Michelle Pang | Another Mother Her Way
I met Michelle Pang at a pop up stall selling her line of kids' loungewear. Bodie has since lived in her brand, Zo & Av, and I've gotten to know Michelle's path from "around the clock" finance to building her brand to afford her more meaning and flexibility to raise her two - soon to be four! - kids. Michelle has an honesty and kindness that I'm thrilled comes through below as she writes candidly about the challenges and little luxuries in the initial two years of working in corporate finance with her daughter in daycare in comparison to her more recent few years where she's been able to give the best of herself to growing her kids and business. She has a sharp perspective on the working mother versus stay-at-home mother debates and it starts with understanding they're both imperfect.
Q HOW DID YOU CHANGE AFTER BECOMING A MOTHER?
When Zoe's little body was placed on my chest, she warmed me up everywhere – my mind, my heart, my whole self. Before becoming her mother, I had gone numb. I had built up so many layers as a means of self-preservation and moved to cities like Seoul and NYC for the endless distractions. But when I lost my beautiful best friend and whole support system, I not only stopped feeling, I just wasn't here anymore. Zoe gave me life as much as I gave her one. She introduced me to love and joy, basically life itself. It's really my one lofty goal to give my children those things.
Q WHAT CHOICES DID YOU MAKE TO ACCOMMODATE MOTHERHOOD? WOULD YOU MAKE THEM AGAIN?
The words "The market is always open" with the world's clocks were on the wall of my job, so I got the hell out of there when I could! There's so much in those two years that I'll always feel guilty about. I was an attachment parent except when I was on calls with Asia late at night and Europe early in the morning, the only times she would cry it out. She didn't take the bottle her first week at daycare and I can never unsee her little face red from crying all day. For four months, she had been perfect and pristine with me, but after just a week of daycare, she had coxsackie and a drippy nose after that.
I changed jobs from midtown to the Financial District with the hope and promise of more work-life balance, and I had that for a few short months until the addition of early morning meetings and signing on at night - what happens to us all. I became pregnant with my second and worked like I wasn't pregnant at all until 6 pm the night I delivered my sweet Avery at 11:30 pm. The first few weeks of caring for myself, a newborn, and a two-year-old person were crazy! And at the end the nine weeks my company granted for maternity leave, it was clear that these corporate jobs were not a fit for me anymore, now that I had my life plus two others outside of it. My idea of balance is not my job getting ten of my best hours of the day and my family getting three of my absolute worst. I realized I needed to make more changes to gain a flexible schedule and to work for myself.
I took a different frustration that I had with the quality and chemicals in children's clothing and decided to work towards a solution. I left the finance industry, entered the garment district, and developed, sampled and tested every piece dozens of times over to satisfy federal requirements and my discerning toddler and infant. It was more work than any of my office jobs but it was meaningful work that I loved, and my new little coworkers were really cute. This year I launched ZO & AV Little Loungewear, and kids can finally enjoy ultra soft knits all night and day while parents get to enjoy the fact that they’re made here in the US with the safest materials that are certified organic or Oeko Tex 100.
It's definitely a new kind of challenge to grow kids and a business, but I can’t regret all the moments I gained with my babies who are no longer babies. I want to be clear that all mothering is miracle work because I’m quite tired of the working mom vs. stay at home debates. I’ve done both, and the pros and cons are different, but they’re both brutal and imperfect. I appreciate and would like to move forward not titling motherhood!
Q DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A MOTHER IN 3 WORDS. WHAT KIND OF MOTHER WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?
1. Loving. I tell them I love you when the situation doesn't call for it all. Excessive and not situationally appropriate but I think it'll be good.
2. Jokey. My five year old now says "Mom, you're always joking!'
3. Worrisome. Was the world always so crazy? My gut says no or that I was extremely lucky to make it out alive. I can't imagine letting my four daughters fly off to distant countries or even go out for drinks in the LES without me!
Q HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF OUTSIDE OF MOTHERHOOD?
When I was working full time, I checked my email in the morning over hot coffee, I fit in a few barre classes a week, I got to partake in cronuts or homemade sweets thanks to ambitious coworkers. And those coworkers, who just happened to be uniquely amazing, I got to talk to them five days a week. Since quitting my job to take care of the kids and work on my start up, those daily luxuries are now monthly maybe quarterly and require family coordination as well as the stars aligning!
With two small children and now two more on the way, I only have time for the kids, work, and some emergency late night pedis or massages. I'm that mom who daydreams about the day all the kids are in school.
Q EVERY MOTHER NEEDS HELP TO FIND BALANCE. WHAT DOES YOUR VILLAGE LOOK LIKE?
My village is seeking members! I think I'm like a lot of young NYC families, whose extended family is a bus or plane ride away. I just had my mother visit for two days and thought about how all would be perfect if family were part of daily or weekly life.
Q WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON IMPROVING ABOUT YOURSELF AS A WOMAN & A MOTHER?
My pursuit of balance will continue and in my favor. It may sound selfish, but I know it will actually allow me to be the best mother I can be.