Recently, I was told by a young co-worker that I am her “girl crush.” Besides being tickled by the compliment, it made me chuckle because everyone’s life has positive and negative elements including mine so I don’t think it’s worthy of special admiration. For example, as demonstrated by the story below, I go to war against time every night after work just as many parents do.
Last January, having gotten home late from work (again), I stood in front of my stove wearing my full business suit stirring a made-from-scratch cioppino, cursing my complex recipe selection hoping my husband would arrive later than usual with our two children. Once they arrive, my already odd scene of software executive meets executive chef would add a motherhood dimension as I saddle an infant onto a hip. The whole time worrying that my fish would get overcooked and my suit would be covered with drool as I try to keep my older toddler from harming himself during the 10 minutes my husband needs to walk our corgi and unpack the car. He and I have busy work days, but no event is as hectic as pre-dinner home life. Those thirty minutes between arriving home and sitting down to dinner are often more stressful than our day jobs. In fact, I look forward to the office more now than when I was childless (said every parent of toddlers).
My advice to my young co-worker is despite our competitive world, it’s best to maximize her own life and not to want another’s. While she enjoys her young and childless life with negative elements that I can’t fathom, below are my tips for managing career and household while raising two toddlers.
Prioritize and be flexible
I prioritize how I spend my personal time. I love playing with my kids, eating sit-down meals, spending time outside, and reading so those are my priorities. I also prefer an orderly house with a bed made every morning and a home-cooked meal; however, I am not bothered by a messier than usual home or if I have to pick up a bucket of fried chicken once in a while. I love fried chicken so it’s an excuse to be decadent.
Most importantly, I feel okay with imperfection.
Establish your own vision of motherhood
Six-months postpartum with my daughter, I saw a picture of a new mother running a marathon using a manual breast pump on the run. I admit I felt completely inadequate for a moment as I realized I’ve never run a marathon and definitely would never attempt one three-months postpartum as that mother did. But, I quickly reset because my vision for motherhood is quite simply to raise well-adjusted productive children and my running a foot race doesn’t affect whether I can do that.
Happiness is being the mother you want to be and not letting others define motherhood for you.
Do exceptional work and find a supportive employer
A person with a strong track record has the ability to be selective when changing roles, projects, and employers. It also builds a bank of good will for new parents as they navigate the significant life change that comes with children. I found after becoming a parent, the support I received from Appian and my ability to stay productive ensured that I could maintain my career momentum. Many women choose to bow out when they become mothers (which is okay), but I knew that wasn’t what I wanted. My children were born to a career woman so having supportive company policies, culture, and managers like at Appian were important to me.
Until I was ready to have children, I hadn’t realized that the investments I had made in my own growth and my employers’ success would have such a positive impact on my ability to be a good mother with a strong career.
As I’ve become older, I’ve tried to live my one life to the fullest without regrets and on my own terms.
I encourage young professionals to find their unique path, own their development, do excellent work, and pick the right place to build a career so when they are ready, family life can be enjoyed.
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