Not so long ago, but long before I had kids, I had very clear visions of the type of professional parent I would one day become. I was a b-school graduate with high hopes for a world where a working mom had a career in the fast lane without having to make any hard sacrifices. I snickered at moms who left work at 5 PM sharp. I didn’t understand why they dreaded working late. How would they ever achieve their true career potential with their “I have other priorities waiting for me at home” attitude?
I was slightly baffled but mostly dismissive. I told myself I would do it differently. I would do it all, unapologetically.
Fast forward 7 years and I am the proud parent of a beautiful 6 and 3 year old. We’ve all heard this before, but it’s worth saying that having kids truly transforms every part of you, for better or worse. If you have children you know how annoyed you get when your single friends tell you how ‘busy’ they are. You pretend to empathize, but you don’t. “Oh you had to entertain out of town friends and have dinner with your parents in the same weekend? Wow, I don’t know how you do it!” C’mon, we all do it. I’m sure there is a reason our single friends stop hanging out with us. We become slightly judgmental people who act like we carry the world on our shoulders. You’re welcome world.
There are days it would be nice to get a medal, but for now we settle for the annual mothers day brunch.
But I digress. Back to being the perfect working mom. There are many debates on having it all and whether it’s possible, not possible or somewhere in between. I personally have gone back and forth on this. I thought I could have it all when I worked a job where I had the title, but not the growth opportunity. I fooled myself into thinking I had it all, but really I just had an easy job that allowed me to focus on my family. That was great until I got the itch to want more ‘stimulation’, career growth and the thrill of working for a start-up.
I live in the bay area so naturally it wasn’t impossible to find that job. I left behind a comfortable career and set off to find the next awesome tech company. I couldn’t be more fortunate to have the job I have today (which checks the box on all three criteria – stimulation, career growth and fast paced start-up). I get to help lead one of the world’s most successful mobile development platform’s sales team (shout out to my pals at Xamarin). These guys and gals are truly brilliant. I went from walking on the ‘mental treadmill’ to running at full speed. However, it is at this point that I started to wonder just how women in the fast lane do it.
I find myself wondering if working moms have a fair chance in this race. It’s the equivalent of running a professional race where everyone is in their best shape, and you are running with two kids strapped on your back. Sure I felt like I was winning when everyone was walking, but competing in the big leagues comes with higher standards.
While I have found this race is slightly handicapped and at times defeating, I also feel like we working moms can succeed and have the comfort in knowing that while it’s not easy, it’s both doable and immensely rewarding (and yes tiring at times).
To succeed in this race you have to do three things:
Do your job with incredible passion and dedication. You might not be able to work sixteen hours a day in the office, but you are capable of bringing incredible experience and leadership to the table. There is no excuse for mediocrity. Find other working moms to connect with at work and share tips if you are lucky enough to have these amazing women at your company. If not, read their blogsJ
Hire people who can be in the office when you can’t. My amazing boss taught me this (sorry, let me wipe the brown off my nose). But it’s true, she reminded me hire people that complement my schedule so I can give myself the flexibility I need to be both a great professional and mom without feeling like I had compromised both or either. This was one of my biggest aha moments this year. I always thought I had to do it all. It’s freeing to know I don’t. Outsource all things that are within your control. You will regain much of your sanity when you do this.
Let you’re self off the hook once in a while. I recently threw my son’s birthday party 6 weeks late. The evite I sent out had the wrong date, three times. It took me several apologetic edits before I finally got all the details correct. Did I feel judged? Slightly….but I was determined to throw my 3 year old an awesome party regardless of the small details. Ok maybe getting the date right is important, but I eventually got it right. All the guests made it and most importantly, my son had a great time!
So what exactly does this all mean? If you are a single women without kids, wait before you judge the mom who leaves the building every day likes its on fire. You’ll want the same consideration one day. If you are a working mom, don’t be afraid to ask for help. And most importantly, thank the stay at home moms that spend an immense amount of time volunteering at your child’s school when you can’t be there.
Also fantasize about what you would do if you ever became a stay at home mom (tennis lessons anyone) and tell yourself that you will take a year off one day and travel the world with your children.
But in all honestly working moms do have it all. They get to experience one of life’s greatest joys –raising children while making great professional strides. I feel so fortunate every day to think I get to experience two very emotionally fulfilling experiences on completely different levels. It may not be easy, but I’d like to think that it is possible to work, raise a beautiful family and still keep your sanity!