August 2010 Profile: Aliza Sherman
Marital Status: Married
Residence: Tok, Alaska
Children: Noa Grace, age 4
Profession: Co-owner and social media marketing strategist for Conversify, Inc. Author, speaker, blogger, and podcaster.
Q: Why did you decide to become a mom later in life? What factors precipitated this decision (or dictated it)?
A: I wasn’t in a hurry to get married. I was focused on my work, and it wasn’t until I was in my late 30s that I met and fell in love with a wonderful man and got married. Then I lost my first three pregnancies, spending over two years in the emotional, physical and medical labyrinth of miscarriage. I finally had my daughter when I was 41.
Q: What do you love about your career? What is most challenging about your work? How long are you doing it? Where do you see yourself heading?
A: I love the creativity that my career offers – from the consulting work with a variety of interesting clients to my content production where I have multimedia outlets where i can express my thoughts about my industry, about work, about motherhood. And I love the ability to travel and meet new people, not to mention meeting new people via Twitter, Second Life and other social networks.
The most challenging thing is to split myself appropriately between my work life and home life, between being a career woman and being a wife and mom. Those roles seem to take distinctly different aspects of my self and turning them on and off is a struggle for me. I love my husband and daughter but also know I’m the best wife and mother when I do get “out of the house” to travel and work on my projects. And I can immerse myself deeply into my work which can be offputting for anyone who wants my attention. I don’t see any hope of balance here but more conscious choices and acceptance as needed.
I’ve been creating and working in the Internet industry in some form since 1992, and I love technology, social media, and figuring out how to use tech tools well as well as predicting what’s next. I see more books and speaking engagements in my future. I love to travel, for work or with my family, so I hope to have more travel. Whatever I do, I hope I can make a positive impact out there – touching people’s lives in positive ways. I think at middle age now I want to be doing things that are meaningful and lasting but also things that are creatively fulfilling. The yin and yang of selfish and giving.
Q: What have you experienced through motherhood that has also helped you in your work or personal life?
A: I think that having to work through patience issues as a mother is really helping me with patience issues at work. I am having to slow down and quiet down to give my daughter space to express herself and be heard and know that at work, I tend to interrupt people in the excitement of getting my own ideas across. I think I’m getting better and better at listening and paying attention because parenting requires so much of that, often under frenetic circumstances. I don’t have the market cornered on patience but am learning and growing into it.
Q: What is a typical day for you like, managing both work and home life? Do you do any work from home? If so, how do you find that? Have you worked more or less since you became a later mom? Do you travel a lot, and do you take your family? What do your children think of your work?
A: My office is in my home and as long as I have full time day care, I can be productive during normal business hours. But without that space, I am completely unable to work. Recently, my day care provider was taking off two weeks and without any backup (we are in a very rural area with a dearth of daycare options), I knew I wouldn’t be able to work. So my husband suggested I bring my daughter to Anchorage (the big city) where I could drop her off at a day care and then be able to work my regular workdays so I spent part of the time working from a friend’s house and some time working out of a client’s office.
I am traveling more and more for my work again – something that was came to an abrupt during pregnancy and was minimal during the first few years post partum. I feel like I’m returning to my “old self” careerwise which is actually more of a new self, changed by motherhood in ways too deep to fully articulate. Some of these changes are good – like the patience thing – but others hard to deal with like the feeling of being overloaded not with workload but with emotional load and time crunch and sensory overload. Motherhood for me is an intense, immersive experience and I sometimes feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water and the waters are active and churning.
My daughter is very vocal about getting me to stop work or to get off my computer to pay attention to her. I think she enjoys the travel, however, and I do bring her along with me as often as I can – as long as I have a support system like friends or a reliable day care provider or both. In some cases, I fly my mom out to stay with my daughter while I’m at a conference but then we can spend time together as well. Or I fly to my mom’s house in Florida and base myself out of there with my daughter and then I can fly to conferences knowing my daughter is in good hands in a consistent environment. In a perfect world, my husband could travel more with us but his work doesn’t allow for that opportunity.
Q: How do you think being a later in life mom has affected your experiences as a parent (share both good & not so good)? Has anything about being a mom surprised you? What do you most try to teach your children? What influence, if any, has your own mom had in your life and in your parenting?
A: I’m still struggling with identifying and being in touch with the good part of being an older mom. The most obvious thing about being an older mom in my experience is the way my body didn’t bounce back and the added health issues that came up because of my age, mostly post partum. I think having miscarried so much before finally having a child presented a series of issues that I was ill-prepared for and that even my health practitioners seemed to know little about until presented with my case.
What surprised me about being a mom is how hard it is. I am saddened that having untreated post partum depression for the first year after having my daughter has colored my overall feelings as a mother, but that is my reality and I try to deal with it every day.
I try to teach my daughter to be true to herself, to express how she feels, to be good to the people she loves but also be thoughtful of others in general, but first and foremost I want her to know that I honor her as an individual person and hope to guide her path through this part of her life until she is ready to take steps on her own. I don’t want to crush her or burden her with my own “issues,” especially around food and money.
Over time, I’m learning more and more about my own issues with motherhood and seeing how some of it stemmed from my own past. All part of that “growing up” process, I guess, that we get to do in middle age. Today, my mother is very interested in having a relationship with my daughter and I welcome that. Through that grandmother/granddaughter relationship that I encourage, I think I’ve noticed a little healing between my mother and me.
Q: Where do you or did you turn for support as a mom? How important do you think it is to connect with mom peers? Do you consider yourself a role model for other later moms or aspiring later moms?
A: As a first-time mom in the dark recesses of post partum depression, I will be eternally grateful to my friend Bobi who was still a new friend when she began calling me daily just to “check in.” She was a bright light in those dark days. Then later, my friend Angie who had a child a few years older than mine, became a great beacon of sensible parenting – I learned so much from her.
I don’t consider myself a role model as a mom but I am a testimony to the power of finding the right healthcare professionals and taking care of yourself over all else because if you’re not doing well, your children and family cannot do well.
Q: What words of wisdom would you most like to share with others contemplating becoming a mom later in life?
A: Don’t do it? Kidding! I can’t say I’m fully in touch with all the things I’ve been through as an older mom but I do know that many of the complications were age-related. So if you can start earlier purely from a physical and mental health standpoint do so. But if you can’t, make sure you have a good support network – particularly of moms in your age range with young kids – so you don’t feel out of place or isolated.
Just be prepared. You can’t prepare too much and even in doing so, you will never be quite prepared in all the right ways.
Q: When you became a mom, did your own mother or mother figure share any particular sentiments or advice that really resonated? Or do you recall anything from your own upbringing that really stuck with you and you’d like to pass on to your children or other moms?
A: The very best thing my mother did for me was six months into my bout with post partum depression, she told me she thought perhaps she had it as well and that her mother had it but back then, there weren’t words or medical terminology for PPD. I wish I had known sooner – especially before or while I was pregnant so I could have braced myself – but I’m grateful to her courage to reveal that to me because it too a huge burden off of me that this was all my “fault.” I see it wasn’t anyone’s fault but a condition that may have been passed down through generations.
I vow to be open and honest with my own daughter as she grows up about all of these things, as appropriate, because I don’t want her caught off guard in case it happens to her.