I'm introducing a new series featuring interviews with real millennial working moms (MWM)! Every month I will be profiling a different MWM to get the inside scoop on motherhood, balancing work and home, and carving out 'me time'. Oh, and I'm including fun little tidbits like their drink of choice and trashy TV picks 'cause let's be honest, we all need our little indulgences.
This month's MWM is Keren de Zwart, hailing from Southern California. I came across her beautifully curated page on Instagram and was inspired at how she juggles a full-time job and TWO side hustles. Seriously, this woman is goals. She also writes for her blog, Lollipops and Laptops, where she discusses her life as a working mom and dispenses useful legal tips (oh, did I mention she's a lawyer, too?!). Read on below for her insights into balancing motherhood, marriage, and career.
What is your job title?
In my full-time day job, I am an Operations Manager for a large landlord-developer. I still work part-time as a lawyer on a consulting basis, and my side hustle is managing operations for an internet marketing company.
What do you love most about your job?
My favorite thing about managing commercial real estate is that no day is the same. Although there are monotonies in any job, each issue is a little different and the relationship building with tenants, vendors, and colleagues is generally much more positive than my experience in the legal world. When making the sacrifices associated with being a working mom, I find it easier to have an engaging, dynamic job. It also takes less bandwidth than my time as an attorney, so I’ve been able to pursue other interests, which is how I ended up with my side hustle and my blog.
How has being a mom influenced your role at work?
I was a mom before I was a manager (as in, responsible for hiring/firing, not just workflow), so I think that the patience it takes to be a mother helped me as a people manager. I have very high expectations of myself and others, but when you spend 30 minutes watching your toddler struggle as he insists on dressing himself, you learn to be patient while this person challenges himself and learns new skills. When you move from individual contributor into management, it is usually because you are a great individual contributor, so it’s easy to want to do things for your team because you can do it better, faster, etc. But my job as a manager, like my job as a mother, is to educate and guide, not to do everything for them.
What do you find most challenging about being a millennial working mom?
I find that not a lot of people fully grasp the difficulty of balancing my insatiable career ambition and my desire to be a present mother. Many of us Millenials grew up with working moms and just kind of assumed we could do both. When you stop and think about it, our mothers worked before the age of smart phones and 24/7 connectivity to their jobs, so even though they still had to stress about how to make meals in 20 minutes or less after coming home from work, they weren’t getting emails from their boss at 7:30 pm while they were giving their kids a bath.
That overly-connected world also puts pressure on us to be all things to all people—a rock star employee, a mother that throws Pinterest-worthy birthday parties, a wife who supports her spouse in his career growth, a friend who is available to have a venting session at any moment. I don’t like calling it ‘finding balance’ because anyone who has tried knows there really isn’t such thing. I find that all of these pieces of being a millennial working mom sit on a plane and there is a pendulum that swings back and forth. You just need to go with the flow knowing that you’ll be better at different roles you play at different moments in time.
What has been most surprising about motherhood?
I was very surprised how uncomfortable I was as a new mother. I grew up babysitting and nannying, so I’d been around plenty of dirty diapers and temper tantrums. But when they placed my daughter in my arms and I felt the responsibility of not only keeping a tiny human alive, but also educating her on how the world works and raising her into a strong, empowered little lady, I felt cowardly and powerless. I’m four and a half years in and we’ve added our son to the mix, and although I’ve certainly found more comfort in my role as a mom, I think the big lesson in motherhood for me was that each season brings new and different challenges (Sleep regression! Teething! Terrible Twos! Sassiness!), so I had to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
How do you carve out ‘me time’ and what does that look like for you?
After becoming a mom, I was very bad at carving out time for myself. It was the one thing that could just naturally fall on the back burner, since my children, my job, and my relationships with my husband, friends, and family were more important priorities. But only in the last six months did I realize how much it was affecting me, both mentally and physically, not to take care of myself. So I’ve started just recently focused on a few changes to engage in self-care. The first is that when my husband is in town (he travels a lot for work), I take a 5:30 am Pilates class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I am not a morning person and forcing myself to these classes hasn’t moved the dial in the direction of being one, but getting some exercise has been great for the body and mind. Enjoying a quiet breakfast by myself when I get back before the kids wake up is the cherry on top. The second thing is that my husband has started to gently but firmly encourage me to do things for myself, starting with Wednesday evenings, which are days that he usually works from home and can pick up the kids. Without his insistence, I probably wouldn’t do this one as consistently. Sometimes I’ll get a massage or see a movie. Sometimes I’ll meet a friend for dinner, and sometimes I just stay at the office to catch up on work. But knowing the time is mine to do whatever I please is especially satisfying.
What is one essential beauty product you can’t live without?
I grew up a total tomboy, so I barely wore any makeup until the middle of high school, and I tried eyeliner for the first time as a senior in college. I have worn fake eyelashes exactly once, which was on my wedding day. So although I wear makeup because I work in a traditional corporate setting, I like it to feel “invisible.” My go-to products are Yves Saint Laurent Forever Light Creator CC Primer, which is super lightweight but has nice coverage and a brightening effect (and it has sunscreen!) and Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara. I know you said my one essential beauty product, but a dab of the primer and a swipe of the mascara is all I need for a minimal makeup look.
What is your drink of choice?
Chai tea lattes by day. Chardonnay or champagne by night.
Must-watch trashy TV?
I used to watch plenty of trashy TV, but my time is so limited now that I find myself watching mostly just the handful of shows that my husband and I DVR. If I’m in need of unwinding and watching something mindless, I shamefully admit I watch Vanderpump Rules. And although I have never watched any previous seasons of The Bachelor, my friend/former colleague Seinne is on this season, so I’m watching it this season. I know a lot of Bachelor-obsessed people, so I feel like I’ve joined a cult now that I actually know what’s happening each week.
What is your favorite item of clothing for work?
I do love a well-tailored business dress, but I run cold and I’m in and out of the office visiting my properties, so my work uniform is typically a slim-fit pant like Banana Republic’s Sloan pant and a silk or similar-style blouse. Joie and Equipment make amazing ones, and although they’re an investment, they last forever, both in terms of quality and style.
If you could offer a piece of advice to other millennial working moms, what would it be?
With the advent of social media, the opinions of others are far more public and obvious than they were when our parents were in the workforce. The best piece(s) of advice I’ve implemented for myself and think are worth of passing on are:
1) Do what works for you and your family in any given moment in time. What works today might not work tomorrow, and what works for one family might not work for yours.
2) Be the woman who is supportive of others—especially other women—whether they work or stay home. There is so much judgment and negativity in this world already, and it feels oh-so-good to champion happiness and support for others.