Meet Joanne McHugh
Writer Mom-on-Call Dispenser of Wit and Wisdom Throwback Photo Connoisseur
I was voted Most Likely to Succeed in high school, but in college I became a wayward accounting major who had a really hard time figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up. After some great and no-so-great internships, I recalculated and rerouted myself towards the field of marketing. The road was bumpy at first—I hated my first job—but eventually I found my way to a career in international marketing.
When I married my Mr. Wonderful after four and a half years of dating, I was surprised that learning how to play the Newlywed Game successfully required some effort.
Eventually we got so good at being a double-income no-kids duo that I pushed back my deadline for when to start a family twice.
Another reason I put off babytime was because frankly I had no idea where the hell I was going to put the baby. I wasn’t clueless about basic child care—I knew the baby would sleep in a crib and spend her waking hours in age-appropriate child-safe seating. But having found my way to a cool job that I really loved, I struggled with answering the question of where the baby would spend her days if I kept working.
Once I figured that out and decided I was ready to have a baby, I then made the mistake of expecting God to work like Amazon Prime.
After a brief delay, our request was fulfilled, and like most new parents, we were awestruck. Most astounding was how one small human who only weighed as much as a large Christmas ham was able to bring two people used to being in control of everything to their knees. In the beginning, I was so overwhelmed that I pondered whether it was possible to return early from maternity leave.
We eventually got the hang of things, and I figured out how to be a real-life Elastigirl—one of those superheroes commonly known as a working mom. But by the time baby number two was on the way, I was tired of feeling like someone trying to stuff the proverbial ten pounds into a five-pound bag. So I decided to stay home with the kids for a while.
Like so many other things about being a grown-up, being a stay-at-home parent wasn’t like I thought it was going to be. I had imagined that I’d be living the life of Samantha Stephens, the glamorous wife and mother in the 1960s sitcom Bewitched. Instead, I found myself identifying more with the dark humor of the 1980s sitcom Roseanne.
The solution that ended up saving the day was continuing to work part-time. Preserving part of the old life that I knew and loved helped to stabilize things while I learned the ropes of hands-on, in-the-trenches motherhood.
Though I always held on to a paying gig, raising those three daughters under a regime that I dubbed Camp Fend For Yourself evolved into the best job I ever had.
Now I’ve reached the Maytag-repairman stage of parenting when I only need to be on call for those rare instances when my super-reliable children break down. Though I thought figuring out how to combine motherhood and a career was hard, I am learning that the trickiest feat of all is coping with my planned, yet still somewhat unwelcome, obsolescence.
My new mission is sharing everything I think young people should know about assembling their grown-up lives. By speaking honestly about the ordinary struggles of adulthood, offering common-sense wisdom, and throwing in a few laughs, I hope to help reduce anxiety about becoming a grown-up.