A mom friend recently posted on a parents Facebook group, asking fellow parents how they knew when it was time to go back to work after having kids and if they returned to their former careers. A very long, honest, and beautiful conversation flowed from that post about the choices we, particularly women, have to make, what we wish we knew, and how can we be there for our kids.
More than one woman wrote that she wished someone had told her that you really can’t do it all when motherhood enters the picture. Some really hard choices have to be made.
Growing up in the 80s and 90s many of us cut our teeth on the idea that we could be anything we wanted to be: entrepreneur, businesswoman, doctor, lawyer, scientist, with the assumption that we could have a family life, too. We were not tied to the same gender roles of our mothers. The world is a better place for it. But, many of us didn’t realize the impact of the mommy track until it was too late.
One comment on that Facebook thread read:
I wish instead of my mom telling me to go for my dreams and I can do anything a man can do. I wish she would have told me one day I may have a family and the juggle is hard so maybe focus on a career with flexibility—no one told me this. And I did not anticipate it at all and was smacked in the face HARD with this reality when going back full-time.
We were told that we could have it all: rewarding career, family, health, wealth, happiness. We were given the idea that as women we could do it all, too.
Psst, it’s not just you—no one can.
We all know we have to make choices in life, but this is one that so many of us never expected to make. When you work hard to climb the corporate ladder, establish yourself in your field; when you feel like you have this thing that is all yours—your career, your reputation, your professional niche—it is heartbreaking to watch it slip through your fingers because you made another beautiful choice—to have children, to become a mother.
We all deal with it differently. I left the traditional workforce when I had a good opportunity to start my own freelancing business, knowing my current occupation just was not compatible with family life. The vast majority of my coworkers (men and women) were either single, like myself, or married with no children or with grown children. The job was all-consuming and, while extremely rewarding, required one to make work the first priority. And so, when I realized that I might be starting a family in the near future, I stepped away as gracefully as possible. Do I miss it? Yes, terribly sometimes. But when I calculate the personal toll of returning to this line of work, I decide to stay put and work on my own businesses until I see something that feels right for all of us.
Other mom friends go back at two to three months after having their babies. They struggle mightily with this. They endure their coworkers’ sideway glances when they leave at 5:00 on the dot to pick up their little ones from daycare, or close their ears to gossip about their extra breaks to pump milk. They are passed over for deserved promotions because they are seen as less committed for taking care of their families. Some friends have changed to jobs that have fewer rewards but greater flexibility to try and find the middle ground. All of us career-women-turned-moms fear our years of hard work, education, and skill building will be lost if we take too much of a break—that we’ll lose our worth.
And that is nothing more than a lie.
Our worth cannot be found in what we are to other people: a worker, a professional, a caretaker, a provider. Our worth is in who we are: loving and compassionate; caring and committed. At home or at the office, know your worth. It is far more than you can imagine.