We all define ourselves differently. I believe that’s what makes being unique so special. We can’t define expectations for others, and even have to revisit the ones we set for ourselves. I’ve learned that to be especially true in my professional career.
If I could give some advice to the bright-eyed 20 something-year-old just beginning their career, I would say, “Go do EVERYTHING you want in your career NOW. Travel, work overseas, take that internship that may not pay that much, but offers a great experience — just JUMP. Jump and take those professional and personal risks. Go to those happy hours, celebrate winning that account, go out with your friends in the middle of the week to wake up the next day blurry eyed and exhausted, be spontaneous, but more importantly, find your tribe. Some of my closest and life-long friends came from my work life. You all rally around one another when things get tough, you celebrate those wins, mourn losses, and help one another during those strict deadlines. They become family.
I would also tell them that establishing a family and becoming a parent, can change what your professional career will look like (especially as a mom). If anyone states otherwise, they are fooling you. No, it doesn’t mean it dilutes your goals nor decreases your opportunity for growth. No, it doesn’t mean that your professional drive becomes less important. It means that it will be wrapped in different packaging.
I would also share with them to not feel guilty about taking a personal leave from your career to start a family. IT IS OK to either continue working after your maternity leave or stay home permanently. No one can define what your family dynamic looks like, except you. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.
Personally, I had taken the route of staying home. After having my first daughter, my husband and I felt that was the best decision for us. It wasn’t that I didn’t value my career, but there were a lot of other factors that came into play. This was something our family needed at that moment.
Stepping away from my career was not easy. I love to work. Yes, I’m that person. I have been working since I was 15. Working always gave me purpose and this self-driven confidence. So after having a little one, it created this paradigm shift. My entire life changed — from meeting daily growth objectives and status meetings to changing diapers and raising a little human being.
After staying at home for a year, I realized I needed to provide myself with an outlet. Something to help encourage my self-growth and well-being. So, I started a business. I enjoyed every aspect of it. Even though my company was doing well, I began to realize that I missed the team environment. There’s something about collaborating with others that really filled my cup. So when I decided to join the more “traditional” workforce, I had this misconception that I could get back into it quickly. Well, it wasn’t that simple. It was a fight. After many rejection emails, questions regarding my “professional leave”, and justifying that I still have the qualities to be a strong candidate, I became emotionally exhausted. For a brief moment, I questioned my decision on leaving my career to raise my daughters. Yeah, I got over that quickly, not only because it was a ridiculous thought, but kids remind you that the “woe is me” mentality is for the birds.
The reality is that the skills we gain as a mother are the most transferable skills a woman can leverage in life and in any profession — leadership, multi-tasking, patience, relationship builder, management, self-starter, strong communication skills, fast learner, empathy, dedication, organized — I can keep going. As women, we shouldn’t have to feel so far removed from the opportunity to rejoin the workforce, especially because we decided to start a family.
So after all the applications, rejection letters, questions of my professional absence, and getting to a place where I began to question my overall value — someone gave me back my professional wings. A great group took an invested risk and helped me relaunch my career. They felt my overall experience, including my title as “mom,” was an asset.
I learned a lot during this time. I grew to understand what it took to balance my work and family responsibilities, which wasn’t so easy. I realized that my purpose can really be driven by both. Sure I felt like the Energizer bunny, but I was re-energized by finally reaching my own balance — fueling both my family and career needs. Honestly, I felt that I became the best version of myself. That level of energy and positivity undeniably transferred to all aspects of my life.
Even though I’ve rejoined the job search club after a company-wide layoff, my perspective has been different. I know I will find my place. I know that my skills are unique and provide value. More importantly, I know I am able to maintain a strong balance and family unit while fueling my personal drive.
So what helps me get through those days when I’m exhausted and may begin to question my sanity?
Here’s a checklist I use to keep me grounded:
Bring joy into our home, over guilt:
I have to remind myself that “this too shall pass.” I have to focus on what I do have, versus what I don’t. To be present in those small moments versus eyeing my phone to see if I received a job response. To GET OUT OF THE HOUSE, and enjoy the day.
Push forward while still maintaining balance.
I set a schedule. From 8-10am, I focus on job searching. I would either apply or save the jobs I was interested in. At that time, I would also contact my network to see if they knew of any available opportunities. After that time, I’d focus on my life OUTSIDE of the search.
Keep my emotional, physical, and spiritual self in tune regularly.
Most of the days I have to remind myself that I won’t be a great mom, wife, woman, friend, etc. if I don’t keep my priorities in check. That also includes my overall well-being. In order to be the best version of myself, I need to maintain balance. Cycling, reading, taking a class, having a cup of coffee with a friend, painting with my kiddos, chatting with my Mom, etc…just finding activities that nourish my soul. It’s necessary even while working, so why not start now so things are in tune when I do find my place again in the workforce.
Keep my faith strong
This has to be my number one. I start my day reading a devotional book my Mom gave me, it’s been one of the best gifts ever. It reminds me to begin my day in the right state of mind — the state of gratitude. Being grateful is so empowering. You don’t dwell on the mishaps of life, but rather be thankful for each opportunity you’ve had in the first place. Thankful for the support and love your tribe gives you daily, for the overall growth you’ve experienced throughout the transition, and for the level of clarity you gain from the obstacles you overcome. My faith is strong in knowing there will be more opportunities to spread my wings, in all aspects of my life. Faith behind the winding roads, unfaced obstacles, and new adventures. Knowing that each is part of my life is destined to lead me exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Finally, I’m here to tell you that even though this place in your life may feel heavy or discouraging, that door WILL open. Keep yourself balanced, surround yourself with positivity, reach out to your network, keep yourself motivated, but above all — do not allow this to consume you.