As women and moms, how many articles have we come across debating whether or not working moms can “have it all”?
It’s a question I continued to ask myself when I found out I was pregnant, and something that literally kept me up at night. I love working. I love interacting with coworkers, collaborating on ideas, and contributing my skills towards a larger company goal and mission. Part of me was not looking forward to maternity leave because I didn’t want to be away from work. Not in fear that they’d find a replacement, but in fear that I wouldn’t find a replacement for that happiness in my life while I was gone. After having Jude, I struggled with the “baby blues” (more on that in a future post) and cried because I ached for my normal routine – I missed my mornings of getting up, getting ready, and heading into the office. But slowly as my hormones leveled back to normal and I physically healed, I started getting into a new routine that I felt comfortable with. Just when I felt like I was getting to know my baby and embracing the new normal, it was time to head back to work.
I’ve said it before, but I am one of the lucky people that work for a company with a great maternity leave compared to others in this country – which is really sad when you realize just how behind we are on this. (For comparison, Finland offers 161 weeks, Canada 52 weeks, France 42 weeks, Germany 58 weeks… I could go on and on regarding this topic). I swore three months would feel like forever, but I promise you – it’s nowhere near enough time. When I came back to my job, I was coming back to a new boss, new department, and a new role. All of which I was excited about pre-baby, but what I didn’t anticipate was coming back as arguably a new me. My priorities, wants, and goals shifted – as someone who proclaimed I’d never find happiness in being a stay at home mom (and I still stand by that statement) I also quickly realized that this wasn’t working for me either.
My days started feeling like one big blur and I was barely seeing my son. I’m NOT someone who feels mom guilt easily and I don’t feel guilty at all for him being in daycare, but I genuinely felt sad that I was missing so much of him. And the little bit of him that I did get to experience during the week was overshadowed by getting bottles ready and rushing out the door. Paired with the fact that I wasn’t happy with where my career was going at my current job and realizing that things were moving in a direction that wasn’t for me, I was coming home at night feeling unfulfilled.
While I’m not the biggest fan of change, I’m also someone who has a very hard time doing something that my heart isn’t in. It’s not fair to those around me and most importantly, it’s not fair to myself. After grad school, I took a temporary marketing job with plans that I would only be signed on for three months. That was six years ago. I saw the company through many changes in leadership, helped grow our yearly conference, experienced acquisitions, and got to be a part of an exciting rebrand. I left for maternity leave anxious to get back to my job, only to realize on my return that my heart wasn’t in it. The voice in the back of my head told me this wasn’t right – the same voice I usually base my logical decisions on. I knew it was time for me to leave.
It was such a tough call for me because part of me felt like I was failing. I was adamant that I could “have it all” – have my full-time career and also be a good mom. And I know I could do it with my current job. But do I want to? Is that what’s going to make me happy? Why does my balance of career and motherhood have to look like that? Maybe my “having it all” doesn’t mean “doing it all”. And in my “doing it all”, why am I not taking my happiness into consideration?
(Side note: One night deep in the google rabbit hole, on my fifteenth, depressing article regarding motherhood and careers, it hit me full force on how unfair it is that we feel the need to do this to ourselves. How many men were up that night, googling the same thing? If I wanted to not feel these pressures from society, I needed to take these pressures off of myself first.)
So a couple of weeks ago I made the hard decision to leave my job, without having anything lined up. Part of me is so sad to be leaving behind the work, people, and company I dedicated the majority of my time to the last six years, but most of me is ecstatic about what the future holds. Sure enough, an opportunity popped up that I would never have jumped on if I didn’t let go of what I convinced myself I needed to hold on to. And I can’t wait to share it!
Time will tell if this is the balance that I’m craving, but one thing is for sure – what I was doing wasn’t working for me. I can “do it all” – have a career while also being more involved in my son’s life – it just may look different than how I thought it would look. I know that a happy medium that works for me exists. And I owe it to myself to find it.