The first time it didn’t feel right. My successful, well intentioned cousin told me to prepare to be a C+ mom and C+ businesswomen. As a straight A student and fiercely driven young professional, that bleak picture of my future was frustrating. Little did I know at that time that my husband and I would fight for 4 years to get pregnant. The concern of how to balance career and kids became an insignificant hurdle when all I could think about what actually getting pregnant. After tens of thousands of dollars, loans from family, more tears and heartbreak than I can count, we had our miracle son. Once the bliss and amazement of finally having a successful IVF cycle settled in, I was again facing that question of the elusive ‘balance’ of career and kids. Having worked that long and that tirelessly to actually get pregnant, people couldn’t understand why I would want anything other than to stay at home and stare longingly at our miracle. Content to arrange playdates instead of board meetings. Here’s what I realized, I sucked at being a stay at home mom. After 3 months at home, I was ready to dive back into KPIs and P&Ls. I loved my career but I was ashamed of that. I felt selfish and unappreciative after everything that we went through to get pregnant. I told myself it was ok to slow down my career drive. But when I allowed myself to be honest again, I knew my career was a part of my identity, my purpose and my joy. My boss had a different idea. The developmental opportunities, stretch assignments, and support from key stakeholders had changed after having my son. I was told to ‘enjoy my son while he was young, my job would always be there.’ This marked the second time things didn’t feel right.
Fast forward to my second miracle child, who we were surprised with after ‘closing the door’ on IVF and accepting that we would be a one child family. I again experienced that conversations about my career growth stopped. Coincidentally, when I disclosed my pregnancy with my daughter, my VP no longer wanted to spend one on one time together. My performance was even called into question after disclosing my bun in the oven. I could never quite figure out how my ability to grow a human in my uterus equated to an apparent inability to do my job successfully. This was the third time things didn’t feel right.
That was enough for me. I found moms around the world experiencing the same frustrations, same discrimination and same heart break. I created Career Allies to help companies retain their female talent when they have kids. It’s a temporary phase of a woman’s career that if handled incorrectly, can cause damage for the rest of their lives- both personally and professionally. Companies have the ability to help stop the penalty of motherhood by creating progressive, smart plans that keep moms. They can show respect and support for women as they move through pregnancy, newborn stages and reentering the workforce. I vehemently disagree that our only choice as working moms is to be a C+ mom and C+ businesswoman but it’s going to take moms working alongside their companies to make that change.