When I started working, I was fresh out of university. I very badly wanted to be well liked in the workplace and be successful at my job. I had a very entry level job with not a lot of expectations, but I worked for a huge company and I was blown away by how interesting every aspect of my new workplace seemed. The people, the sheer size of it, I had so much to learn. I came in early, I stayed late, I didn’t ask for any extra payment by doing so. I was learning the ropes, networking.
As the years passed, I grew and developed my career, trying out various departments until I found exactly what I wanted to do. I was hungry to learn and eager to please. I tackled assignments that took me away from home for weeks on end, I worked late, I jumped on every opportunity thrown my way. It paid off, twelve years later I am in a fantastic position doing something that I love.
The one thing that sets me apart from most of my immediate coworkers is I am a female. I work in a predominately male workplace. While I’ve never been the only female, there are very few of us. This is painfully obvious when someone comes into my office. I have a shrine to my children, pictures of them, drawings and crafts they made. The people I work with have work related charts and reference sheets hung up in their office space, the occasional picture of a child or beloved pet. When I talk to my coworkers, they talk about the activities they do in their spare time. Spare time?? I talk about whatever illness my kids had last week.
As I had children, I had to change the way I worked. With my first daughter, this was hard. I worked late, I worked weekends, sometimes not seeing her for 12 hours a day. The guilt finally caught up to me when she turned two years old and I honestly had no idea who she was, what her quirks were, how funny and smart she was. If I were a dad would this be ok? As a mom, I felt like shit. I stopped putting work first. I no longer take out of town assignments, I rarely work late, I am often running on little sleep and lots of coffee. Can I give 100% at work and give 100% as a mom? I don’t even pretend to, I’m just trying to keep it together most days. On top of it all, my husband works mostly out of town so I’m often the single parent left to navigate each day for myself and two little ones. And I am not a very organized person, so this is painful for all of us. Haha.
Being a mother doesn’t interfere with my job or the way I am treated by my coworkers, it just makes me different. It’s like I am two people. I’m mom at home, with all the responsibilities of running a household (cooking, cleaning, laundry, maintenance, appointments, etc), but I’m Sarah at work. I am expected to be “one of the guys” at work, I’m expected to pretend I don’t miss my kids terribly (I do), I’m expected to focus and listen during meetings (honestly, I’m thinking about wine), but I also feel like I am finally set free, that for 8.5 hours a day I can be me again, and not just someone’s mom.
As I talk with other parents, moms in particular, I find I am not alone! Many moms have a similar and difficult path ahead. The balance of being a good mom, a great mom, a dedicated mom, while trying to be good, great, and dedicated to our career, is harder than we imagined. My grandmother had five children, she worked full-time, she did everything around the house, and she managed to have a five course meal on the table every night for dinner. How did she do it? I have no idea, but as she once told me “we struggled, but we survived.”
xo Guest blogger Sarah