A Successful Children's Book Editor Walks the Tightrope Between Motherhood and Career

How do women measure success? Is it by mothering and having a career? How do they carry out both forms of work to their satisfaction? What helps? What hurts?

This is a weekly series about successful women who participate in the workforce in a range of ways building their careers while mothering. These women fly under the radar of the media but need to be heard. They are silently successful and warrant recognition. They are compassionate, persistently hardworking women who deserve our admiration and offer advice to new mothers. Each week I will spotlight a different remarkable woman.

Lisa Sandell, editor of children's books, has a four and a half year old and a two-year-old. After her first child she never questioned returning to work despite conflicting feelings:

Of course I have felt terribly conflicted and guilty every day since my first day back at work after maternity leave. But being a book editor is very much a significant part of who I am, who I feel I am when I present myself to the world. And I take tremendous pride in my work; when my kids are old enough to understand, I hope they will recognize why my work matters to me and why it was important to me to maintain this measure of selfhood that's distinct from being "Mom."

Her conflicts grew, however, as her children grew:

My kids are still quite young--4-1/2 and 2--but I would say that now, as they are getting older and as they are really coming into their own personalities, and in the case of my younger child, coming into language, I am feeling more conflicted about working full-time, missing out on picking them up from school.I ache when my daughter asks why I'm not there to pick her up from school.

Perhaps because the relationship is more dynamic than when they were infants, and because I look at my older child and realize how fleeting and fast time is, every moment with the two of them feels even more precious. Now I try very hard not to pick up my phone, not to get on my computer when I am with them, so that I am less distracted, less stressed, and less anxious, and the time we do have together is as rich as possible.

When Lisa thinks about motherhood, her feelings are deep and passionate. She knows how strong her feelings about loving her children shape her life:

Being a mother, experiencing and embodying--containing, really--the boundless and overwhelming love that just keeps growing day by day, is the most amazing and beautiful and utterly miraculous experience I could ever begin to fathom. I just love these kids so much and am reveling in that, each day--despite the mundane daily hardships, (i.e. wrangling two young kids in the mornings and getting them off to school and myself to work on time). Then, to take a step outside my own experience, when I think about how my husband and I are trying to nurture two new human beings who hopefully will have much to contribute to society is at the same time thrilling and terrifying, the greatest challenge either of us has ever undertaken. This prospect colors each day, each decision, each word spent in their proximity; what a joy, and really, what a responsibility of such awesome proportions.

At the same time as she derives pleasure from her motherhood, she also derives immense satisfaction when a finished book that she acquired is edited and she has seen it through to publication.

Being a book editor feels a bit like midwifery, I think--but nothing compares to the feeling I get when I step back and look at my kids and think, these are two remarkable individuals and I love them so very much.

As a young mother with two small children, she shared her advice for other career women with children:

I am feeling my way through being a working mother--gosh, I'm trying to wrap my head around being a mother,every single day. I'm still trying to figure out how to find balance, how to do my best, how to make my best efforts even better for my kids. I think the best advice I can offer, the only advice I feel comfortable offering to other women is to say don't beat yourself up. The balancing act of the working mother is hard; it's often messy, and all we can do is take care of our families and take care of ourselves and try to be forgiving. Self-flagellation doesn't seem, to me, to be very productive. I will add, though, that I'm terrible at following this advice myself.

Lisa makes it sound both conflicting and rosy at the same time--that's the tightrope! Comment on your experiences and support her two huge endeavors: motherhood and successful career editor.

If you would like to participate in this series, contact Laurie and she'll be glad to include you.

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with a recent book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior, found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Familius and wherever books are found.