Confessions of a New Mom

Pamela-OliviaMeet Pamela Gifford and her daughter Olivia. Up until a couple of years ago, Pamela was Vice President of Communications for the International Justice Mission (IJM). Now, she’s busy raising her two year old and consulting for IJM and other business and nonprofit ventures.

Since Sunday is Mothers Day and Pamela is a fairly new mom, we sat down with her last week to discuss her transition into motherhood and some of the struggles she went through.


4word: What made you decide to leave your job to raise your first child?

Pamela: When I married my husband Pete in May 2010, I chose to move from DC back to Chicago, where he was starting a company. IJM allowed me to continue working there, but from home – in a new role, as Vice President of Corporate and Strategic Partnerships. But it just didn’t work.

By this point, I was pregnant, and I was now sitting for hours alone in an apartment. I missed my friends; I missed anyone. I struggled to focus and work longer hours, and this struggle only intensified after the baby was born. I hired a full-time nanny and continued to try to build my new role in the organization.

But now I could see my new baby through the glass doors of my office. I don’t know of a greater distraction for a new mom in a home office! My situation was not tenable for long, and I eventually decided to leave and watch Olivia full time. It was the right thing to do for me and for IJM. Despite my best plans, the puzzle pieces didn’t fit anymore.

I contribute now as a consultant and Chicago ambassador for the organization, and I’m exploring what other ways I can contribute to nonprofit, business and civic life at this stage. I think that sometimes the greatest opportunities emerge on the detours.

4word: Was the transition from being in the workforce full-time to being at home full-time difficult?

Pamela: I found it incredibly difficult. The hardest part was losing my identity from the professional world and not knowing any identity as a “mother.” As a career woman, my time and agenda were my own.

Then, in the span of a year and a half, I got married, moved from DC and my friends, had a baby and left my job. I do not recommend this condensed timeline! There were days I would be cleaning avocado or baby food off of the floor and would think, “Oh my gosh, what happened to my life?! What am I doing down here?!” It’s not that I don’t value cleaning floors or any of a mother’s daily work – in fact, it’s the hardest work I’ve done in certain ways – it was just totally foreign to me.

4word: How did your outlook need to change?

Pamela: I needed to put a new value on my daily “output.” I needed to learn to sit on the floor and focus on my daughter struggling to stack a block, and not be thinking how I could multi-task. I had to be OK if I got the dishes cleaned and did a load of laundry in a day – that was success. I had built up strong work muscles of high output and accomplishing goals, but I had not exercised my ability to be patient, still, quiet and present. I hadn’t learned how to do small tasks well and honor their value in our family’s life. In fact, I’m still learning how to do that!

4word: Looking back, what have you learned about making the transition to motherhood? How do you advise our readers to adjust to being new moms?

Pamela: I think there are many ways women can bridge these two worlds of career woman and new mom. You just have to be honest with yourself and do what is right for you at the time. It’s also important to realize that this can change and evolve through the years – you may think you want to go back to work, and then you don’t, or vice versa.

For many years, I thought I wanted to be a stay at home mom, but now I’m considering going back to work in a year or so. I think it’s important to realize that you may not know how you’ll feel until you get into the new mom role. So be open!

I think that is why we need other women for support, ideas, inspiration, mentorship – to prop us up when we don’t have the answers or to take us out for a night of theater and a bottle of wine, like the old days. Remind yourself that despite the dramatic life changes, these “old and new” selves are all still part of you and need validating and tending.


For the new (or experienced) moms out there, what was the hardest part of being a new mom? And for those of you who are not yet mothers but hoping to be some day, what part of new motherhood scares you the most?