I have seen much written about how motherhood negatively affects your career. I don’t dispute it but I want to share how motherhood actually helped my career. Yes, I admit it. I am an optimistic, half full kind of person. But there is still something here. Although nothing I learned is much more than common sense . . .becoming a mother made me open to embrace it.
Being a mom (or "mama" as my daughter prefers ) taught me brutal prioritization. Don’t get me wrong, I could prioritize before. I needed this skill to complete law school right after getting married and handle my responsibilities as a overworked associate at a large firm for three years before my first child arrived.
Brutal prioritization is different – it requires complete honesty. To do it effectively, I need to dig deep and figure out what is truly important. I use a quote as a litmus test: "No one ever lies on their death bed wishing they spent more time at the office." When I take this long view, the answers are clearer. Before motherhood, I was more likely to accept another’s priority: "This project requires you to work over the weekend." "Good mothers don’t miss any of their kids activities." "You can have it all if you just work harder."
My prioritization evolved. I learned I am no good to anyone if I don’t take care of myself. This includes the physical but also what brings me fulfillment. I give myself permission to make my interests, like writing, cooking, and gardening, important. I try to do them with my kids and share them with friends and family so they seemed less indulgent. But they are priorities.
I also made my kids my priority. But that doesn’t mean I make all their important events. I do my best to consistently show them how important they are to me. I try to help them see I am a whole person with dimensions beyond being their mother. I want my boys to respect women’s choices. And I want my daughter to have freedom to make her own choices.
I focus on leaving regret behind as a wasteful emotion. It furthers no priorities. I try not to second guess when I let myself or someone else down. Instead I strive to learn from failure and move on as quickly as I can. I do my best to be in the moment. Seeing my boys grow from babies to young adults in what felt like just a few short years hit home with me that each moment is precious and fleeting. We are pictured enjoying a dinner in Greece, my husband’s homeland, even as I juggle operational planning with my team remotely. (Motherhood also taught me the beauty of the word "AND" but that's for a later post.)
A successful working mother gave a speech on balancing when I was a young mom. A line stuck with me. “If you are going to spend time away from your kids, do something you truly love.” I make finding joy in my work a focus --both in the intellectual exercise and in the human element. I share with my kids what I learn to give them a perspective on things in their future as well as a more complete view of who I am.
I went to a Franklin Covey seminar shortly after getting a big role some years ago. One take away was not to separate work and home when you prioritize -- but to view your life as a whole. At the time, I was beginning to do this naturally but not consistently. Since then, I work to make it how I live.
After becoming a mom, I had greater success in my career and more fulfillment in my life. Brutal prioritization is my yardstick to measure the depth and breadth of my life. What is yours?