Motherly Collective

I’m a self-proclaimed workaholic and I love what I do. I was first in the office and last to leave. I’m known for challenging the status quo and advocating for underrepresented employees. My drive for success stemmed from being born to a 15 year old and growing up below the poverty line. Near homelessness contributed to my desire for a rewarding career and fulfilling life. 

Throughout my career, I thought I had to be inauthentic to succeed. I mimicked my male bosses and allowed others to take credit for my work. I worked twice as hard to get half as much. When I accepted authenticity, everything fell into place. I landed my dream job as a Vice President. But getting here required deep reflection.

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For many of us, so much in my life became clear in 2020. 2020 was supposed to be the year to accomplish my big dreams. My vision was fixed on excelling. January lasted forever. I blinked, and it was March and we were in a global pandemic. We were introduced to COVID-19 and the world went into lockdown. 

Like others, I had hoped that the lockdown would last for a few days and then we’d return to normal. But the reality is that I was now at home 24/7 with my thoughts and there was a lot to think about. Life was different when I actually looked in the mirror. The mirror revealed that my mindset was misaligned. I realized that I didn’t know my toddler as well as I thought. A consequence of being the first in the office and last to leave, meant that my son spent more time outside of my care. I soon learned that my son preferred fast food over home cooked meals. He was curious about other languages and reading. He had met many milestones and I didn’t notice. It hurt to admit but he wasn’t getting what he deserved from me.

Related: The mental workload of a mother

When I looked at my husband, he was earning his dream job as a PhD level Psychometrician. He selflessly supported me, sacrificed his career and was present for our son. When I struggled internally about quitting my job, without hesitation he tendered his resignation to care for our son and support my career aspirations. Tears welled up in my eyes, I didn’t like looking at the person in the mirror. I was angry and disappointed.

I was angry that I was so narrowly focused on my career and was running from my challenged past. This all resulted in missed opportunities with my family. When the pandemic hit, I could no longer selfishly focus on me. Something had to change NOW. I had to allow myself to believe that I could be laser-focused on my career and family and no longer take them for granted. This required a drastic and intentional mindset shift. 

Related: What I didn’t understand about being a working mom before I was one

This mindset shift wasn’t easy for me because I always carried deep-seated fear of losing my job and everything that I’d worked for. Fear clouded my judgment. As an MBA, I didn’t recall the lesson on professionalism including bringing children to work. Consequently,  I was terrified to bring my son to Zoom meetings. I didn’t have any examples of how to model this because I had never before been around any women in leadership who did this and normalized it. I learned quickly to do a lot of things while scared. I began nervously bringing my son to meetings. Doing so, gave other women grace and permission to do what they believed was best for them. They no longer hid their reality (or children in closets). This mindset shift contributed to my drive to become more authentic. On that journey, I stopped being so afraid. I interviewed for VP with my son on my lap. During the second interview, my son played under my desk driving toy cars across my feet while I answered questions about my strategy to build an organization from inception. 

Stepping outside of myself was liberating.

My son influenced our home strategy. We decided to remove the stress and live in his carefree world, which was free of worry about the pandemic and filled with dancing in the kitchen, laughter, and kids shows. 

We made it work. Instead of resigning, my husband and I worked split shifts. I worked 8am-12pm, he worked 1pm-5pm, and we worked the remainder of our shift after our son fell asleep. Since I did not have any examples of women leadership with small children, I needed to be the change I wanted to see. I also gave other women within my organization the same flexibility and grace.

Related: Motherhood has been my greatest career asset

The hours we were with our son were reserved for parenting and homeschooling. For homeschooling, we appeased our son and created a pseudo-Montessori curriculum including academics, enrichment,  technology and job shadowing. My son “interned” at two companies before turning 4. We took every opportunity to reinforce learning. Even when the TV became the babysitter, we leveraged “screening comprehension” asking questions about what was viewed to ensure understanding. This routine lasted 2 years. In that time, my son developed independent reading skills, an appreciation for learning and, most importantly, a kind and compassionate demeanor. I did something I didn’t think I would do. I evolved. I evolved through intentionality, reflecting, patience, being honest with myself, and partnership.

Stepping outside of myself was liberating. I am still working on myself and I’m not perfect but I’m thriving. When I finally realized that my authenticity was not a shortcoming, I became “HER” (supermom, supportive wife, and corporate VP). I was everything I needed! This mindset shift allowed me to reimagine motherhood. 

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.