I want to start my post by acknowledging my financial privilege. I’m very fortunate to have a husband whose professional passion is in high demand and pays enough to provide comfort and security to our family on one salary.
I’d always dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom. In fact, I wanted to stay at home and get a doctorate degree at the same time (shoutout to my co-founder doing this now!) When I entered the 9th month of pregnancy, I left my former position and settled into a life of motherhood and domestic solitude, not ready to commit to 5+ additional years of academic pursuit.
I felt unfulfilled and bored. And I felt guilty for feeling that way. So I applied and withdrew for jobs in 3 separate phases over the next six months. I clung to Facebook for social interaction, living in a new city away from family and friends. One day, I was scrolling through a Facebook group for local moms when I saw the ad for the perfect home daycare for our. I instantly knew, and confirmed when I went to tour the location.
Now, it was really time for mama to reclaim her time and her life. I started looking for part-time jobs nearby that would allow me to work in the diversity space (my area of passion). I also convinced my husband that it was time for him to job search after a series of events led him to miss out on a well-deserved promotion. Because both of us job searching at the same time was a great idea (sarcasm).
So when he applied to work at a company with an hour commute, I jokingly started looking for positions for myself there as well (though this was well outside of my initial search scope). We daydreamed about working in the same place, having occasional lunch dates, and sharing our commute. I was astounded when a position was posted that would fit my skills and passions perfectly.
We had interviews within a few days of each other. I never considered that I’d end up with an offer, and my husband would end up at another company entirely. The offer was a really good one. I selfishly accepted immediately. It was my dream job, and that offer was NICE.
In retrospect, I could have.
Here are the things I’d have done differently if I could start again:
I’d never been a working mama before, so I honestly had zero idea of what would follow. Once I had that offer, I should have taken a pause to ask to speak to my future manager to ask about travel expectations, in-office hours, etc. Along with this, I should have been more transparent with my challenges as a working mama. Lil’ Bit was getting sick regularly due to the new daycare germs. I wasn’t far behind, and was often exhausted, not sleeping well, etc. I wanted so much to prove myself capable, that I hid many of my challenges from co-workers and those supporting me in those first couple of months.
This one is crucial. I felt so stretched out with trying to put in enough hours and wanting to be home withfor as much time as possible, that I completely neglected myself. This made me less productive and present all around. Seeing a therapist to talk through my challenges, and doing some occasional yoga would have helped me immensely. I know now that I’m only human, and need to allow myself the time and place to de-stress.
I worked for a social media company. A really popular one. One that I also used personally to communicate with family and friends all over the world. Within the company, we used the platform to communicate with colleagues. This meant it wasn’t unexpected that I’d be browsing for personal updates and be sucked into work. This happened any and all times of day. The example is extreme. But if I’d set clearer boundaries and systems for myself, I could have enjoyed time with my husband and daughter much more. This also means that spending more time at the office to avoid bringing work home, could have been a necessary option.
This is the biggest and (I think) most widely applicable one. Every time we had to go out to dinner (because I didn’t cook), I felt some level of failure. Every time I had to leave my toddler being cranky in the morning to head into the office, I felt like a major failure. And while I was doing my job quite well, every time I missed an out-of-office outing with colleagues (or worse, wasn’t invited to one) I felt out of place and unworthy of working with my (mostly) child-less coworkers who could put in more hours building relationships. These feelings of failure added up quickly, hitting me all at once when I missed a flight because I was trying to be a supermama and meal prep for my family before leaving for 3 days. I think the therapist would have helped here, but I also wish I’d been able to look at myself past all of my unrealistic expectations to see that I was doing great!
At the end of the day, working so far from home, daycare, and my husband’s job (which is far in a different direction) wasn’t sustainable forever. But I could have saved myself quite a bit of grief by acknowledging my humanity. Priorities change when we become mamas. It means we’re doing it right. I know I learned to be more proactive and communicative in this journey. We can’t (and aren’t meant to) do it all alone.
Have any of you working mamas been able to stay in your high-demand dream career? What are your tips? As I think about my next steps, I’m totally hoping to learn from y’all!