I'm an average, run-of-the-mill working mom.
I'm not trying to have it all, at least by society's expectations. I'm not trying to relentlessly climb the corporate ladder or shatter the glass ceiling. I'm not trying to "lean in" to everyone and everything. I'm not trying to win all the awards and know everyone in my city and have all the contacts.
I've been there and done that. I've worked the 60+ hours a week plus vacations and weekends. I've worked from home in the evenings and into the wee hours of the morning. I've been the first to arrive to the office and the last to leave and I've sacrificed so much more along the way, that I cringe when I look back and think of it now. Do you know where all that hard work got me?
Yep, that's right. Nowhere. I'm not a Vice President, a CEO or an Executive Director. I'm not jet-setting or power-lunching and that's ok with me -- it's a conscience choice I've made along the way as a working mom. While I've done some pretty cool things during my career and won a few awards here and there, when I look back and think forward with regards to where I want to be in the workforce, I have to wonder if all those 60+ hours a week were worth the time I lost with family, my child, friends and loved ones. Was it worth the holidays and family I neglected because I succumbed to the pressure of feeling like I had to be in the office for fear of not being viewed as a team player? Was it worth cancelling dinner plans with good friends because I felt the need to stay at the office late to get one more project done?
More so, was it worth me straining myself to get to an interview -- only four days after having a C-section -- for a position that I thought would take me to the next level because the woman in HR told me, It's now or never"? Yes, you read that right. I had just had major abdominal surgery, given birth and was told it was now or never... and I went... all because I felt the pressure to have it all. Was it worth all of these things and more that I sacrificed just so I could keep someone else's bottom line plush and running?
No, I don't think so.
Now that I'm a mom, it's even more important to me to keep a healthy perspective on the work/life balance. Yes, it's my choice to work and I enjoy being a working mom. I feel that fostering my own interests and wants helps to make me a better mom but more importantly, I have to work. I have bills to pay and a family to provide for but the more important question for me these days is -- at what price and what cost? I'm no longer willing to sacrifice my family and personal time just to keep others fat, rich and happy.
What am I willing to do?
I put in an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. I want to do my nine to five, work hard while I'm on the clock and go home to my family at the end of the day while leaving it all behind because when it's all said and done, it's just a job. I'm not looking to blaze trails or be a trend-setter. At this point in my life, I'm simply trying to find a way to take care of my family while doing something I enjoy while getting paid to do so at the same time. A job is how I earn a living but it's not my life. I know most people would call me lazy. Others I'm sure, will say that I have no ambition and give working moms a bad name. None of that is true but I really don't care what anyone thinks anymore. What do I choose to call myself?
I think as working moms we've all been sold a bill of goods that stinks and I'm not willing to buy it anymore. We've been told time and time again that, "You can have it all! You can do it all! Just lean in a little more!" and I'm sorry ladies, but as much as we'd like to think this is true, it just isn't. No matter how amazing and capable you are, you cannot possibly do it all and do it all well. You cannot be all things to all people - one facet of your life will always suffer.
I learned this lesson the hard way after my daughter was born and I returned to the workplace. I found myself hunched over my laptop at home in-between trying to cook dinner and feed a baby stressing over projects and feeling as if I had to return work emails I received at 11:30 p.m. because I had an iPhone that the company paid for. In their eyes, there was no excuse for emails or phone calls to go unanswered regardless of the time and regardless that my day ended at five o'clock. "You have an iPhone. You always have access. Get it done!" was the mentality and in return, what did I get? Well, I'm pretty sure I missed out on some of my daughter's first steps and I'm also pretty certain that there were times when she wanted my attention but I was too busy trying to have it all that she was either totally ignored or only getting half of me as the, "Ok sweetie, hold on. Let me finish this email first" mom.
You see, as working moms, we can't have it all. A line has to be drawn in the sand at some point. There has to be a balance. I refuse to believe that in order for me to have it all, it means that I have to choose which is my priority -- my daughter or my job? How is that success? How is that having it all?
So no, I don't want to have it all and I make no apologies for that. I don't want to just lean in a little more. I'm perfectly fine where I am, thank you very much. Work has me from nine to five but my family -- my daughter -- have my life. In my eyes, with them, I have it all already.