Michelle Hale | Another Mother Her Way

I discovered Michelle through her popular NYC based home organizing business, Henry & Higby, (we've talked about them before). When I met Michelle, I wasn't too surprised to hear about her Southern roots - she has a chattiness and grace that puts you immediately at ease and an empathy and perfectionism that comes through in her work and did wonders on Bodie's closets. Given her creativity and calm, I was however caught off guard when she shared her background in private equity and her decision to part ways with finance to prioritize her time with her son when he was little.  It was her time at home that let her take stock of what gave her energy and when she was ready she built her business. Now her son is of school age and Michelle shares why she took the pause in her career and how it ultimately paid off personally and professionally.  

Q1.  HOW DID YOU CHANGE AFTER BECOMING A MOTHER?

After becoming a mom, I was changed by new found feelings of confidence and courage and a boundless love for my son. I had read about that rush of love but I didn’t believe it to be true until I held him for the first time. The confidence and courage came a bit later after I fully came to grips with the reality that I was now in charge of nurturing and caring for another life and that I was pretty good at it. At that point, I came to feel greater confidence in my self and my decision making skills (I kept him alive so far, right?) as well as the courage to assert myself.

This confidence also made me realize that if I was going to spend time away from my son, that it needed to be for something that was fulfilling and meaningful to me on personal level. And, at that point, I gathered my courage and took the leap to follow my passion and create my own professional organizing business, Henry & Higby, with a childhood friend.

Q2.  WHAT CHOICES DID YOU MAKE TO ACCOMMODATE MOTHERHOOD?  WOULD YOU MAKE THEM AGAIN?

 I left my career in finance to focus on motherhood. Before even starting a family, I knew that I wanted to stay home until my child was old enough to go to school. I also knew that I would only get one chance to watch my baby (now little boy) grow up and that it would fly by in an instant - although I will say that there is truth in the saying the days are long but the years are short.

My husband and I both worked at jobs that didn’t offer much flexibility so we knew that business as usual wasn’t going to cut it. Additionally, I had been dreaming of leaving the world of finance for a while and wasn’t quite sure what direction I wanted to take in the future. While savoring and sometimes struggling with the first years of parenthood, I was able to take a breath, step back and really evaluate my priorities. I began to ask myself questions — how can I translate my desire for career pursuits and balance motherhood while being a spouse, friend, sister and daughter to others?

When my son started nursery school, I took the few hours I had alone each day to think about my next steps. I dug into volunteer work for my son’s school and the neighborhood playground and found that I really had a knack for organizing people and events. I found that I loved collaborating, pulling together resources and executing ideas.  Finding that passion then lead to talking about it with friends, including Annie who is now my business partner and lead to a year of exploring organizing on an informal level. I was lucky enough to have a network of friends that let me experiment in their homes and I found the work to be personally very rewarding. I love that I can make a positive impact on people’s lives by helping them declutter and organize their homes.

Fast forward a few years, now with an established business and a growing active child, I find one of the greatest challenges is “turning it off.” Being your own boss comes with tremendous responsibility. Like parenting, there is always something to be done and, if you have a free moment when the kids are asleep, you feel like it should be devoted to work. As a business owner, the future is fully in your hands and the risks and rewards are great but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Q3.  DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A MOTHER IN 3 WORDS.  WHAT KIND OF MOTHER WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?

Present, adventurous and supportive.

For me, motherhood is about being a constant source of stability. I strive to be as accessible as possible and to parent from a place of empathy rather than judgment. It doesn’t always work out that way because truth be told I could be a little more patient sometimes. I tend to move a hundred miles a minute but now I strive to slow down my pace a little so I can focus on being more present during the times that I am with my son.

Q4.  HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF OUTSIDE OF MOTHERHOOD?

Easy! Sleep and SoulCycle. Can’t get enough of either (especially sleep). 

Q5.  EVERY MOTHER NEEDS HELP TO FIND BALANCE.  WHAT DOES YOUR VILLAGE LOOK LIKE?

Early on my village was relatively small. It was just me and the little guy and a fantastic group of mom friends who lived in the neighborhood.

However, now that I work full-time and my son is in school, the village is vast and wide. I have the support of incredible babysitters, grandmothers and friends who pick up the slack and keep us all together when schedules get hectic.

I structured my work day so that every morning I walk my son to the bus stop or take him to school for drop-off before starting my work day but afternoons are unpredictable. That is when our incredible sitter comes in and picks up my son from the bus and takes him to various activities and play dates. I make it home for dinner most evenings and we have that time together as a family. However, sometimes, our work requires us to take on weekend projects and in that case daddy is fully on duty!

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Q6. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON IMPROVING ABOUT YOURSELF AS A WOMAN & A MOTHER?

Many moms can likely relate to the seemingly constant struggle of trying to balance work and home life. They aren’t kidding when they say the struggle is real! I tend to be a perfectionist which flies in the face of the reality of life with kids so I try to channel that energy into my work life so I can let life be more like life at home. I am also learning to trust and lean on others for support when I need it most as all it takes is a little one sick at home to throw a monkey wrench into an otherwise busy work day.