Audrey Hyams Romoff is a public relations personality who’s enjoyed a long career with clients such as Estée Lauder, Shoppers Drug Mart, David Yurman, Victoria’s Secret and Crate and Barrel. At the helm of her own shop, OverCat Communications, while raising a family, her children, Lindsay, 24-years old, and Alex, 22-years old, are beginning to explore their own careers yet this mom isn’t slowing down. With the seismic shift taking place in PR because of the explosion of digital and social media, she’s as busy as ever exploring new and exciting strategies. Her drive and commitment to her work is something she never let go of and she says it was difficult being a Type-A career woman with littles along for the ride. And FYI: She’s not ashamed to admit that life got messy.
“From experience, I think working moms do each other a disservice when they try to make it look like they aren’t struggling when in reality they are drowning. I know I was scared to be perceived as anything other than a superwoman. When my kids were young—and I hope things have changed—it wasn’t common for working women to be honest with each other and say, ‘this is hard’ or ‘I’m not handling this well’. I know I felt the pressure to always say everything is fine, meanwhile I felt like a complete disaster. Maybe the pressure came from me and maybe I was too uptight; I know I don’t have a go-with-the-flow personality. Looking back, I think it would have served me a lot better to ditch my arrogance and say ‘I can’t handle it,’ get more help and stop trying to control my universe.
I desperately wanted to be a mother; there was no question in my mind that I wanted a career and that I wanted a family as well. However, I definitely shouldn’t have been so hard on myself or tried to do so much. At the time, I was sold this bill of goods that said women could do everything and I bought into that. For example, I scheduled a speech two-and-a-half weeks before my due date and then I went into labour early and had to coach one of my staff in the labour room while I was hooked up to monitors. I also got a call about a client pitch while I was in labour and committed to a presentation meeting four days after giving birth. I could barely see straight and was so tired, never mind deliver an impressive presentation. Needless to say we did not land the account.
But then, it’s always been my personality to just forge ahead and do it. I’d like to say I recovered from my Type A personality over the years but I haven’t changed at all. What did eventually happen is that I found my groove and I discovered my capacity to accomplish a lot. It got easier for me as my kids became older and more self-sufficient. Once I got the time and opportunity to start working more, I did. When I didn’t have to race home at 6pm to take over from the nanny, then I took the opportunity to grow my business.
"Although it wasn’t easy to juggle family and business, I never really felt guilty about working hard and being away from the kids. They learned from a young age that it's important to be passionate and dedicated to your career."
I started my agency from my home and a few months later I moved into an office and found out I was pregnant around the same time. I knew I was going to have to staff up once I had the baby and felt I needed to make a division between my home and business lives to stay sane, but chaos found me—I was sick 24 hours a day for both pregnancies and had to schedule my meetings in the small windows of time when I wasn’t going to throw up.
A couple of years later when the kids were toddlers, I was offered a job to work for a major cosmetics company based in New York, which would have meant a lot of travel and time away from home. I turned it down and to be honest, I still regret not exploring it. (Sheryl Sandberg would disapprove). This is a profound example of accepting the fact that the moment I got pregnant, it wasn’t about me anymore—but that doesn’t mean I’m superhuman and can’t mourn the things that could have been.
Today, I’m happy to say that separating my work from my family life hasn’t worked out. Lindsay joined the company two years ago, my husband and I share an office space and Alex just graduated from NYU and has moved back home for now (which I love). And both kids are eyeing careers in fashion. I guess all those trips to the mall when the kids were little had a big impact. I would really love to find a way for the three of us to explore a business together.
Although it wasn’t easy to juggle family and business, I never really felt guilty about working hard and being away from the kids. They learned from a young age that it's important to be passionate and dedicated to your career which I believe is a good message, and because I owned my own business, I was able to adjust my schedule to theirs and was very present in their lives. Okay, not always. During my son’s last year of high school, he came home one day and said “Congratulations, you’re the only mom who missed curriculum night”. I jokingly suggested that if the school wanted me there, they shouldn’t hold it during TIFF."
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Read on: Meet another Real Mom who says to be a better mom, she had to take care of herself first.