I officially joined the professional world as a young college grad in 2004. Twelve years later, I “upped my game” by joining the ranks of working moms. I have been a working mom for one full year. This has been the toughest, roughest, most challenging year of my life mentally, physically and emotionally. It has also been the most rewarding.
I had been at my previous job for a few years. I was a hard worker, working early, through lunch and working late…it was unhealthy for anyone to be doing what I was doing, let alone being pregnant while working so much. My co-workers and I got along great. I built up trust with them. We raised each other up. Come time for annual reviews, a few weeks before my due date, I felt sure I was going to get my first promotion + raise since being with the company.
I got a pretty small raise and didn’t get the promotion. Disappointed and in shock, I know I deserved it and still to this day believe that is true. But, I had tiara syndrome. I, like many other women in the workplace, put my head down and did the work (and I did it well). I grinned and bared it, expecting to be noticed and rewarded. But, the “right” people didn’t notice. I wasn’t the squeaky wheel constantly speaking up or asking for help. Lesson learned.
I went back to work from maternity leave at 10 weeks postpartum. And, I went back with a fire under my butt to change my situation. I asked for another raise and was told no.
Stepping out the office for a bit, I got teary-eyed over my Starbucks iced coffee, feeling sort of hopeless. I already had a new job of learning how to be a mom. Could I handle changing work jobs and learning that at the same time? I googled quotes on ‘change’ and came across the following quote:
“We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.” —Sheryl Sandberg
Then, I realized- that was the first time I had ever asked for a raise. Having a baby had changed me. I had become more vocal, direct and straightforward. That’s when I realized my journey of change had already begun.
I set boundaries. At work and with home life. Before baby, I would work until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. That is not an option for me now. Work has me between certain times of the day, where I dedicate attention, thoughtfulness and knowledge 100%. My nuclear family has me between certain times of the day, where I also dedicate my attention, thoughtfulness, knowledge and love 100%.
Post-baby, I stopped answering emails after 5:00 p.m. I stopped working on weekends. I accept invitations only to things I really, really want to do, and decline invitations to a lot of things I also really, really want to do because being a mom + work = tired.
While sitting in Starbucks that day, I set a goal for myself to find a new job within 6 months. I reached my goal within 4 months.
Accept That I’m Going To Miss Out On Something
Whether it’s “Muffins with Mom” because I have an 8:30 a.m. meeting or a happy hour bidding a friend / co-worker farewell, I know that I’m going to be missing out on something. This goes hand in hand with being able to set boundaries. I can’t have it all. It’s true that I have the same number of hours in the day as Beyoncé. And you know what, as much as I try to maximize those hours, I know that I can really only do so much.
That one last email that I’m trying to get out before I have to run to daycare to pick up my son — I can send it in the morning. I have baby snuggles that I have been missing out on all day waiting for me. I also don’t want to be that person that is constantly sending emails interrupting my co-worker’s family + home life time.
In hindsight, even though I missed out on that promotion, I am better off with where I am in life now. I would have been comfortable maintaining status quo at my former job, had I gotten that promotion.
I leaned in as much as I possibly could. When I couldn’t lean in anymore, I leaned out. Life is all about the ebb and flow, learning when to lean in and when to lean out.
I got my own metaphorical tiara and placed it on my own head. And, while I know that if I don’t keep my chin up, that tiara will slip, I also know that it’s ok to need to adjust it every now and then.
So when I say I’m a working mom, I say it proudly because it is incredibly hard balancing on the see-saw of life. I am raising my hand now to say I know I am doing a good job.