After taking off nearly three years to have children, I knew it was my time to lean in. My journey to motherhood was not straightforward. Like so many women who are driven to achieve a measure of purpose through their professional success, I felt really stressed. So much so, that my body was no longer performing. I needed to step away, because no doctor could explain why my children were not coming.
Three years later, as I sat across from my interviewer, a full 26 weeks pregnant for the second time. There is no question I felt fulfilled as a mother, however, I was underutilized as a professional and ready to re-engage my talents as a leader. All of the reasons why I would not be hired were racing through my mind. They’ll worry about you taking a maternity leave. They’ll worry that you’ll never return. They’ll worry that you will be too emotional. They won’t hire you because there are less risky choices to fill the role. But, I also knew I was the one best suited for the role.
After eleven interviews, I received an offer from Yahoo. I accepted the position and approached my role with determination, eager to demonstrate that this would be a winning partnership. I would be taking leave in 13 weeks, so I placed a fair amount of emphasis on building relationships, establishing a few early successes and making commitments to deliver key results over the next several quarters. I worked until the night before my scheduled c-section.
After my second daughter was born, I took an eight-week leave, but still logged in on a daily basis to resolve roadblocks, share ideas and check on progress . As a leader, I wanted to make sure my new team felt encouraged and supported. I also wanted to influence several big initiatives and had not been around long enough to establish my capabilities as a leader. So, I knew that I needed to be present. I recognize that my approach does not work for everyone, but it was the perfect fit for me. Thankfully, I was able to straddle work between my daughter’s naps and feeding. And, she was my second child, so I had a controlled confidence that I simply did not have the first time around.
Shortly after I returned from my maternity leave, I received a promotion. I remember feeling gratified to know that leaning in really can work.
There is no perfect way to juggle children and work. I want to believe I am fully present professionally, and also as a wife and mother. I also do my part to influence civic and social agendas that are important to me. But to be honest, I often feel extremely scattered, and I need external voices to continue to reassure me that thriving in this journey is possible. This is in part the promise of Lean In. The end state will be collections of capable professionals around the world, who encourage each other with tangible methods to cope and thrive in the work of achieving our professional destiny. If we can orient each other to leaning in when we would otherwise make a different choice, then we can start to affect the stagnant growth of women in senior leadership roles.