I Didn’t Know How to Close My Email Until I Became a Mom

Setting boundaries as a mother is no easy task, but often it's necessary to integrate work and life demands. One mother explores how the arrival of her child was the beginning of her new way of working.
Setting work and life boundaries is always hard—and even more difficult once you become a parent. In this essay, a writer reflects on her experience.

For most of my professional career as an entertainment and lifestyle writer, I have been absolutely horrible at setting boundaries around my work. I have only ever been a full-time freelance writer, so I’ve never had the benefits that so many of my friends were pumped to brag about when they got their first 9-5 jobs after college graduation. 

Health insurance? Yeah, I went without it for the year that came between turning 26, when I was kicked off of my parents’ insurance, and getting married. 

PTO? I don’t know her. I never have. 

Not only does this mean that I had to spend years hustling to create the kind of career I want, but also that, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. So, I brought my laptop with me on almost every vacation before I turned 30. I worked 12-hour days more often than I didn’t—even when I was sick, including New Year’s Day when I woke up with a stomach virus after picking up a holiday entertainment news shift that paid time and a half. 

More than once, my husband voiced his concern about the amount of time I spent typing away at my computer, and every time, I shut him down. “This week is really bad for me, but next week will be better.” 

How many times did I say that, knowing it wasn’t true as soon as the words left my mouth? 

When you combine that with being a people pleaser who can’t say “no” to anyone, especially her editors, lest they find out that I am only human and not actually the Best Freelancer They Had Ever Worked With—I it turned out I had a really unhealthy work/life balance, and I didn’t even know it. Instead, I just thought that this was what you had to do if you wanted to achieve your goals. 

In a lot of ways, taking this attitude towards work in my twenties really did pay off. Being glued to my email, even outside of traditional working hours, allowed me to grab a lot of opportunities that I would have missed if my notifications had been turned off at 9 p.m. 

Lugging that laptop down to the beach meant that I could splurge on vacations without also having to budget for lost income. Working that hard and working everywhere meant that I became un-distractible, adaptable, unflappable. I know that I can do anything because I have done everything

But, if you’ve had kids, you know that there is no part of your life that is left untouched when you become a mom. 

Your world turns completely upside down, in both good and bad ways, and that impacted my work life most all… probably because my work was my life. 

It started, little by little, while I was pregnant. 

At first, I was nauseous, but I could deal with it. After work, I was napping way more than usual, but I could handle it. But as my pregnancy progressed, my symptoms made it even harder to get through the long days that had become routine for me. I kept pushing forward, reminding myself that it would all get easier after the baby was born. At least then I wouldn’t feel like I’d had a flu that lasted more than nine months. 


Then, she was here, and everything changed. But not because I wanted it to—because it had to.

Since I was a freelancer, I also didn’t have maternity leave. The most I could manage was four unpaid weeks off, and the same day my daughter turned one month old, I was back to work. At first, I tried to manage my usual workload like nothing had happened, just thankful that my regular freelance gigs hadn’t given away my spots to other writers while I was gone, recovering from an emergency C-section and figuring out how to keep a human alive. 

But I was tired

The kind of tired that makes you dread going to bed at night because you know two hours after you fall asleep, someone’s going to wake you up screaming because she wants to eat or she pooped or because she just felt like screaming. 

And, worse than that, I was missing out. In those first weeks and months, babies change so quickly. I was lucky that my husband didn’t have to go back to his job for another month and could care for her while I was working, but that didn’t replace the time I didn’t get to have with our daughter.  

I can remember every single day knowing that I’d only get to see her awake for an hour or two. For the first time in my life, I wished I could trade in the career I’d worked so hard for just so I could have more time. 

There had been a shift when I wasn’t paying attention: I didn’t want to be the best freelancer ever anymore, instead, I wanted to be the best mom; the one my daughter deserved. 

That meant actually being present, not being so tired from working and stretching myself so thin that I couldn’t enjoy the time I did have with her. Putting work first had always been something I’d seen as a strength, but now that I was a mom, I saw it for the weakness it had really been all along. If I didn’t change, I really would miss out on everything. 

It was uncomfortable to make this shift at first, but I noticed that the more work assignments I was able to let go of, the more room I had for actual joy in my life. Joy that came not only from new motherhood but also joy that had nothing to do with my daughter. 

The first time an award show was broadcast and I hadn’t volunteered to write live coverage, I remembered I actually liked watching these things. Analyzing entertainment and media will always be one of my passions, but it doesn’t have to be the only way I can enjoy it. 

I’m still really bad at saying ‘no’, and I only take a sick day if I really need one. Setting and keeping boundaries—not just at work, but in every area of my life—is still something I’m working on, but I will get there. 

Even now that my daughter is three and those early sleep deprivation days are just a distant memory, I’ve truly realize that rest can be so productive. While I like to use her afternoon nap to empty the dishwasher and knock out a few chores or get a little work done, sometimes—more often than not—the better, healthier choice is to sit on the couch and watch this week’s episode of The Kardashians. I’m a better mom and a happier person when I take time to rest.

I’m also a better writer. Who knew that when you sleep at night, take weekends off and go on vacation without your laptop, you can actually think clearly enough to string a sentence together when you do have to be in front of your desk? That resentful feeling that grew deep in the bottom of my stomach every time I heard the Slack chime, notifying me of a new message, is long gone. 

Between working, chasing after a busy toddler, and making sure my house is at least livable, I am far busier than ever at any other point in my life. But I also rest more now that it has become a priority. Instead of writing a gallery on celebrity couples on a Sunday afternoon, I take a nap. Instead of replying to emails while on vacation, I’m drinking fruity cocktails and watching my daughter learn the hard way that you really shouldn’t eat sand. 

And every night, I have the joy of participating in one of my favorite hobbies, which is looking at my phone in bed. It’s amazing how laughing at 50 TikTok videos in a row really can recharge you, and you should give yourself the chance to find that out firsthand. 

Learning that rest is productive changed my life, and it’s something I might have never learned without becoming a mom first. It’s definitely not easy, but there’s something about caring for another person that is somehow teaching me how to do a better job caring for myself in the process. 


  • Nicole Pomarico

    Nicole Pomarico is a writer and editor who covers parenting, entertainment, travel, lifestyle, and more, with bylines in several digital publications, including Bustle, Cosmopolitan, CafeMom, Us Weekly, and InStyle. When she's not writing, Nicole is probably at Disney World with her daughter or starting her 50th rewatch of Gilmore Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter. Follow Nicole on Twitter/X.

Share the Post:

Related Posts