Mona Watson

Manager, Diversity & Inclusion

Location: Kalamazoo, MI

"Let it be your choice because, at the end of the day, it’s about your career and your life. So do yourself a favor and lean in where you want, how you want and when you want."

I got married in September 2010 and found out I was pregnant exactly one year later.

My beautiful daughter was born at 28 weeks because I didn't know how to lean back when the doctor told me to rest. I wasn't confident that I could successfully lean back and keep my job. By doing so, I risked my health and my daughter's life.

My blood pressure started creeping up into the danger zone as soon as I hit the third trimester. My doctor, concerned about premature birth, placed me on bed rest. I begged him to allow me to work from home and he relented. Unfortunately my blood pressure continued to rise and I was hospitalized for pregnancy monitoring and taken completely off work. My daughter was born at 28 weeks, weighing in at just over one pound. She was perfectly healthy but very small. We ended up spending over 100 days in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Since her birth, my priorities have shifted from wanting to lean in and climb the ladder at work to leaning in to make sure that all of my, her and my husband’s health needs are met. My husband and I are partners. I enjoy the traditional role of wife, housekeeper, cook and best friend/lover to my husband—and adoring mother to my daughter. There is a sense of accomplishment in knowing that now I’m able to balance my current role in the workplace with my role as wife and mother.

What I appreciate the most, however, is being okay with the balancing act. I have not found this journey easy but it is doable. My employer definitely makes things easier and so does my role in the organization. Recently I’ve seen other examples of working women ­– from hourly workers to C-suite executives finding the sweet secret of success – learning how, when and where to lean in.

My daughter will be one on March 15, 2013 and she is doing well. I can never return back to that worker bee that doesn’t have confidence in herself or her employer.

Lean in is a war cry for women to take their rightful places on the board or around the kitchen table—and own it. Let it be your choice because, at the end of the day, it’s about your career and your life. Do yourself a favor and lean in where you want, how you want and when you want.