside, but you save that crap for later when you are stuffing your face with Oreos in the privacy of your own home. One afternoon, my son fell in the bathtub and cut his chin open. He asked, “Mom, how bad is it?” I certainly didn’t tell him blood was gushing and bone was hanging out, making me want to pass out. Nope. Everything was fine. Minor scratch. “Let’s just take a trip to the hospital immediately because Mommy ran out of big band-aids.” As much as you prepare and plan for an event or project, sometimes you get thrown a curveball. A reporter can ask a question that wasn’t on the talking points. A power point presentation can have a glitch. On-air talent can get lost or stuck in traffic. These are all stressful moments, however it’s what differentiates a good publicist from a great publicist.
Before having kids I didn’t have a clue what stress was. I was oblivious. Now that I’m a freelance publicist, I don’t even get phased by stressful moments. I eat them for breakfast.
Before most people get to their office, I’ve managed to wrangle and referee three small gremlins, bathed and dressed them, made and packed three different lunches, and carted them off to three different schools. My kids range in age from preschool to middleschool so I’m knee-deep in pimples, hormones, tantrums, Ninja Turtles and Shopkins. I’m no longer scared of “difficult” clients. Ha! I’m raising them.
I know multitasking is a somewhat frowned upon term however it is what a working mother does. I now take a conference call, write a press release, update a client’s social media status and make my children’s breakfast at the same time. On a given day, I can drive the kids to gymnastics, t-ball, hockey and daycare and then head up to a convention, a TV segment, and a charity walk for cancer. And now with Bluetooth, I can do all that driving and take as many client calls as needed.
The other thing that has changed since I’ve become a freelancer is I’m no longer trying to prove my worth to colleagues or the world. The people I want to inspire are my children. I want my daughter to see that I didn’t have to choose between a career and motherhood. Just like her dad, I can have both. I want my kids to understand that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish your dreams. That’s what drives me. My little nuggets. It’s amazing how when you have other lives to mold, everything becomes bigger. More.
I want to be successful not just to help provide for my kids, but to show them an example of success on your own terms. My career didn’t take a straight line. I had turns, pit stops and deviations. But I didn’t give up. I stayed on the path and picked up some little hitchhikers along the way! My children gave my life purpose and meaning. They are my happiness. Life is about balance. I wouldn’t want an employee who didn’t have a personal life. People burn out when they don’t have purpose and balance. As a young publicist, I never understood this. Today, at 39 and-a-half (okay I actually just turned 40), I am more efficient and get more accomplished, then I ever did before. Why? Maybe it’s because having kids inadvertently causes you to have time management. I know when the clock strikes 5 o’clock, my gremlins are going to be climbing the walls if they aren’t fed and tended to. Therefore, I better make those business deals happen by closing time.
But, at the end of the day it’s not brain surgery. I’m not curing cancer or saving the world. Press releases can be sent the next day. Pitches can be made the following afternoon. I don’t feel defeated. I no longer fear the unknown. I am invigorated for what the future brings whether it’s a bitchy TV personality or a snarky reporter. They don’t scare me…I have kids!
My pride and joy – Mack, Nina and Will. I feel the need to explain the second photo. I was on a conference call with a new client when my tweener decided it was a great idea to duct tape his feet and hands together and then hop down the carpeted stairs. The result? Rug burn down the entire right side of his body. We have stock in Neosporin so it’s totally a win-win. I’ve also perfected the art of networking. I now have a fantastic orthopedic nurse and holistic MD in my inner circle. I trade promotional tips for the occasional wound and/or rash consult. Improvise, adapt and overcome my friends!