It’s crazy now, looking back, when I think about how nervous I was to have Kensington. Prior to getting pregnant, my career was my baby. I cared deeply about my performance, personal development, and growth – to the extent that I probably would have rated it #2 only to my marriage. Now, not everyone is this way. There are plenty of Men & Women out there who work hard and have good jobs, but don’t prioritize it internally. It’s a source of income and thats it. That’s great! Or maybe they stayed home from the start of their marriage and running the home is their full time job. AWESOME! This is not meant to be a judgement piece on anyone else’s lifestyle, merely a commentary on my own fears and struggles when we decided to have children. But I digress.
I was so worried that taking my maternity leave (I will call out my company is WONDERFUL and I get 4 months leave) would put me behind in my career. That it would be impossible to come back and maintain the kind of momentum I had before children. That staying home when they were sick, or having to leave at a certain time, would compromise my ability to be effective at my job. Not to mention all the other pressures put on mama (lose the baby weight, keep the house clean, feed everyone, still get dressed up, etc.) and how I would possibly juggle those. I was overwhelmed and to be honest a bit terrified.
I’m going to break this into 2 categories: Things I learned, and Tips to being a successful working mom. These are not fool proof (and I’d argue that everyone’s journey is different) but with the help of my Women Empowerment group at work I’ve found that a lot of these are pretty universal.
Things I learned:
- Be present. You don’t have as much time with your kid(s)/spouse as a stay at home. And that’s okay. But make the time you do have with them count – put the phone down, don’t turn on the TV, cook dinner with them. Make it matter.
- Your kid will be okay with a Nanny/Daycare. I know you want to be there with them, teaching them, watching them grow. It’s natural. But they will be okay. If you do #1 you’ll still get to experience all the best parts. (tip: I have my Daycare teachers not tell me when she hits a milestone. If she walks at school for the first time I ask them not to say anything so I can experience it at home.)
- It’s okay to give up some things you did before. Don’t have time/energy to cook dinner? Pick something up or order Hello Fresh. Don’t have time to scrub grout? Hire a housekeeper. There are some things you can outsource – don’t feel like you have to do them all.
- Your career will be there for you. Now don’t get me wrong, between the hours of 9-5 I work my BUTT off. I host meetings and calls, I run spreadsheets and analysis, I organize teams and drive initiatives. And at 5pm – I log off. I am available by phone if NECESSARY, but for the most part, when I leave the parking lot at work: I am done working. Put in the time & effort you were so proud of before baby, but know your limits. This was easier than I expected once I started really tuning into #1. Your job will still be there tomorrow – you can do it then.
- Be thankful. Thank your husband, thank your boss, thank your coworkers & peers. No one will begrudge you for putting your family first, BUT you need to show appreciation for the flexibility and partnership. Appreciate what you got girlfriend.
- Your husband married you. On purpose. Had kids with you. Most likely on purpose (LOL). He can help. One of the things I’ve seen the most in relationships is that “mom can do it best” mentality. Duh. You’re the mom. You are terrific at all things. BUT (and this is a huge but) Dad can still do it. Even if it’s not exactly like you would. It was REALLY hard for me at the start – but don’t correct your husband. Unless what he is doing puts your child in mortal danger, let him do it his own way. He puts the diaper on wrong? Shrug it off – he’s gonna have to clean up the mess in an hour or so anyways. His bath skills are…slightly terrifying? Let it go – baby got mostly clean and you got 30 min to yourself. Hurrah! Leave the room if you have to, but let dad do stuff from the start. My daughter is almost 1 now and my husband does EVERYTHING. He changes diapers, he does bath time, he feeds her, he makes bottles, he carries her on his shoulders, he swings her in the swing set. It frees me up when I want/have to do other things. This is a big one ladies. I’m telling you. If you wait until the kid is 3 to start letting him help he won’t want to do it. If you correct him every time he does something he won’t want to do it. Value your own sanity here. He probably wants to help and doesn’t know how. Rant over. (I recognize that I am TOTALLY blessed with the world’s best father & husband but I promise yours can help too).
2. Daycare/Nanny Tip (see above) – but I don’t let my daycare tell me when she hits milestones. I want to experience them for myself. Makes me happy and it makes Kensington happy when she sees how proud we are. Don’t ruin it for yourself.
3. Prioritize what is MOST important for you. For me personally it was: Time with Husband & baby, exercise, job, cleaning/tidiness, food. I hired a cleaner and 3/7 days a week I pick up food. I bought a Peloton to workout at home to maximize time with family. Find out what YOU need. And make it happen.
4. DONT STOP DATING!!!!!!! Seriously guys. Everyone says this and no-one does it. Makes me insane-o. You PICKED your spouse. Do you know how huge that is? Out of all the people in the world, you married THEM. And they married you. Intentionally. (I don’t care if you had an arranged marriage or not, dated for a week or 10 years. You CHOSE them.) Make it a priority to date them. Even in the first year (I know your baby is small and needs you but they will be fine for 2 hours). My husband and I go out on a date EVERY Friday. Sometimes Kensington comes with us, sometimes we get a babysitter, sometimes we put her at daycare or with family, but we ALWAYS go out to dinner, talk about adult stuff, kiss, and leave our phones in the car. It’s important to keep that bond with your spouse and make every effort not to let it die. In a perfect world they will be with you long after the kids leave the nest. Consider it an investment in your future.
5. Tell your boss what you need. Be transparent here – if they are a decent boss they will understand. For me – I need to leave right around 5 every day. I can stay late for really important projects but it won’t ever be my norm. I am happy to come in early or WFH. I NEED my weekends to spend time with my family, and I don’t want to travel for work more than is absolutely necessary. That’s the truth. If you’re afraid of how your boss might respond, (I’d argue your boss is not great) loop in HR if you need to. I tend to avoid HR like the plague and I definitely opt for just having an open and candid conversation with your boss, but every situation is different. Set your boundaries and then stick to them. But be reasonable – if you request only working 10-2, 3 days a week in a full time role – probably not going to go over well. But if you need to leave at 5 to get to daycare – then do it. WORK HARD while you’re there, but then leave when you need to in order to get home to your sweet angel.
Ultimately, if you are hard working and driven – you can still be successful in your career and have kids. You just have to work a little harder than other people and deprioritize/outsource the things that don’t matter. You can do this. I have faith in you.