5 Things I’ve Learned About Career & Family: me in a video; lotta honesty; who needs role models

Hi. Because I have decided to step up this year in ‘challenging my comfort zone’, I said yes without thinking that hard when the BreadWinners* co-founder asked me to interview on camera for their new project.

*Whether it’s essays on topics about the complexities of having a career and family at the same time, or original video content that is actually relevant to your life, this is the long-awaited voice of our generation…our ultimate goal is world domination, but we’ll settle for a world where women feel comfortable taking up space at the table- both in the boardroom and at home.

Yes, usually I’m the one behind the camera, torturing startup CEOs and average (industry) joes to answer questions and look charismatic while doing it. Mwahaha?

Anyway… I did it and it was fun. Here’s the video, and below are my rough cut answers as we prepped for the video. Bonus: if you watch through #4-5 you get to watch my fourth upstage me.

Watch 5 Things I’ve Learned About Career & Family

Read Behind the Scenes

To prep for the video, I responded to some prompts with train of thought answers… which I thought I’d share in addition to the final video since they didn’t all make the cut.

  • ‘Self care’: This is a tough one for me, if by self care we mean stopping to breathe, taking a break, treating ourselves. I think I’m not alone here that a lot of us are the types who, to get everything done, we have to keep moving… stopping would mean a break in the system… it’s a huge problem and I recently experienced what I think was the biggest burnout I’ve experienced during the last nine years of being a career-oriented person crossed over with being a mother. It’s harsh but we’re not allowing ourselves enough. And the hardest part is probably asking for the break – asking yourself for it.
  • ‘Lack of female role models’: When I started my current job nearly four years ago – and this is by far my most demanding job in my career – I spent the first year searching for a female role model. Who was out there, outnumbered by their kids, first time in a management role, working full time, a partner working as full time as I was, no parents in the country – who was like me, but ten years ahead and could tell me it would be ok? It took time for me to realize – STOP LOOKING. I’ll never find another me to tell me it’ll be ok. Instead, I have to hope to find people like me now to tell me they are at least struggling as hard. I’ve found more and more of that as I’ve opened my mind about it. But there aren’t enough role models or mentors. I think we are all still figuring it out – but I pledged and still do to serve as an open book for my peers and the up-and-coming women watching me. (I have an anecdote about being the first woman in my office to need a pumping space and how pioneering that felt and how scary and intimidating it was… but three years later, I’m so proud that we now have options of pumping-secure offices and around-the-clock pumping moms throughout the year).
  • What balance actually looks like: It’s doing the best I can. Some months, it’s terrible. Some it’s better. Sometimes the marriage is winning, sometimes the kids, often the job, it’s not balance… clearly.
  • Relationship with boss: I’ve been really lucky in my career to have very family friendly bosses. It’s a gift, I know it’s not to be taken for granted. I try to pay that forward to my workers. when I’ve had less family friendly or understanding bosses, I take what I didn’t like from that experience and reverse for my employees. Especially when it comes to being pregnant at work. I would never want a hard-working pregnant employee to feel afraid to ask for support – I’d rather she didn’t even have to ask.
  • Male coworkers: There are a lot of good eggs out there… from all generations and walks of life. But specific to my generation – I think men are getting better at seeing this anew. I really do. I’m married to a really great man. In the sense that I don’t know any other guy as supportive of his wife’s career than mine. And it’s vice versa of course. But let’s just say I’m partnered with a guy who gets angry when things like picking up the kids or making them dinner or taking them to the doctor or going to PTA meetings are called ‘mom jobs’. We need to change our vocabularies and support our men if we want change. I look at the men around my office rushing off to pick up their kids and I’m proud of where we are (where some of us are). At least in my corner of the world.  A note about the older guys… I try to filter it through the world they come from. I get really belittling comments. I get called ‘gal’ or ‘girl’ or whatever bullshit. Those guys are older. I shake it off. They’ll be gone soon and we’ll run the place.
  • Female co-workers: I think among the moms, no matter what team you’re on or what age you are or what number kid you’re up to or if you actually like each other or not – there is an underlying thing of, “I get it.” At least I feel that way… I hope others do. I try to be as supportive to my mom peers as much as possible. especially the younger moms.
  • Pregnancy and working: The guilt sucks. I spent a whole pregnancy planning one of our annual global summits and to this day I still look at my daughter two years later and quietly tell her I’m sorry for how hard I pushed myself then, and however that may have impacted her. I spent the night before the big event in agony in my hotel room, berating myself for putting work first before my unborn kid. I’m not sure I did or not but it felt that way. On the other hand, I was happy that my management could look at me ‘normally’ and not get annoying and awkward about working alongside a ‘delicate flower’ of a pregnant woman.
  • Maternity leave and its effects on the job: Maternity leave is scary – whether it’s your first or fourth. I’ve seen things happen I wish I could unsee. The fact is, no matter how loved and appreciated you are at your job, being gone for 3-6-9 months at a time is just going to have an effect. There’s no getting around it.  And I could speak for a full hour about how to survive coming back. Giving yourself time… it takes 6 months in my opinion. The pumping at work. The feeling low. The wondering what the hell you’re doing here. The lack of sleep and its effects. Missing milestones. Missing meetings. Missing both somehow, at the same time.
  • Relationship with kids: My kids don’t know me any other way. For them, their parents have jobs and work hard. They don’t get exactly what I do which is obviously fine, but I do think they are ‘inspired’ by it as much as a kid could be. They are curious… they ask questions… they complain I work too hard. More and more it’s becoming an issue. I’m working on it. First step at least – being aware of it. I let them call me out. It’s the most direct way to make me work on it. I’ve recently admitted to myself that I am addicted to my work and I can’t stop and it’s meddling in my life and it’s time to work that out. I was thinking, wow, if I didn’t have kids, what would I be doing? But not in a fantasy kind of way. In a, how far in could I have lost myself completely? kind of way.
  • Ambition: in my own introverted way, I’ve always been ambitious. My parents instilled a really tough sense of work ethic in us. They’re both career people who care deeply about what they do and that they do it well. I don’t think they were taking us aside and teaching us anything directly, but we learned by example. I appreciate that in other people. And I can’t not be doing something meaningful. it’s not in my DNA.
  • Relationship with husband and how it’s effected by working: Marriage is one tough project. As mentioned, I happen to be married to a good one and I couldn’t have been with someone who didn’t support me having a career and feeling strongly about whatever I choose to do. Is it hard? Yeah.  One thing I will say is. when I took my current job and we just had our third kid, I would come home every single day, throw down my bag, and declare THIS IS NOT SUSTAINABLE. There is no way we can both work full time office jobs outside the house. No one else is doing this. It has to end somehow. But it hasn’t ended… I have no idea what the long term effects are. They may be horrible. But we are definitely bonding over doing A LOT of problem solving together.

Ask What’s Next?

I don’t know. I’m figuring a lot out at the moment. But I know it was fun doing this. I’ve wanted to do this since I forced myself to be the ‘pumping pioneeress’. So if you know of more opportunities for me to bare my soul in an effort to help others, let me know.

If you are interested in participating, or want more content and discussion, check out BreadWinners.

*Sandberg!* and other things I got from work this week.

Self-Portrait. I call it, ‘Keeping Shit Together’

>clink!<

Here’s to my first full out-of-the-home work week (ok, 80% out-of-the-home) in three years.

Do I have observations? Yes, I have observations. Somewhere. Probably. Behind my droopy eyelids. Under the piles and piles of house mess I’m responsible for.

Obviously, there are pros and cons of working from home and working from an office.

But it’s the latter that’s made me go, Sandberg! .at least three or four times a day.

Sandberg, as in Sheryl Sandberg. Goddess of Facebook. Leader of Lean In. Mother of… at least one.

Sandberg.

Let’s take pumping. If breastfeeding is a beautiful, natural, most basic act of a mother sustaining her child, pumping is the ‘do I look like a cow in this?’ version.

Yes, honey, you look like a cow with two plastic cups at your breasts squeezing every drop of a substance that falls under the category of ‘bodily fluid’ into a container with bright yellow milliliter markings up the side.

Then you’re meant to button up, get back to your desk and analyze TPS reports.

Sandberg!

And in some cases, you may, uh, be doing that in an executive office.

That isn’t your own.

HowEVER, Sheryl (and Marissa, for that matter) – you never mentioned the commute! Well, not the traffic part or the crazy drivers. But the QUIET. The sweet sweet sound of silence in the form of engine revving and wheels rotating and you know what? I don’t even know what else goes on because in my head, there are just trees blowing in the wind and beautiful blue skies overhead and the occasional cussing out the guy in front of me, but even that is adult conversation.

I will say this for Sandberg… I may not have your money or stature, but at least I have a family-friendly culture backing me. And some decent female role models to talk to, within a relative arm’s reach.

It’s going to be hectic and insane and every breath seems as delicate as a spiderweb cliche, holding everything together. For now. (Until I think of a better cliche).

I hope your American female colleagues can say the same soon enough.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Lean in to what? My sleeping kids in a sweaty bed?

Really universe? Really?

I have a follow-up job interview today. I’m doing my best to Sheryl Sandberg this shit and last night attempted an early bedtime.

Sheryl, is this how it’s supposed to work? Because I think I broke it.

I was up twice before 1am feeding the infant.

At some point after that, not one but both of the older kids zombied their way into my bed and tangled themselves up on me.

After that I spent on-and-off time tossing and turning, deliberating whether to just get out of bed or stand my ground.

Was up again at 5am to feed Madame Milk.

Changed two diapers by 6:30.

And then I ditched the whole operation.

So what were you saying about Lean In?