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Whitney Port on the unique struggle of millennial moms

The TV personality says motherhood isn't about balance — it's about getting what you need, when you need it.
Whitney Port
The goal to be the best mom and to be the best at your job is unattainable, says fashion designer and former star of "The Hills," Whitney Port.Michael Simon/

You most likely recognize Whitney Port as the level-headed, voice of reason from the hit MTV reality show "The Hills" — which eventually led to her own spin-off series, "The City."

It’s been 12 years since the now fashion designer, author and CEO of her label Whitney Eve first let the cameras in and her life is still an open book. But instead of watching her pound the pavement as she tries to break into the fashion industry, Port is documenting a new sort of survival mode: navigating the ups and downs of motherhood.

Her popular YouTube series “I Love My Baby, But…” is an unbelievably candid look at Port’s journey as a new mom to her 8-month old son, Sonny. And it’s no wonder why it has gained such traction: she holds nothing back, being brutally honest about tough topics like the guilt of not being able to breastfeed, the very real struggle of being hungover with a baby, and how terrible it was taking her baby out of the house for the first time.

We caught up with the new mom in New York City where she hosted a panel for Water Wipes on what it really means to be a parent today. She got real on life after baby from the shift in her career to mom guilt to realizing work/life balance is an unrealistic goal.

What’s been the biggest adjustment between pre-baby and post-baby life?

The amount of freedom and independence I have. Before a baby my husband and I could make plans, we could travel and we could really work extremely hard on ourselves professionally and in our relationships and now obviously, the baby comes first. So whatever baby needs, always comes first. It’s not as much me time.

Now that you’re a mom, what do you think of the phrase work-life balance?

I’m not 100 percent sure that I believe in work-life balance, honestly. I think every day is different; some days are more devoted to baby, some days are more devoted to work. I think it’s all about giving yourself the space to be okay with that and not always trying to achieve the balance because you may never find it exactly. Give yourself a break; find your inner peace that you are doing your best and really take everything day by day.

In your YouTube series you are very open about feeling mom guilt. How do you cope with that?

I definitely deal with mom guilt all the time; even just leaving my baby at home to come on this work trip I felt a little bit guilty. I was nervous that I was going to get home and he wasn't going to recognize me. But I just continue to tell myself that I’m doing the best that I can, that I’m working this hard for the good of my family and that the baby is going to be okay; he is going to survive and he’s with people that love him. I don't need to be the only one in my baby’s life — that makes things okay.

The pressure to be the best mom and to be the best at your job is unattainable.

How has becoming a mother affected your career and the kind of boss you are?

I think being a mom has made the people around me more understanding. I don't think that people necessarily expect the same of me anymore, which I think is a testament of the amazing people I work with. I feel like they realize that when you become a mother your child comes first and I think that’s how most people should be. It’s different in everybody's situation, but the pressure to be the best mom and to be the best at your job is unattainable. Ask for that help and tell people that it’s needed and you’ll find that most people feel the same as you and you’ll be happy that you spoke up. It’s too hard to constantly put pressure on yourself to make your life be what it was — because it will never be what it once was. Your life is forever changed once you become a mother so allow the changes to make you a bigger, stronger, better version of yourself.

Has your vision for your career path changed now that you are a mom?

My vision for my career has definitely changed, for sure. I started my career in fashion and I still love fashion, but I think that I have found more worth about being honest in motherhood than simply doing fashion. I’ll always do a little of both, but for me helping moms out there feel good about themselves makes me feel so much better than telling people like how to look cute for work. You know what I mean?

What is the biggest difference about being a mother today versus when your mom had you?

Everybody is so afraid that someone else is going to disagree with them and it gets in the way of being the best parent that you can be.

I think the difference is the societal pressure and what you do and see when you're comparing yourself to everybody, every day. Our parents didn't have social media so they don’t know — there weren't a million resources out there telling them what they needed to buy, what they needed to be doing, all these safety hazards … I think it was more about trusting your gut and now everybody is so afraid that someone else is going to disagree with them and I think it gets in the way of being the best parent that you can be.

How do you cope with that pressure?

I honestly think that you need to only trust a couple of people. When it comes to questions about your kid, talk to your doctor, talk to other moms you really trust, but try not to get overwhelmed by the influx of information and content that we see because it will make you insecure about what you are doing and you will not know how to be the best parent to your child. You also have to trust your gut. You just have to. No matter what anyone else says you know your child the best, so you have to trust your gut and instinct when making decisions for their well-being.

How do you ensure that you're getting your needs met?

I make sure I get what I need by constantly communicating. It’s so important to tell your husband when you need help, to be able to ask for help, to have your coworkers help when you need it. It’s those times when you’re constantly complaining in your own brain and not getting it out there that you feel resentful in your own life. I think it’s so important to communicate what you need to those around you.

How do you manage to keep your relationship a priority?

Keeping your relationship a priority is honestly the number one way to maintain a happy and healthy family life. You guys are the foundation of the family — it was the 2 of you before the 3 of you — and if you aren't happy, I honestly feel like the whole family is going to fall apart. It’s so important to take that time to reconnect and to communicate and to check in. Sometimes even before you get to the baby’s needs.

It was the 2 of you before the 3 of you — if you aren't happy, the whole family is going to fall apart.

Why do you think it's especially important today to have an honest conversation around motherhood and career?

It’s so important to start an honest conversation because it’s something we are all dealing with. We aren’t in the day and age anymore where moms stay home and have one job. Moms are now wanting to be career women and wanting to have it all. I think it’s important to have these honest conversations to feel confident in their decision and so they aren't constantly questioning what they are doing. It’s important to find comfort in community. The more honest you are, the more change you can make. I have shared how hard breastfeeding was for me and I got so many people responding to me saying because I was so honest it gave them the strength and the confidence to stop torturing themselves. I think that in itself makes what I’m doing so worthwhile.

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