I could go round and round on the career and motherhood debate.
Is it worth leaning into my career and pursuing career growth while I have young children? Or am I missing the opportunity to soak up these times and be present in lieu of the stress that accompanies the corporate world? I can debate how I’m a better worker than I would be a stay-at-home mom. I can debate that career stress just isn’t worth it. I can debate how I will never get these days back and that I will never regret being able to spend more time with my kids.
Pick a side, and I can debate it, with you, with myself, with anyone.
While preparing for kiddo numero dos, I had to mentally prepare for life after maternity leave… again. I really struggled going back to work after my first son was born, and I wanted to have a better transition this time.
After a particularly stressful year of work, I knew very well that heading out on maternity leave again with my job as-is meant I would have a hard time returning, so I had to take action. In my mind I could go three ways: (1) “Lean in” so that when I returned I had a job I looked forward to, (2) Find a new job, or (3) Don’t return and pursue my own venture instead.
I chose option one – “lean in.”
I work for a great company, with great benefits, and I feel like it would be a missed opportunity to say “bye” too soon. I buckled up and pitched a new role with a new focus… and arguably more responsibility. It stuck, and I’m excited!
I’d be lying to say the decision doesn’t make me a little hesitant, though, as I look around and see the opposite effect happening. I see many successful career moms are pulling back to be stay-at-home moms or pursue part-time status. I see upper-level stress drowning certain individuals in my organization. And I’ve seen re-share after re-share of posts venting the woes of motherhood and the desire to “lean out.”
The desire to “lean out” just can’t be the case for everyone though, right?
I’m determined there is an opportunity to have a successful career and be a successful parent without something having to give. Actually, I re-read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In as I was thinking this all through, and in the first chapter she shares a similar thought:
“We need more portrayals of women as competent professionals and happy mothers or even happy professionals and competent mothers.”
I’d love to hear and see more of this. Our jobs don’t have to get in the way of being great moms, and making parenting a priority doesn’t have to get in the way of our job.
It is possible to love both your job and parenting, to be a happy, successful mom and leader without sacrificing either.
It may not work with every job or with every company, but there are good ones out there! Or you may just have to work a little to make it happen, to start the wave in your current role.
I have many thoughts on the pursuit to “lean in” without sacrificing the joys of motherhood, and I’m making it a personal mission to talk more about this combo option, to expose the needs of moms who WANT this option.
We also need organizations and partners to recognize and support our needs to get there, in conjunction with our own ambitions.
When it comes to having a fulfilling career and being a great mom, I truly believe you can have your cake and eat it too.