I was inspired to write this letter following my recent visit to my alma mater to speak about my profession as an Architect. The previous time I had the honor to speak to young ladies on Career Day, I was newly licensed, engaged to be married, and babies were a distant thought. This time around I had the experience of owning my own practice while juggling my role as a wife and mother. The students’ sense of excitement and longing to start their futures compelled me to share my thoughts today as a “working” mother. (Whether we are behind a desk, on our feet or chasing after little ones all day, in my eyes, all mothers are working mothers.)
Dear Future Working Mother,
Technically, we have not met. You actually do not know me at all. However, I know you well. I am familiar with your thoughts at this stage in your life, thinking of the future as you sit at your desk excited yet scared of the prospects that lie ahead. Will you discover and pursue your passion, marry or become a mother? Or all of the above?!
I recall sitting in the same high school classroom like it was yesterday, questioning where my future lay. I was somewhat naive but had a passion and drive to “follow my dreams.” My obsession with Legos, drawing, problem solving and asking questions led me to a career in architecture. There were long hours in the studio and even longer ones working in a firm. I sought mentors, recorded every hour for my internship program and studied way before dawn for my licensing exams. I remember poignantly staring out of my office window thinking about the future on a gorgeous New Orleans Saturday afternoon.
You see, the reason I worked those insane hours and accepted every opportunity that came my way was in preparation for the future. The anticipation of bringing another life into the world was the reason I made the decisions and sacrifices along the way. My future children were my passion, before I even knew God would create them.
To some, my drive and long work hours meant motherhood was not on the horizon. For this reason, when we announced to family, friends and – gasp! – principles and colleagues that I was expecting, it was received with mixed reviews. I will admit that my professional journey has been bumpy since my first born’s arrival, but it would have been rocky if I had not prepared ahead for this stage in my life. The responsibility of these new lives was the motivation I needed to take the leap to work for myself, harder and smarter. Whether you desire to become the next president of the United States, a florist or a tattoo artist, choose a direction that includes your passion. It will bring you more happiness and vigor at the end of the day.
Strangely enough, the most profound quote written in the many cards I received before my daughter’s birth was, “Your children are your greatest legacy.” It was a simple and insightful statement. You have been given this one precious gift: life. And perhaps one day, if it is your calling, you will raise one in this crazy world. As a future mother, I ask that you reflect on a few things. Respect yourself and show others you do so as well by your actions because they speak loader than words. Surround yourself with family, friends, teachers and mentors that want you to be happy and successful as much as you do. Seek every opportunity possible for yourself, as they open the door for future ones. Follow your instinct. Always. And, if you find your future partner in life, hold hands every minute you can; he is an extension of you and the protector of your passions.
Motherhood is an amazing job, one that will have you physically and mentally exhausted and at times asking for mercy. It is one filled with daily challenges, questioning oneself and seeking guidance. But, at the same time, motherhood fosters your strengths while building on your weaknesses. And, not surprisingly, teaches you negotiating skills and valuing your time, priceless multitasking skills while making critical decisions at a moment’s notice that will only benefit your employer or your own business. It will also bring you supernatural powers like discerning different cries from those of pain, hunger and comfort. Your brain will work overtime on a daily basis from figuring out what to serve at the dinner table, to assuring their bags are packed to how to save for their future education. It is a title that is not without tears, but I cannot think of another vocation that will bring you so much inner joy and happiness from their first hug to their first sentence. Because of you, they are the person they will become.
You, in the future
I’m a Landscape Architect and worked at an Architecture firm in Atlanta when I announced I was pregnant with our first. I spent the next 9 months trying to prove to my employer that I wanted to come back to work after I was going to have our baby. I was pressured to return to work 6 weeks after a c-section and it was horrible. They worked me 20 days straight and with mastitis. I found out one of the partners was interviewing candidates for my replacement. He even asked them if they were planning on starting a family any time soon. Which is illegal. Come to find out, it was common for pregnant or new moms in the architecture industry to loose their job in Atlanta. The stories started coming out in our circle of friends. I left that company 7 months later and am working for an engineering firm back home in Louisiana. I am a happy happy working mother with this company. They do every thing they can to help all of us parents out. We frequently have kids runnin through the office at the end of the day and my boss loves seeing hem all. In fact I am home with a sick child today and do not feel the pressure and guilt that I once had. What’s nice is that engineers take lunches at noon and pretty much like to check out at end of business unless there is a looming deadline. Architects play chicken at the end I the day. First one to leave is a “slacker”. It’s horrible! Not all companies are like the ones I talk about. This is just my experience and others I’ve heard about from friends and colleagues. We CAN work hard and efficiently like the men! And I LOVE working.