Totefishing? That's not a real word!
No, it's not.
Totefishing is the gerund form of Totefish, the name of the startup website I founded in September, 2012. It, too, was a made up word (Totefish was short for "Totally Efficient Shopping"). Clever, no? Totefish was supposed to become the first e-commerce search engine in the digital world (big plans...) and this blog was originally about that. Well, mostly. Well, not really. But so much for big plans, eh?
Spoiler. I closed Totefish in July, 2015. Not because I didn't LOVE it (yes, it was my third baby). Rather, I couldn't figure out how to balance the demands of launching a company with the needs of raising two children. Something had to give -- and after many months of agonizing consideration, I shot Totefish in the head. I spent most of August drowning my self-pity in Rosé wine.
So, why still the fake word "Totefishing"?
I have no idea other than I like it. My practical self says redefine it to mean "Totally Efficient Living" or "Trying to Live a Totally Efficient & Meaningful Life." The options are endless, really. Except not really.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning.
My name is Deborah. I'm the mother of two children, the wife of an ambitious businessman
& the daughter of a 1950s-style, stay-at-home mother. I live in Los Angeles. I don't use botox
but I do use the Photoshop blemish eraser liberally. Like my photo? 'Cause it's wrinkle-free, baby, courtesy of technology. And it's a few years' old. I read a lot, plagiarize my best parenting approaches from professionals and often make up words. I had big plans for a big career. I'm sure I said, "President of the United States" more than once when asked, "Little girl, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
I was born, raised & schooled in Massachusetts (Harvard College '94) but I've lived in Los Angeles for 20+ years. Seriously, the weather is to die-for. I graduated with a joint degree in Social Anthropology & Government with the simple plan of becoming a lawyer and then, the president of the National Organization For Women (Elect Women Now! ERA Yes! Keep Abortion Legal!) Instead, I ended up working in the entertainment industry as a development executive, crafting stories into movies and television series. I told myself it was a circuitous, unplanned route to better empowering women. A popular tv show? 12 million viewers. An ERA march? 100K in a good year. Plus, it was fun. Finding great stories, searching for the best writers, pitching movies, producing episodes of TV... now that's a job.
A few years later, I met my husband and we had our first child. We agreed, for a range of reasons, that one of us should focus on raising the kids. We then agreed that I was the best choice. You'd agree too, if you saw my closet. I raised our two children, two-and-a-half years apart, as a full-time, stay-at-home parent. They were the most unrelenting, unglamorous, exhausting work years of my life. I drank an inordinate amount of white wine at playdates. Diversions included managing a few near-fatal medical emergencies, a new house build and an unpublished novel.
As soon as my youngest child was ready to join my oldest in elementary school, I begin plotting my return to the outside workforce. After nearly a decade of child-rearing trench-warfare, I was anxious to get back to the reasonableness (and intellectual stimulation) of an adult workplace. But a traditional 9-5 job wasn't conducive to my situation. I wanted real responsibility (after being tasked with ushering life into this world, busywork loses its appeal) but I needed to be home during the hours of 3:30 - 7 pm. AND my desire for that big career was alive and kicking. No regular job would do.
Yes. I am one of those women who wants it all.
In the spring of 2011, I came up with an idea on how to improve my own experience shopping on the internet (yes, I shop a lot on the internet). I wanted to change the way e-commerce worked online. But who among us doesn't have an idea for a business? I spent months hemming-and-hawing until finally my husband said, "Either do it or don't. That's the only way you'll know." He was a successful, serial entreprenuer. He'd know, right?
By September 2011, I did it. I bought the URL . My idea was no longer a nagging fantasy in my head. It was, according to the IRS, a company. I was officially a "Working Mom." Yes, I was overwhelmed and stressed and drinking too much coffee (and when I say "coffee," I really mean "coffee and wine"). I started this blog two months later as a marketing tool (because really, at the end of the day, almost everything on the web is a marketing tool, no?) It used to be called "TOTEFISH: A Working Woman's Start-Up Adventure" but after working all day on the business, I had no interest in writing about it at night. Instead, I used it to work out my confusion and frustrations in life. That's the problem with free blog sites. Anyone can write one.
For three years, I juggled the unrelenting schedule of launching a startup with the ever-increasing needs of growing kids. I was exhausted and not "crushing" it in either arena. "Balance" and "Leaning In" are the unicorns and fat-free chocolate mousses of the feminist movement. Figments of our imagination, working moms. Figments, indeed.
After a hairy, medical emergency with my daughter, I realized I couldn't run a startup AND be fully available as a parent. I spent four months contemplating the closure of Totefish. I spent another two crying over my decision. In July, I stopped working on it. I spent August drinking copious amounts of wine. In September, I filed the paperwork to dissolve the corporation. And because I'm a bit of a glutton for work (that damn ambition thing of mine), two weeks later, I pulled that old manuscript out of a drawer and began rewriting. And rewriting. 18 months, 2 more drafts. The blog was all but forgotten.
Just as I was finishing draft 7, an old friend (and very successful working woman) reached out and offered me an opportunity I couldn't refuse. Did I want to work with her, launching her new company, overseeing & developing television & film projects? Well, initially I refused. I thought she could find someone better. With more experience to offer. More success under her belt. And no kids to distract her. But she insisted. We'd worked together before and had tremendous respect for each other. We both had big career ambition. Our parenting values were aligned. We could figure it, she said. We would structure our company around the most efficient, effective ways of managing our time, enabling us to balance career and family. She insisted, "If not us, then who?"
So, I did it. I took the job. We've been developing tv & film projects for the last twelve months -- and it's the happiest I've been in years. Sure, I'm busy and overwhelmed. The juggle? It's insane and most balls fall to the ground. But I'm learning that's the joy of juggling, isn't it?
That brings us to today. The day I logged back into this blog, suddenly interested in writing again. I think its focus will be different. Although the title remains the same, the subtitle has changed. Regardless, I promise it comes from the heart. At worst, I want to help. At best, I hope to inspire.
I hope it's worth your time.
PANDEMIC ADDENDUM UPDATE (March, 2020)
Interesting time, no? Me working remotely, mostly from a comfortable chair in the corner of the TV room. Kids' doing online schooling from their bedrooms. Husband working in upstairs' office. Day 3 of self-imposed, do-what's-right-for-the-collective-good quarantine. No commute means there's time to write a blog or two. Welcome back, Mama.