Family, Career And Love: What It's Like When Your Mom Is Superwoman

by Kaelyn Malkoski

The first distinct memory I have of my mom is seeing her on a TV screen.

It was super early in the morning for me; I was 5 years old and usually wasn’t up at 7 am.

She was on "Good Morning America," discounting a recently published book asserting women have to choose between either having a career or having a family.

My mom has both. And, she has both with flying colors.

I watched her on the screen, smiling and vividly talking in her hot pink suit with perfectly coordinated lipstick. My nanny gave me a hug and told me how cool this was; I would look back and remember this one day.

At the time, I didn’t realize it wasn’t necessarily “normal” for my mom to work so much, to not spend every waking hour with her children who, at the time, were 5, 3 and 3.

To me, growing up with a full-time nanny in addition to a full-time mom was normal. Mom would wake us up every morning with a kiss and be home just in time to make us dinner.

When we were little, dinner was usually a variation of faces: soft pasta for hair, apple slices with raisins and peanut butter for eyes, a large cantaloupe for a mouth, a Hershey kiss for a button nose. (She knew we were all picky eaters and wanted us to have “fun” with our food.)

And, for dessert, we had homemade cookies made by muscle memory from her days of winning the blue ribbon for her chocolate chip cookies at the county fair in a small town in Nebraska.

I don’t know how she did, and continues, the whole full-time, kick-ass corporate executive and full-time mom thing. But, it’s always been this way.

She was the mom who, while my friends were playing with stuffed animals, made my brothers and me giant aprons with pouches.

They were kangaroo costumes inspired by the children’s book, "Katy No-Pocket," and we used them to carry around Beanie Babies.

She was the mom who, on Valentine’s Day, when other parents would send their kids to elementary school with generic Disney princess cards from Walgreens, created a customized Valentine’s Day word search to complement a homemade seven-layer treat for each of my classmates.

She was the mom who, while other high school seniors blindly applied and enrolled to colleges, insisted we visit each and every campus, from the University of Southern California to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, even though she wanted me close to home.

(And, when I chose to move down south, told me, through tears, I was making the right choice for me.)

She was the mom who, during parents weekend in college, was the first at the tailgate and the last to leave the dance floor.

She was the mom who, when I decided to move to California after graduation, drove me the 2,023 miles across the country to get me there, so she could be the person to move me into my new home.

And, she was the mom who, despite a cross-country move, a few lost jobs and a nearly failed dream, loved and supported me, nonetheless.

She's the mom who not only held me — once her little baby, but now a fully-grown adult — in her arms when I returned back home as a defeated and unemployed college grad without a plan, but also got me back on my feet.

Basically, she’s a badass. She’s done everything in life 110 percent.

Some people might say people like her are “born” with a work ethic like this, an unprecedented drive. That she’s given a genetic and inherent advantage and her DNA is the reason she is hardwired to give her all in everything she does.

I will respectfully disagree with this statement. Because, for my mom, it is something she’s earned and something she rightfully deserves.

Growing up on a farm in Nebraska, a place where the next closest neighbor is your second cousin a mile down the road, Mom milked cows every morning at 4 am until the day she left for college. At school, she had to maintain a 4.0 GPA in order to stay in school.

As a first-generation in her family, she was on a full-ride, perfect-GPA-or-bust scholarship.

From school, she deferred an acceptance to Harvard to pursue an opportunity at Procter & Gamble. Thirty years later, she’s a CEO who gets to do things like travel the world and keynote national women’s marketing conferences and, you know, casually cohost panels at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York with Rebecca Taylor and Trina Turk.

She does all of this at the same time as being a full-time mom.

There are a lot of things I can say about having Superwoman as a mom. Of course, she inspires me. I want to grow up to be just like her, except not in the “every little girl wants to be just like her mama” type of way. She’s more than a role model to me. It’s deeper than that, way more than that.

She has more than inspired me; she’s empowered me.

She has empowered me to strive for a balance between one day having a family and having a career that suits me best. While this might be the obvious learning, gauged from being raised by Superwoman, it is an important one.

It’s about achieving what is right for me, whether that is having eight kids and being a stay-at-home mom, having zero kids and being a CEO on Wall Street or having a tailored mix of both; it’s about knowing what I want and striving for it.

On that note, she has empowered me to want what I want when I want it (in moderation and reality, of course). To her, "no" is not an answer unless it is absolutely the right one. It’s a kind of drive that can only be learned through having an example like her.

She has empowered me to embrace the feminist in me; to be proud to be a woman. No, I’m not talking about gynocentric feminism or anything anti-men (Chivalry is certainly not dead.), but, instead, to discount any stigma related to gender and love my femininity, setting an example for other women.

She has empowered me to explore the different phases of my ever-changing identity through various passions, geographies, dreams, groups of friends and looks.

And, even when I was a weird child, obsessed with collecting seashells and listening to the “Wicked” soundtrack; a child who thought she wanted to be a part-time singer and part-time veterinarian, she encouraged me. (And insisted I take voice lessons and volunteer at the animal shelter.)

She has empowered me to be relentless with my course -- because it’s mine and nobody else’s. Equipping me with fundamental morals and values, she’s given me the tools to pave my way, to own my compass in the pursuit of happiness.

And, most importantly, she’s empowered me to love.

To love others wholeheartedly, even if that love may be unrequited, and express those ensuing emotions, as embarrassing as they may be perceived. To support those people because your support system is the most important thing you have on this journey called life.

My Superwoman mom has many roles: supporter, wife, boss, mother, teacher, businesswoman, role model and, my favorite one, best friend.

And, THAT’S the best part of having Superwoman as mom: She’s the best friend I could ever ask for.