Who says having children is a reason to turn in your career ambition and sacrifice it for homemade baby food, Music Together classes, and endless breastfeeding talk?
One minute we’re lamenting how there aren’t enough women in executive roles, instructing high potential women on things like gravitas and dressing for the role you want, and the next we’re trading in the high power pumps for lifestyle sneakers, yoga pants, and flex schedules.
Am I the only woman who actually found strength and fortitude from the miracle of creating life? The sole female to see her ambition amplified by that most important role of role model to my very own children? Am I setting a better example for them by spending their every waking minute by their sides, cleaning up their messes, fighting their battles, engineering their relationships, or by showing them I trust them to find out who they are and what they are going to become by actually self-actualizing for myself? I am a mother, and I strive to be a great one at that, but my professional life didn’t stop when I became one.
I entered an industry commonly thought to be unwelcoming to women (for that very reason), and have had staying power and even battled for success through the birth of my three incredible children. I never took a break longer than the three month maternity leave that was granted to me. Due to the nature of my role, telecommuting will never be an option, and flextime is inconceivable. My friends and family have no idea what I do for a living, but they think it must be important.
I leave the house in the wee hours of morning, when it is still dark, long before my little ones’ dreams are winding down. I pick out their clothes in the evening, but I don’t get them dressed before school. I don’t have creative control over their hairdos, and I can only hope they’re wearing underwear under their pants. I come home after their dinner, sometimes after they go to bed.
There are times when I feel like a warrior, dominating and conquering two important jobs at once, and there are other days when I’m more of a pariah. I can finally concede that I don’t fit in with the testosterone fueled work environment, but I also often find myself on the outskirts of riveting mom conversations about teachers and fashion and the newest keratin hair treatments. There are occasions when I’m mommy-tracked at work by co-workers who assume I’d rather go home to my kids than attend an important meeting. There are judgmental comments by mom-peers who assume I choose to work because I prefer time away from my children, and couldn’t stand being home with them all day.
Make no mistake. Just as I am a dedicated employee, I am an active mom. I am not on the sidelines for baseball practice, but I am cheering in the bleachers at every game. I am not serving PTA lunch, but I chaperone every birthday party. I rely heavily on paid childcare and charitable families who are willing to take on a one sided carpool. But on the weekends, it’s neighborhood barbecues at our place, and we will gladly take friends’ children off their hands for play dates and sleepovers.
There are many moments of doubt. On the tough days at the office, when I sit through unnecessarily tough and unconsciously biased feedback, or when I forget to order school lunch and my kindergartener has to subsist on crackers from the nurse’s office, I’m less certain this is the right choice.
There are many more moments of clarity. When I cuddle my loves while we whisper at bedtime, which is a non-negotiable whenever I manage to be home, I feel vindicated:
- I see my passion reflected in the eyes of my nine year old. He marvels at my computer skills, wants to hear about the value of companies, and what acquisitions happened that day.
- I sense my relentlessness channeling from my six year old. He sharpens his negotiation skills as his eyes droop shut to get whatever he wants that particular day (usually a new DS game or a free iPad app).
- I am wrapped in appreciation by my three year old. She showers me in hugs and unsolicited declarations of love. She doesn’t know anything other than Mommies work, but takes comfort in the assurance that Mommies always come back.
For almost 20 years, I’ve stuck it out in a career where so many women have succumbed to the forces of playgrounds and strollercise. I’ve been promoted; I’ve been praised; I’ve built a franchise and reputation amongst my colleagues and my clients.
For almost a decade, I’ve also raised 3 little humans to be kind, compassionate, independent individuals who know right from wrong. I’m doing something right, evidenced by the curious, engaged, charismatic citizens they are becoming while I am toiling away at the office. My kids are observing two parents who equally split the role of caretaker, as well as the honor of making both the money & the home. That is their norm. They expect as much from their Dad as their Mom, and I believe that will develop into a deep lifelong respect for women. I’m calling this victory.
There is not a clear path to success on both fronts – family and career. I’m stressed out most of the time. I undoubtedly miss some of the good stuff. Unfortunately, I’m probably underpaid for my contributions to my company. But I’ve heard plenty of women who work flex hours or stay at home with the same complaints. There is no doubt that there is a price to pay for feeding my ambition more consistently than I feed my kids, and not giving up on my lifelong goals so I can be in attendance for the soccer goals. Luckily, and proudly, it’s a price tag I can afford knowing I contribute a decent paycheck toward our family vacation budget every other week. Next stop, Disneyworld!
This was the first piece to be submitted and consequently rejected by a “mom blog”. Not taking it too personally, but I suppose it was simply substandard.