Should I or should I not?
Will I be able to juggle both?
Will I regret it?
Does that make me a bad mom?
Will my daughter start calling nanny her mommy?
Will I see my family?
Will I succeed in the new role?
What if I fail?
All these questions were running through my mind at the same time as I was sitting at my home desk staring at the screen a career growth opportunity in writing. I have been dreaming of being a mom for so many years! After endless treatments, 9 months of tremulous waiting, 3 months of equally beautiful and exhausting maternity leave, I was looking at the offer I’ve been wanting to get for a couple of years, wondering which one I should choose: being a mom or taking the leap into my career growth.
Then the questions started popping in: Why do I have to choose? Why can’t I have both? Why do I have to settle? You see, when I was 20 years old, I left my home, family, friends and life in Belarus. I grabbed a suitcase and $100 to go to this land of career growth opportunities called USA. I did not come here to settle, so I will grab the career growth opportunities I want.
After careful discussion with my amazingly supportive husband, we decided that I should go for both of my dreams. I loved my job, it made me happy, it challenged me in the most interesting ways, it made me want to figure things out and find creative solutions. We came up with a couple of plans (you always have to have a backup plan), and I signed the offer. I’m a Director. From linguistics student in Belarus to a Director in a very fast growing technology company in the US. I let it sink in. Because you always have to stop and smell them, roses.
There is a notion that new moms cannot be successful leaders, because their minds will be at home with their babies, they will be dropping work and calls to run home to take care of their children, they will be disorganized, unable to focus, and the list goes on and on. And the reality is that there could be some truth to that. However, if the employer is willing to work on creating mutually acceptable and convenient arrangements, the benefits will actually outweigh the risks and shortcomings.
I learned that by having a baby, I acquired some superpowers. My brain is learning new skills every day, forcing me to find new solutions to the problems, at home or at work. If you have/had a small baby, you would agree that every day is different. Babies’ brains grow incredibly fast, and they learn new skills all the time. As such, doing a certain task with the baby one day will require completely different skills the next day. I learned to adapt, multitask, prioritize, think on my feet, make quick decisions, take risks, and of course take responsibility for my actions and decisions. All of these skills are incredibly valuable both in the workplace and at home. The switch between work mode, mom mode, wife mode, and me mode happens every single day. I normally don’t lose sleep over work problems (well, in all honesty, sometimes that does happen, but not much), as before sleep I switch to 3 other modes. But when it’s time to start work day, I have fresh mind and fresh perspective. I don’t think about work problems when I’m playing with the baby – you risk losing sight of where her little feet took her this time, so you have to stay present physically and mentally. And I don’t think about how many naps my daughter had when I’m at work – I trust our nanny, and can focus on the task at hand because I won’t have the opportunity to stay later at work. My mind is constantly challenged in the most interesting ways.
How did I arrive at the spot of being happy with my job and my baby?
The right employer. I’m lucky. My employer has been extremely accommodating and letting me work from home while I settled in the new role (COVID has conveniently created similar arrangements for a lot of people). They understand what it is to raise children, they understand that family is of utmost importance, and they trust me to do my job at 200%, regardless of where I am.
Gradual return to the office. Due to COVID our offices have been closed, and we have been working from home. First few days after coming back from maternity leave, I kept listening to the sounds from upstairs nursery and playroom, where our nanny was taking care of the baby. However, with time, I saw that our daughter was happy, fed, playful and comfortable. Coincidentally, the state opened, and we were allowed to go back to the office. I started with 1 day a month, then 1 day each 2 weeks moving to 1 day a week. We’re anticipating full return in the next 3 months, and I truly believe that by that time I’ll be ready.
Routine. Believe it or not, our baby taught me the importance of the routine. At 5.30pm our nanny leaves for the day, so I have no other choice, but to shut off the laptop and take our daughter in my hands. I have exactly 1.5hrs until it’s bedtime for the baby, so we spend that time together as a family. We go for a walk, we play together, she watches us cook – whatever we do, we do it together.
Mind shift. At 5.30pm with the closure of the laptop, I shut off my work mode. I have to be fully engaged with my family. Those are the precious minutes I get to spend with them, and I cannot afford to lose time thinking about an email or a phone call I had. Now, in reality, we work in a demanding world where work doesn’t stop just because we do. As such, my team is aware of my schedule and knows how to get a hold of me, should something urgent come up. However, they all respect the fact that there is a little child demanding my attention at the same time, so the only calls and texts I get, are usually truly important.
Me time. Yes, me time is crucial. After our daughter goes to bed, and we finish dinner, I grab a book and spend some time by myself to collect my thoughts, get distracted from the long day and feel like I’m still a human being.
Support group, trusting the partners. Both at work and outside. My team is my rock, they’ve got my back, they see when I’m exhausted and need a break. My friends and family are there to listen to me vent and sometimes cry at any time of the day, pick me up and remind me that I can do it. My husband has and always will be my rock, my supporter, my shoulder to cry on, my everything. Our nanny is truly amazing, sincerely loves our daughter and will do anything to help us out. They all play special roles in our lives, and trusting them means letting go of the anxiety.
So if you’re a new mom, sitting and wondering if you can juggle the career growth opportunity and motherhood – you absolutely can, as long as you’re with the right company. And if you’re not – maybe it’s time to find the new employer. Plan out the possible scenarios (who will stay with the baby if she/he gets sick, who will back the nanny up if she/he gets sick, what is the daycare backup, etc.), have a backup plan, talk to your partner to assess if this is something you can both take on – you will need their support. You have the superpower, you have the ability to make it all work.
If you’re an employer wondering if you should give a chance of career growth to the new mom – you absolutely should. Work together on creating the transition plan, create the trusting relationship and accommodations, and the benefits will be tremendous!