There’s no way to know with certainty what it will feel like to become a mother, let alone what it will feel like to become a working mother. Once a child enters the picture, career trajectories can drastically be re-routed, new passions can surface, and priorities can shift in the most unexpected of ways. 

“Although I had a climbing career in corporate wellness, I had also always wanted to be a mom,” said Anna Bohnengel, Founder of Nourish Life Nutrition, LLC, who anticipated she would love staying at home to raise her children. “The reality was quite the opposite. I lost all interest in being a stay-at-home mom, and grew even more dedicated to my career; but with a whole new, entrepreneurial twist.” 

In fact, Motherly’s 5th annual State of Motherhood survey highlights the complexity of being a working mother in 2022 with only 11% of respondents saying they believed that becoming a mother has helped them excel in their career. Further, 30% of mothers said that their feelings of burnout would decrease if they could figure out how to better balance a career and motherhood.

Related: Here’s why the Great Resignation has been so much more complicated for moms

To get a glimpse into how professional priorities may shift unexpectedly after becoming a parent—and how there’s no one way to be a working mother in 2022—we chatted with 12 working mothers from the Dreamers & Doers collective. While each woman has diverse backgrounds and experiences, there is one common thread—it’s nearly impossible to anticipate the impact welcoming a new member into your family will have.

I started speaking up for things that mattered

Misasha Suzuki Graham

“I began to use my voice about things that mattered—not just to me, but to the world that I wanted for my children. One of my biggest fears about my multiracial Black/Japanese/White boys is that they'll leave our house and not come back, simply because of the color of their skin. But I also realized that many parents, and especially white parents, may not understand that fear simply because it wasn't one of their own. So my co-founder and I set out to change that, intentionally and heart-led, through our voices and actions. When my kids ask what I was doing in this time period that has been so tough for all of us, I want to be able to tell them that I fought for them. Because I do, every day.” - Misasha Suzuki Graham, Co-Founder of Dear White Women, LLC

I intentionally set an example for working hard

Gabrielle Thomas

I used to feel bad about my daughter seeing me working a lot. But then I realized she needed me to set an example of what it looked like to work hard to manifest your dreams—even if it makes the people around you uncomfortable.” - Gabrielle "Gigi" Thomas, Founder and CEO of Gabrielle Thomas Consulting

My unexpected delivery experience led me to support women postpartum

Mary Clavieres

The birth of my oldest daughter via emergency c-section was not what I expected at all. I had a difficult recovery afterwards. That experience allowed me to see a major gap in how women are treated and what products are available to them during recovery. This led me to create my own company and eventually leave my 15-year corporate career to support women in a different way. The growth that has come from this both personally and professionally is more than I ever could have imagined.” - Mary Clavieres, Founder and CEO of Brief Transitions

Related: 27 things I wish I’d known before my C-section

I began to lead by example–professionally and peresonally

Dawn Scott

My focus shifted from ‘What goals do I want for myself professionally?’ to ‘What kind of example am I setting for my daughters?’ and ‘How am I setting them up for more opportunities than I had?’ My priorities became leading by example, to show how fulfilling life can be both professionally and personally.” - Dawn Scott, Founder of The Empowered CPA

Creative expression became a non-negotiable in my day job

Marianna Sachse

I was really surprised that creativity became important to me in my work. Prior to having kids, I had time for creative hobbies. But I didn't realize just how important these hobbies were until after I became a mom, and that was the first thing to go. I ultimately realized that I needed to find a way to feel fulfilled creatively in my day job.” - Marianna Sachse, Founder and CEO of Jackalo

I applied my professional experience to improve my parenting experience

Katie Crank

I've started using all of my accumulated years of professional experience to figure out how to improve my parenting and co-parenting experience. As a strategic planner and coach, I realized how much I craved a system that would help me get out of a sense of overwhelm in my parenting, and into the realm of living a life with children that matched my values. It's amazing how easy it is to be swept away by the small and large demands of daily parenting, and I found myself wanting to apply my professional lens to make better sense of this chaotic new arena of life.” - Katie Crank, Founder and CEO of The Undivide

Related: This mom’s viral TikTok hack will make your child’s co-parenting schedule a whole lot easier

How much money I made became less important

Shang Saavedra

I thought that I would be able to continue balancing a high-powered career in consulting and be a great mom. Upon becoming a mother, I asked myself, “Is the money and prestige worth it?” And month after month, I felt myself increasingly not caring about how much money I made, how nice a meal I could eat, or where I could travel if it meant that I wasn't going to be there for all of my son's little moments.” - Shang Saavedra, Founder of Save My Cents, LLC

I swapped my corporate career for entrepreneurship

Lorraine Wong

I never thought I'd leave my much-loved corporate world that I'd been working in for more than 10 years before I had my first baby. Soon after being a parent, I shifted to running my own business. Entrepreneurship comes with all the highs and lows, but I love being in control of my schedule.” - Lorraine Wong, Founder of Cue North

I built a team culture based on flexibility and understanding

Allison Ackerman

Becoming a parent made me prioritize building not only a happy team culture but also one that is flexible and understanding. My own experience balancing work and my family made me realize that everyone on my team who is a parent is engaged in their own balancing act as well. I need work to be part of their life, but I want them to enjoy that part immensely and want to do it every day. I also want them to be empowered to put their kid's mid-morning school play on the calendar and enjoy every second of it.” - Anouck Gotlib, CEO of Belgian Boys

Related: Forcing employees back to the office is insulting and harmful to working parents

I became more vigorous with compartmentalizing and time management

Lexi Aiassa

“My time is precious. As a new mom, baby comes first, but as a founder, my other baby, my company, also needs a tremendous amount of my time. It's a very delicate balance. And I have really needed to compartmentalize. Having one foot in and one foot out with parenting doesn't work. Becoming a parent has forced me to focus on what is in front of me at that exact moment and be extremely efficient with my time, when I have it.” - Lexi Aiassa, Founder and CEO of The Confidence Co. 

I became dedicated to my entrepreneurial career

Anna Bohnengel

Although I had a climbing career in corporate wellness, I had also always wanted to be a mom. I anticipated that I would want to be a stay-at-home mom. The reality was quite the opposite. I grew even more dedicated to my career, but with a whole new, entrepreneurial twist. Rather than losing interest in my work, as I had anticipated, my drive for my work only deepened. Since becoming a mother, I have found myself more ambitious and laser focused on how I can make an impact than ever before.” - Anna Bohnengel, Founder of Nourish Life Nutrition, LLC

Flexibility at work became a non-negotiable

Marissa Pick

“I've gone from working for myself to working for others over the past few years. The one thing that's been clear is the flexibility needed as a working parent. It’s important for me to have an employer and boss who understands work-life balance. Once you're a parent, your child is your life.” - Marissa Pick, Founder of Marissa Pick Consulting LLC

All individuals featured in this article are members of Dreamers & Doers, an award-winning community and diverse ecosystem amplifying extraordinary entrepreneurial women through PR opportunities, authentic connection, and high-impact resources. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and subscribe to its monthly The Digest for top entrepreneurial and career resources.