Help Me I'm Co-Parenting

January 18, 2020

Pam Fujimoto

Pam Fujimoto is a freelance Creative Director out of Los Angeles, currently working for Twitter. Previously she was ECD of WONGDOODY’s LA office, where she started the Wongtern internship program, began the Women in Advertising scholarship, and led a refresh of the agency identity. Pam also co-founded the WONGDOODY-affiliated consultancy The Motherboard (previously June Cleaver Is Dead), which explores the intersection of marketing and motherhood, and aims to better understand the modern mom. She’s also worked at Creature in Seattle and TBWA Chiat/Day in New York, launching Absolut vodka’s “In An Absolut World” campaign, the brand’s first new campaign in 20 years. Pam has been featured on The Drum’s Exceptional Women Out West podcast, and has been a judge at The One Show, Communication Arts, The Clios, and The Athena Awards. She is also the proud mother of identical twins, creative and silly eleven-year olds that she occasionally still mixes up.

My husband Jeff starts a full-time job this week and I’m in a mild panic.

I’m the mom of 11-year old twin boys, and since they were one and a half, I’ve been a CD or ECD in advertising. I’ve also been a vocal advocate for working moms. Like most women who are managing a family and working in this business, I often get asked The Question: “how do you do it?” The answer has always been Jeff. 

Which means I’ve been one of those women that other women point to and say, well – that’s not really what we’re talking about when we ask that question. 

I realize now that I’ve essentially been masquerading as a working mom.

For the last 10 years, we’ve had a role reversal situation and it’s been working – really well. As a designer, Jeff’s managed to work part-time from home and be the primary caregiver to our boys. He’s enjoyed coaching their sports teams and getting valuable time with them during these growing-up years. I’ve been working full-time, in very demanding creative director roles, and I work a lot. A lot a lot. In a nutshell, I’m the parent that attends baseball games but never takes them to practice. 

"I quietly mourn the loss of my traditionally male role in our household."

I’m excited and proud of him for taking on this next step career challenge, an ambitious leadership opportunity that he wasn’t even seeking, but would have been silly to pass up. So far, Jeff’s been managing to successfully build his career while being a willing, enthusiastic passenger on mine. I’ve been literally dragging him all over the country since we graduated college. From LA to Seattle, from Seattle to NY, from NY to Seattle, from Seattle to LA. Every move was for my job, and the last move left him alone dealing with the sale of our Seattle house, single-parenting our two 5-year old boys for 6 months when I was already in LA. He’s had to put his career on the backburner more than once. I’m 100% behind this move for him.

As I quietly mourn the loss of my traditional male role in our household, I have secret worries.

At the same time I know this is an important step for Jeff’s career, I worry how it will affect mine. Will this hold me back? Will my work suffer? Will coworkers think I’m not pulling my weight if I need to leave early to pick up the boys? Will I be able to keep up with my expectations for myself? 

I worry that right now someone is reading this and considering me a less-viable candidate for some awesome position.  

"I’m starting with an already pretty optimized schedule."

I worry because I’m not currently a slouch. I’m a person who wakes up at 4:45am every weekday, at 5:30 on weekends. I use that morning time to plan my day, read the news, get a head start on work, go to spin class, do various chores, and make the rest of my day more manageable. I can’t really move up my wakeup time earlier. I’m starting with an already pretty optimized schedule. I don’t know how to throttle back. I’m always ALL IN. 

I worry our kids will suffer somehow. That our stressed-out shuffling of pick-ups and dependence on after-school care will ruin their lives in some way. Like, both parents went back to work full-time and now my 11-year-olds are drug addicts. Or that this will affect our health negatively, relying on convenience foods and DoorDash, going to the gym less.

So we’ve been preparing. 

Jeff has been building a basic wardrobe of acceptable office and meeting attire and I’m obsessively developing make-ahead dinner strategies and meal-planning. I’ve become a power user of my Things app. 

He patiently shows me what a “model lunch” looks like and I try and quickly absorb the quantity, variety, and ratio of snack-items to main-meal items. 

I know it’s going to be a rocky transition, no matter how much we prepare, the systems we put in place, the meals we put in the freezer. I also know that when we make this work I will be a more realistic, more empathetic role model for all the other working moms that are fully sharing the load with their partners or are doing it without one. I will have a better answer to The Question. Because that’s what gender equity is, what true co-parenting is made of. 

"But I, like Elizabeth Warren, have a plan for that..."

We survived twin newborns. We’re the most organized people we know. We can do this. We can? Do this? Honestly, I don’t know. But I, like Elizabeth Warren, have a plan for that, and it involves a shared Google calendar, our school parent community, Amazon Fresh, and obsessive batch meal cooking. 

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