This blog did start more as a lifestyle blog – and while I spend less time crafting beautiful writing and focus more on pithy updates for my followers (aka, 10 of my family and friends), I figured I should include this post I had written on Linkedin about my transition back into the workforce. Mostly because I hate posting on Linkedin and will probably end up deleting this from there, but I feel like it should live somewhere for me to personally reference sometime in the future.
I’m incredibly lucky to have had such a wonderful support system, via my family, friends, and coworkers/mentors. I’m still struggling to figure out work life balance – or work life integration? – and am still trying to figure out if I’m any good at my job at all. Wouldn’t that be tragic, if I ended up being mediocre at both? I think I just need to have lower standards for myself, and to embrace the breaks that I’m able to take when they come to me. One week/month at a time!
Happy Women’s History Month
It’s been 11 months since I gave birth to my first daughter, and 227 days since I returned to work full-time as a consultant at @Bain & Company. It’s been exactly 3 days since we’ve had paid childcare (we had been on a waitlist for over a year, which kept getting pushed back as labor shortages for daycare workers continued). It’s been 3 days since I’ve felt like my “old self” again, and I’ve had room to finally breathe and reflect.
I gave birth at the tail end of my MBA, when COVID vaccines were just becoming widely available, and when the world felt like it was opening up again. Throughout the months after, the world opened and closed again, always unpredictably but never unsurprisingly. We’ve had a village to help and support us, and we couldn’t have gotten through the turbulence of the last year without it.
The center of my own village is my husband, who has a demanding but flexible-for-now job as a Ph.D candidate at @Massachusetts Institute of Technology. My in-laws, who both have full-time jobs, are also nearby and we have been tag-teaming childcare between who has the fewest meetings in a day and who has the least demanding workday that particular day (spoiler: it’s never me). Our friends (all child-free), who were perplexed yet so supportive that we chose to go down the path of parenthood, pitch in for babysitting and kept me company during the monotonous newborn days. It truly takes a village.
Even with the village, the world is not set up for working moms (parents in general, but especially for moms). I am vocal and adamant about protecting my 5-7 PM every day at work (and have so far had wonderful managers who listen and protect the time that I request). We call it a “break” but it’s not – any parent will tell you that is the witching hour when kids are fussiest, and need to be fed, bathed, and put to sleep. By the time 7 PM rolls around and I run back to my computer to log back on, I realize more often than not that I still haven’t eaten dinner, gone to the bathroom, or drank water myself. I like, and sometimes love, what I do (it’s strange how energizing work feels compared to being with a screaming baby all day…adult interaction! Using my brain!), so those hours after bedtime are my most productive. Even with the flexibility, you really realize how much of traditional workplace culture is antithetical to the act of raising children: happy hours that are always from 4-7 during peak witching hour; bonding offsites on weekends, where it’s nearly impossible to get childcare overnight unless you have family nearby; back-to-back meetings during the day where there are no breaks to run to the nursing room to pump. Between office work and home work, it’s no surprise that women feel like they lose so much of their identity in the early years of parenthood.
As Women’s History Month comes to an end, I am hopeful that the conversations we’ve had are not only relegated to this particular month. I am hopeful that there are small steps that can be taken to change societal expectations of mothers and enable childcare and co-parenting, so that women at least have more of a choice on when to become parents. I’m hopeful that there can consistently be increased paternity leave and a mandated minimum of how much paternity leave to take, flexible work arrangements to suit the needs of the client and personal obligations, open and honest conversations about team norms and actually sticking by them….the list is endless, yet concrete. It’s no secret that women are delaying motherhood – and as someone who has chosen to pursue motherhood earlier in my career than most of my network, it oftentimes feels like an untrod path. But I have seen amazing allyship this past year upfront, from all genders, that have made it feel less lonely. I will always, always be grateful to them (and sometimes, my non-effusive self will even remember to tell them that I’m grateful). I’m hopeful that others will continue to be better, do better, and speak up on behalf of their network.
It takes a village, both outside and inside work, to make it all happen.