Last year, I tried to get through Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. I couldn’t do it. I managed to get through page 108 – and the further I got without her mentioning the fact that she had children, the more frustrated I got. Finally, I just put the book down.
I want career advice; I crave advice from other mommies on how to do this double gig; I crave support from other women who have been to the battle front and lived to tell the tale. But, I want to hear about how you did it AS A MOM. Because being a mom is the most important thing in my life. It is the first sentence and the last sentence in the story of my career. It has informed most of the decisions I’ve made in every minute of every day in my work life.
Finally, because a dear friend had given me the book and she encouraged me to keep reading, I started to flip through the remaining pages thinking, at SOME point Sheryl’s going to mention her family. On page one hundred twenty something, I finally saw the words “maternity leave”. She was talking about how she was emailing from the hospital less than a day after giving birth.
I’m sorry, and God bless Sheryl, I’m sure she loves her life, and we each make the career choices that fit for us, but that is just not the career book for me.
I loved each of my too-brief, four-week maternity leaves. I sobbed when they were over. I would never have thought to give one minute of that golden time back to work. Why? Why would I give that time to work? Work just doesn’t feed me enough to justify giving up that precious Mommy time – Mommy with brand-new, freshness, scrunchy, tiny, needy, sweet-smelling, newborn darling. (If I’m not with baby, dude, I’m sleeping, and email can go hang.)
Most of what I remember about Ms. Sandberg’s book is that I shouldn’t let being a woman hold me back in my career. Well, I’m not a WOMAN. I’m a MOM. It’s like, woman-plus.
And here’s the thing – it’s not that I can’t set the world on fire and become the best CEO of wherever – with all due respect, I don’t want to. I don’t want to YET, that is.
I got to a sweet spot in my career where I have enough challenging work and responsibility to keep my brain happy, and I can still take days off if I need to be with sick kids, or if I want to be at Muffins-With-Mom-Morning at their school. For two brief and difficult years, I took one more step up the ladder, and lived through the associated sacrifice of flexibility and time with my family, and it just about killed me. So back down I came to my current level of authority (and pay). And I am happy here.
This works for me. This is my choice.
Make your choice. We get to now. This is the new feminism. You don’t have to be bullied into making any one choice or another because someone else thinks it’s what you should be doing. Find the mix of Worker-Bee and Mamma-Bear that fits your life, your personality, your family. And don’t let anyone tell you you should be doing it differently.
I’m almost done with the intense years of motherhood. In five short years, all my kids will be out of the house, grown and gone, and then I can dedicate every waking minute to my career if I want to.
I may want to. I don’t know. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
For now, I’m happy.
Worker-Bee, Mamma-Bear. Working Mommy. But Mommy first; that’s me.