Jacqueline Reeves Phillips | Another Mother Her Way
Jackie Reeves instantly struck me as the calmest person in New York, let alone the calmest mother at The Smith where we were meeting with her then, newborn in tow. Soft-spoken and strong, Jackie has a kindness and clarity, especially in talking about her now one and a half year old, Mila, and motherhood. After a Masters from NYU, Jackie was certain of a committed career path in higher education, but she was even more certain when she negotiated her role as Director of Media & Communication at Cardozo Law down to three days a week and made room for motherhood and balanced living. Read in her words about "how life happens and priorities shift".
Q HOW DID YOU CHANGE AFTER BECOMING A MOTHER?
Becoming a mother for me was life altering in both practical and emotional ways. It was an incredible and sobering experience going from being solely responsible for myself one minute, to being responsible for a tiny newborn the next. It honestly took me some time to adjust to the role. I had to mourn losing my old life before I felt comfortable in my new one. That said, there is something freeing about no longer being the center of your world. I don't worry about small things anymore because I either don't have the time, or the emotional energy. Becoming a mother has tapped into emotions I didn't know I had - especially a love I didn't know I could feel. I get much more joy in the little moments, like Mila discovering a new word, finding a new animal at the park, or seeing snow for the first time.
Q WHAT CHOICES DID YOU MAKE TO ACCOMMODATE MOTHERHOOD? WOULD YOU MAKE THEM AGAIN?
I was pretty certain going in that I wanted to cut down my work hours. I work in higher education, so I already had a pretty good work-life balance, but I decided moving to part-time was the right path for me. I feel very lucky that I had this choice. Being surrounded by colleagues, family and friends who value my choices and are supportive of my decisions makes a huge difference in my emotional well-being.
There are moments where I feel like I am treading water in my career. When I was younger I thought I would always be on an unwavering, aggressive career path. But life happens and priorities shift. I know this is a small moment in time in a long career, and I would definitely make this decision again. The two full days I get each week with Mila are invaluable to me.
Q DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A MOTHER IN 3 WORDS. WHAT KIND OF MOTHER WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?
Organized, Open-Minded, Engaged
I am naturally an organized and structured person, so that translates to my role as a mother – Mila is definitely in a lot of activities and I keep her on a pretty set schedule, which seems to work with her personality. But I also think there is huge value in giving her space and flexibility to explore – I think kids should be playing in the dirt and running around outside. They should be discovering the world in their own way. I didn’t grow up in the city and I was outside most of the day throughout my childhood, so I try to give her those opportunities, even though we live in Manhattan.
Q HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF OUTSIDE OF MOTHERHOOD?
I realized early on in this journey that for me to be my best, I need balance. Going to work 3 days a week helps with this. But I also try to make time with my friends a priority, and planning at least 1-2 dates a week with my girlfriends helps keep me sane and happy. Working out and playing sports have always been an outlet for me, so I try to do this a couple times a week as well. And having a little time to myself is a lifesaver as well, whether I go get a manicure or go shopping, it helps me be more focused on Mila when I am with her.
Q EVERY MOTHER NEEDS HELP TO FIND BALANCE. WHAT DOES YOUR VILLAGE LOOK LIKE?
I never knew how much that phrase rings true until I became a mom! My instinct is always to figure things out on my own, but I realized quickly that this is not healthy or possible when raising a family. I’m so lucky my husband Ben is a great partner in this life phase, and helps me find the balance I need. He gives me the time to have other outlets. Mila's babysitter is incredible and has become a part of our family, and I don't know what I would do without her. My sister lives close by and has a great relationship with Mila. And in New York, your friends become your family. We don't have a lot of relatives nearby, but Mila has lots of "aunties" and "uncles" who are a part of her life.
Q WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON IMPROVING ABOUT YOURSELF AS A WOMAN & A MOTHER?
There are always things I’m trying to improve on – I could be more patient (especially when dealing with toddler drama) and I could take the time to explain things more. I could get less caught up in trying to be somewhere at a certain time, and appreciate just living in the moment. It’s definitely a work in progress!