Working Motherhood: A Personal Origin Story

In the next week my daughter will turn 3 and my son will turn 1. Looking back through my bleary, sleep-deprived eyes I have to wonder: have my children actually been the greatest accelerator in achieving the career goals I set for myself in my 20s? 

I got promoted during my first pregnancy. During my second maternity leave I left my job for a bigger, badder opportunity at a new organization. Since I first got pregnant with my daughter I have (literally) doubled my compensation through those two big transitions and additional raises along the way. I’ve retained wage parity with my husband, even making more some years. An accidental entrepreneur, I started my business, Something Major, which took off with a speed I did not anticipate. 

I did not get “lucky” and my story is not unique, but it’s also just not common enough.

I have defied everything social science tells us about the all-too-prevalent “maternity gap” and “motherhood penalty.” While on the whole working women make 80 cents on the dollar, as compared to working men, working mothers make 69 cents on the dollar as compared to working dads.  

As I see frequently in my own coaching practice: too often women are asking themselves (and asking me) “if the juice is worth the squeeze” to take it to the next level. Sometimes it’s because they already feel underpaid and under-appreciated. On the flip side, sometimes they feel too comfortable, talking themselves into a “don't rock the boat” mindset.

As my friend Julie says, “not everyone wants to be the CEO” and she’s right. My cousin, Jen, loved the years she paused her career to stay at home. There are moments I’ve pushed forward and moments I’ve had to pull back. Like everything else about having kids: no two days are ever the same. 

Nothing is wrong or bad about any choices working moms make. I just want more working moms to really feel confident about their goals and have more agency in making the choices that support them authentically. 

For me, those career and financial goals were the ones I set. I don’t claim to have gotten it all right. Trust me, I didn't.

I don’t claim to have it all and there are certainly things I want more/less/different/better. I’m working through those. While I do, I choose to be happy where I am while being unashamed to dream bigger. 

I’ve been really intentional and I’ve made hard choices. Some of them sent me backwards but most of them sent me forwards. I’ve had the tough conversations, both at work and at home. I’ve negotiated, and I've heard both yes and no. 

What I’ve learned is that you can grow your career while growing your family.

The stress is real. The “motherhood penalty” is real, but so are the opportunities for growth whatever that means to you. The juice is worth the squeeze... but only when you’re being authentic about your personal and professional goals. Only when you're ready to make mistakes and celebrate what you did right so you can do it again.

Ditch the “should do/could do” in pursuit of your individual wants and needs, and you will be amazed at how far you can go. Whatever that means to you.

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Randi Braun, Founder of Something Major Coaching, is a career coach living in Washington, DC. Her next workshop on Growing Your Career While Growing Your Family will be on September 19th. Learn more about Randi's work and get in touch on (c) 2019