This mompreneur is bringing rawness and hard truths to the “Moments of Motherhood: Writing Your Story” blog series.  Nicole Peternel is a Minnesotan turned Chicagoan who now calls the Carolinas home. She’s a wife and mother of two boys and two dogs. She believes in morning coffee, exercise and healthy eating, live music, traveling often, fighting for the things that matter and standing up for those who don’t have a voice. In 2018, she took her passion and expertise in PR and co-founded Rein Communications, where she leads a dynamic and talented all-woman team.  

Nicole is breaking down the “have it all” stereotypes that are pervasive in our culture, and sharing just how she fought for her own definition of “having it all.” 


Having It All

by: Nicole Peternel

I was recently interviewing a potential employee and asked the cliché question: “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” I like this question, not because there’s a right or wrong answer, but because it asks them to be a bit more vulnerable. It gives me some insight into their personality beyond ambition and drive.

“I see myself having a successful career in PR. I want to have kids and a husband, travel and see the world. I guess you could say I want it all,” she laughed. It sounded familiar (except I would definitely have added a few dogs into the fold). I smiled back at her and said, “you sound very much like me at your age.” I, like this young woman, like many women, wanted it all but, as I drove home, I thought more and more about this phrase and the longstanding debate behind those words. Is it possible for women to have it all? And what does that even mean? I think, so often, we believe “having it all” means a wonderful marriage, cherub children, a nice house and a career that’s both fulfilling and high-paying.

For those who don’t truly know me, I suppose you could look at my life from the outside and say I have it all. I have those things on the checklist of life, those things that people look to and say, “she’s made it!” I have a helpful, handsome husband and, I may be biased, but those two little boys of ours are as cute and smart as they come. We built a new house two years ago. I own a communications agency.

So, does that mean I have it all?

You don’t have to scratch very far beneath the surface to find that the marriage I have now was hard fought. It has taken two people almost throwing in the towel but choosing to forgive instead, deciding to extend grace and believe the best in one another time and time again.

My little boys are my light and, after years of trying to conceive each of them, I thank God every day that I get to be their mommy.  But there are also many days I have to get down on my knees, look into their eyes and apologize for being unkind or impatient or simply not listening. I have to ask them for forgiveness because this parenting stuff is hard.

My house might be new but we’re going on two years and we still don’t have a dining room table and most of our walls are bare. There are toys everywhere. There is always some rotten vegetable in my fridge making it smell.  We have so many piles of papers stacked around the house it looks like we’re launching a shredding facility that just has yet to open.

My career has gone through so many highs and lows, making it feel like the most thrilling yet terrifying roller coaster I’ve ever ridden.  After more than fifteen years in PR the reason I co-founded this agency isn’t because I was self-assured and confident, it was because working for someone else coupled with the demands of being a mom and an executive were crippling me to the point of full-blown anxiety attacks and feelings of total inadequacy. I didn’t “have it all.” I felt like I was disappointing everyone and failing at life. I was horribly depressed and just trying to tread water.

It was a process, but I found that getting rid of all that was weighing me down meant letting go of the notion of having it all. Instead, I decided to concentrate on having what was important to me: prioritizing my health, both mental and physical; being present for my boys and my husband; getting help with chores I don’t always have time to tackle; connecting more often with friends who truly know my heart; doing work I loved for clients I love instead of work driven by dollars.  By letting go of the toxic expectations I had I began to find contentment and joy and that has resulted in a happier family and a business that is thriving. Not only that, it’s a business that allows me to hire other women who feel like they’re in the exact same place I’ve been.

I’ve heard it said that we only see the best views after the hardest climbs and it’s true, but I also think we see the best versions of ourselves when we begin to let go of the world’s expectations and maybe even some of our own. We need to allow ourselves to live authentically and for the things that truly matter. Only then will we really be able to “have it all.”

Nicole is shaping her narrative and designing the life she dreams of.  She has taken risks to reach goals, including walking away from a corporate office to create  her own company, Rein Communications. Her path involved hard learned lessons, and she has come out on the other side by defying current gender expectations to reach her version of “having it all.” 

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