Friday night I boarded the Golden Gate Ferry to leave work for the last time before becoming a mom. I watched the skyline shrink as we backed away from the dock and sailed into the bay, keeping my eye on the glimmer of city lights through the rain until they were just a blur in the distance.
It was a strange feeling. I just kept thinking:
This is the last time I will ever leave work without officially being a mom. This is the last time that my career can really be my biggest focus and priority day-to-day.
(Second to my marriage and family, of course, but you know what I mean.)
Maternity leave is a defining moment. Since the beginning of my career, I knew I wanted to have a family someday, and that this would ultimately affect the course of my professional life. It’s a challenge wanting both the high-power career and a strong, growing family — sometimes it seems that people are content with one or the other — but I’ve always hoped for both.
Yesterday was my first day of maternity leave, and while I am thrilled to finally put my feet up and rest this big belly, it’s sort of an odd feeling, an unfamiliar crossroads. I’ve been daydreaming about the time off with my newborn since I found out I was pregnant — stroking those sweet little baby cheeks, learning what it means to be “mom” and catching up on sleep between each day’s new challenges. I know I’ll cherish this time and I feel blessed that I’m able to take the time off I need for my family.
But can I tell you the truth?
I had such a hard time relinquishing ownership of my work and bowing out. I am passionate about what I do and I work with amazing people, and the support they’ve shown has been an incredible and unexpected surprise. No one has ever questioned my ability to succeed while pregnant and I feel very strongly that when I go back, I’ll be welcomed with open arms and a list of new clients. Still, there’s a small part of me that worries I’m “losing out” on precious momentum in these next few months.
There’s been much debate and a great deal of dialog around women “having it all” over the past couple years. I’m sure you’re all familiar with Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic, Sheryl Sandberg’s best-seller “Lean In” and various other pieces that have circulated. I myself have been thinking long and hard about what it means to have it all, and whether or not I want to have it all. And you know what? I do want it all, but I realize that means redefining what “all” means within my own life and family.
Parenthood will be first and foremost for my husband and I from this point forward. That is our number one priority, no questions asked, and we are thrilled to become parents. And we know we will need to make compromises for that along the way. But! I’ve also resolved that for me, it’s okay to still have career ambition and to want to try and juggle the chaos of a big job with the role of Mom. I’ve learned that being courageous enough to ask for flexibility at work yields great rewards; that my company is willing to work with me if I work with them.
So now, as I’ve officially stepped out of the career spotlight for a few months, I am ready to fully embrace each precious moment that I have yet to discover with my sweet baby girl and start building our new life.
And yes, a few months down the road, it will be time to go back to work. I know it will be hard to balance everything, but I also plan to do all I can to be the best mom I can be and also succeed in the workplace — if for no other reason, to show my baby girl that a fulfilling career is possible, and is a wonderful part of life for those of us who desire it.