My husband and I were catching up with an old couple friend the other day. We talked mostly about our kids and what we’ve been up too as we live in different states from one another. Soon the conversation turned to work. It went something like this.
Friend: How’s work going?
Me: Oh, I’m not working right now.
Friend: What about that tech job you were in?
Me: I quit that a while ago because it wasn’t working out for me.
Friend: I took a couple years off after I had our first child. I went back and didn’t realize how hard it would be. I thought I remembered how everything went. Then I went to a conference and realized I’d been telling my team the wrong thing!
Me: Well, I am doing some contract work and a lot of writing.
Friend: That’s good. It’s important to stay present. Even for promotions. If you take the allowed maternity time off you’re ok. You go back to work but your body isn’t healed. Your mind isn’t right but you’ll be ok.
Me: Yeah, I didn’t realize how much would change after having a baby.
Friend: It sounds like you’re staying present. That’s good.
The conversation came to end but it stayed with me for the rest of the night. I thought back to the studies I read that leaving the workforce would cut your earning potential, promotion status, and as my friend expressed, forgetting how to do the job.
I relate a lot to this article by Paulette Light. She left a high-powered career in consulting after having her second child. Like Light, I worked hard in my 20s.
The job needed me to travel to Mississippi, Georgia, or Ireland? I was on the plane. The job needed me to work late to test an integration or go into work at 5 AM because that’s when the plant opened? Count on me.
Then I had my son and everything changed. The startup I co-founded needed 110% effort but I couldn’t give half of that in the first months after having my son. I came to the conclusion that quitting was essential for my mental health, it was best for the company since I couldn’t give them my all, and it was what was best for my son.
Now, he’s a bit older. We have a routine figured out. And while he still needs me on an hourly basis, I find I have time and brain power to focus on intellectual pursuits.
I don’t think there should be the pressure there is on moms to return to work after having a kid. I think it’s great to be able to stay home with your kids. I think the pressure for women to do it all, should be put to rest.
That being said, I’ve enjoyed my contracts and freelance assignments. I like that they have a deadline and a specific goal. I think Light put it perfectly when she said, “If you want high-achieving mothers back in the workforce, don’t give us an office and a work week filled with facetime, give us something to get done and tell us when you need it by.”
Do you think there’s too much pressure on women to “do it all”? What do you think about the conversation I had with my friend? Let me know in the comments below.