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Transition, Work & Motherhood – Adrift On Land, I Find Myself At Sea

Sydney Chaney Thomas

Ed: Sydney Chaney Thomas is a Moraga-based writer and businesswoman with three books to her name, all currently available on Amazon. She is also co-founder of a sustainable sailing apparel company called Ocean SF, and operates a nonprofit that works to reduce plastic waste called the The Trident Project.

Sydney teaches entrepreneurial marketing at UC Berkeley in their International Diploma Program and, in addition to this column, she writes a popular lifestyle blog, which can be found at sydneychaneythomas.com.

Transition, Work & Motherhood
March 30, 2018

In the fall of 2014, I had a conversation with my husband that went something like this, “I’m O.K. being last on the list, but I’m not even on the list.”  I had not put a brush to paper in years, I even tried to work as a Financial Analyst, only to find myself with 195 text messages a day from my nanny and family, and myself walking out of meetings to hiss into the phone at my teenagers. The last straw came while sitting at my desk on Kearny Street in San Francisco looking at Instagram photos of my daughters and their friends playing on the roof of our two story house while their nanny sat downstairs watching television. I left that job in tears and frustration.

Cleaning, meals, home work, and carpooling became the assembly line that comprised my life. I had not done one thing to improve myself in years. I remember trying to take a bird watching class and my family laughing at me. I bought my Peterson’s Field Guide and began studying the different types of birds that lived in Tilden Park, where the Audubon Society held free monthly bird watching classes. The classes left the parking lot at 8:30 a.m. and returned before lunch, but I couldn’t even commit to that.

One day, I simply decided I was done with that, and I boldly took a five day sailing class. My kids were supportive and found rides and I was able to cast off at 8 a.m. Even though I was sea sick the first few days, I was at once addicted to the freedom. I loved the peace and the quiet of having so little expected of me. Yes, from time to time I had to grind or pull in a line, but mostly it was a meditation.

Sailing will now forever be a part of my life. I found the thing that I loved enough to drive a permanent change in my life. As much as I love my family and I really do adore supporting their hopes and dreams, I matter too. Even if I put the happiness of my children first, part of doing that, is being happy myself, and teaching my children how to carve a place in their life for the things that bring them bliss.

As for work, I alway felt I could approach this aspect of my life as cyclical. Before children, I worked very hard to be a successful marketing executive, which I was, then when I had children I was able to teach and consult while spending 80 percent of my time with my children, now I am successfully using those skills to market my own company.

In this way nothing is ever really lost. I cherished my time with my precious daughters, and have now started the next chapter of my life; owning and operating my own company where I use all of my skills and knowledge including the time management skills I learned as a parent.

Since taking up sailing, I’ve learned that my hopes and dreams are equally important. I make time for the work I love and the things I love, even if this is simply sitting with a cup of fresh pressed coffee and reading a book. I prioritize my days based on the needs of everyone involved including myself.


  1. Life can be cruel and harsh. How we navigate it depends on us. In this case you are literally the captain of your own ship.

  2. It’s terrific to read about someone mastering the demands of work and family. I know so many who have not. For me, my zen is riding and I guess I’m lucky to get the same sense of joy from that as you do from sailing. We all need “Me Time.”

  3. Syd, I used to work with you at Bank of America. Wow, I had no idea you have done so many things since then, hard to believe!!! You are superwoman!

  4. Finding balance wasn’t easy, but we have to take responsibility for our own lives. There was resistance at first, but now I’m encouraged to follow my dreams by my family.

  5. @kaye Thank you! Its enjoyable to share my thoughts. I love hearing form readers and starting a conversation. Let me know what you would like me to write more of.

  6. Catchy title so I opened the column and enjoyed it. A good read. And I learned a long time ago you have to make time for yourself to strum a guitar or watch the waves roll in. It’s important these days.

  7. I see so much of my own life here. Nice writing. I am divorced and trying to dip a toe into the dating scene (yeccccch! – so far!) and I’d be interested in hearing from other women about their experiences out there. It’s a unique and I have to say crazy landscape.

  8. Nice to read about a strong, confident and obviously intelligent woman making her way in the world.

  9. @Randy, The editorial team writes the titles. I think they are fantastic and can’t wait to see what they come up with! They do a great job editing.

  10. @Marybeth You should go for it. I’ve been on some dates and it’s fun! I just don’t have much time for it. There is someone for everyone and there are many, many nice people out there. Good luck!

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