Kim opens the door in an exuberant rush. “You’re here! You caught me in the middle of getting ready. Come in! Come in!” She’s smiling, brimming with Southern poise as she walks hurriedly away from the door.
For the record: I don’t think I’ve ever really caught Kim in the middle of anything. She’s the sort of person who is always seven steps ahead of everyone else. She plans to the letter. To the minute. To the millisecond. If there are things still on the to-do list for today’s party, it’s because she has a very good reason for it.
“I’m sorry I’m a little early,” I say. “I never know what traffic will be like on my way here.” Immediately, I wish I could back-reel and uncast my words like they’d never been spoken. The last thing I want is to remind her how late I was last time.
“No, this is good! I need some help setting up. It’s so windy outside. I figured we should wait a bit so nothing blows away.”
So she sets me to work cutting orange paper into squares and placing them atop two lime-green tablecloths. Within moments, her friend Tammy arrives, and we get started on this:
A science lab, with Tammy providing today’s scientific instruction. It’s maybe the coolest science lab ever for eight small birthday party attendees, ages 3-6.
Rewind five years to an afternoon in October. In this memory, Kim and I still work together for the same company that employs me now (just not in my 2010-and-far-more-flexible department). We’re sitting amid a sea of empty tables in our building’s deserted North Café. There are two different strands of energy coursing through this atmosphere: Her snap of enthusiasm and fortitude, and my dragging exhaustion.
Kim is teeming with ideas, and she uses her fingers to sketch invisible lines across the tabletop. I, on the other hand, feel like that old Bugs Bunny cartoon—the one where Bugs holds his eyes open with toothpicks until his lids grow heavy and the toothpicks snap. I don’t know how there is such a difference in our energy levels. Kim is no stranger to midnight feedings, and I suspect she gets even less sleep than I do.
Also in this memory, we’re both new mothers. Her son has celebrated his first birthday, and my sweet H is just 6 months old. Kim and I are here in this ghost town of a café to brainstorm ways we can mold our careers to fit our new parental obligations. She wants to strike out, be her own boss. I want that for myself, too. But as I listen to Kim talk, I come to know two things:
1) Nothing is going to hold Kim back. She’s just that sort of person. When she says she’ll do something, she does it. Joyfully, and to perfection.
2) I’ll be the first to dream a big dream, as long as the risks are small. Plus, I’m tied to a steady paycheck. The end.
Eventually, Kim takes the leap. And if she ever looks back, she never says so.
Now, five years later, we’re both mothers of two small boys each.
Plus, I’m helping Kim execute this birthday party. But we’re not just celebrating her older son’s 6th birthday—we’re also staging a photo shoot. (More to come on her big news later!)
Meanwhile, here are the ones I took with my brand spanking new camera (and they’re actually in focus!):
You know that business Kim hatched in the quiet of the North Café? It’s now The Celebration Shoppe, a wildly successful online business that offers custom invitations, table décor, and a “planning and idea center” with blog stats that make me want to weep with envy and pump her for strategic insight. She has been featured by some truly notable national magazines and well-known blogs, and has some very exciting opportunities on the horizon I totally wish I could spill here, but I don’t want to give away state secrets.
I could go on, but I don’t think Kim would like that. She’s extremely humble. I’ll respect that, and end my gushing by pointing you to The Celebration Shoppe’s “About Us” page, in case you’d like more information.
Five years ago, Kim was a sharp, savvy Investment Marketing Manager. And she was great at it. If her name came up in conversation, you’d see nods of appreciation and hear nothing but praise. Her job came to her naturally, and she worked harder than most people I know.
When she became a mother, that drive and ambition didn’t change. It’s just that it switched directions. And mine did, too. We knew we couldn’t continue to work the way we had been now that we were moms. So she became her own boss, and she excelled at that. Me? I moved to a department and a management team that let me carve out a career where I could write and write and write all day, and still see my fellas at lunchtime. I’m certain my former manager would have wanted that for me, too, if only it had been part of our culture in that department. But it wasn’t, and she couldn’t and I knew that without asking. So: Switching jobs answered those needs I’d laced together so earnestly: To write, sometimes at home, for a trustworthy company.
So let it be said: We parents—we do whatever we can for our kids. We just do. If that means walking away from a job to stay home, or finding a role that better fits, or working our asses off to provide, or building our own empires, we search our great big dreaming hearts and find a way to do it. The end.
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