I didn’t grow up in the loving care of a biological mother, so I grew up romanticizing motherhood and vowed to give my kids everything I didn’t have. When it was my turn and my first child was born, the decision wasn’t as straightforward. While I was overwhelmed by the love I had for my newborn, I also loved having a career and wanted to continue working. But I saw my decision as black and white – either take a step back to part-time work (to better balance motherhood), or continue my fast-track career and risk being an inadequate mother. How could I choose anything other than what was best for my baby? So I opted for a part-time role that provided a comfortable income but did not challenge me professionally.
I stayed on that track for two years. I learned new skills, and even managed to get a promotion. On the surface, my life seemed to be in balance, at least in terms of hours. But deep inside, I felt off-kilter; I knew that I was leaning back. I was afraid to pursue my career ambitions for fear of short-changing my child’s needs; I gave up without even trying.
As this awakening was dawning on me, I gave birth to my second child. When my maternity leave was up, I decided to go back full-time and accepted a challenging new role at a startup. I was full of doubts. Would my new job be so all-consuming that I would have no time for my kids? What long-term damage or disadvantage could I be causing my kids? How would my husband deal with the increased demands? I second-guessed my decision many times during that period, especially when the going got rough. The reality was, my job was not always rewarding. I didn’t get to fill my days with the work I was passionate about. Financially, it also looked like a questionable decision, since my after-tax income barely covered full-time childcare plus preschool. As I continued to lean in more and more, I listened to my internal compass; it was clear I was getting closer and closer to becoming my authentic self.
Fast-forward six years, I have no regrets about my decision. During that time, I got to help build a company from a niche start-up to a household name, resulting in a successful exit. I now have the opportunity to help build another company with a bold vision to change the world. While my daily routine may not include picking up the kids from school or preparing homemade meals, there is an abundance of snuggles, laughter and bonding. My husband and I even manage weekly date nights.
I’ve since learned to be watchful of falling into the “either/or” mindset, since it holds me back from even trying to find solutions that reside in the “and.” I am glad that I took a leap of faith and went after both a rewarding career and a rich family life full of love.