When I first got pregnant, I searched for positive role models – specifically, women who could balance work and family. I came across the popular talk Sheryl Sandberg gave at TED one year, where she said three things to working women: Sit at the table, Make your partner a real partner, and Don’t leave before you leave. That resonated with me so much that I wrote them down and posted them above my computer at work. If I was really going to be a working mom – and enjoy it – I had to do those three things.
Sit at the table
I’m pretty sure I’ve have always done this. In fact, I think the place I’m the most confident is in the workplace, and I don’t have a problem sitting next to bigwigs and voicing my opinion. I was promoted to a director position in the fall of 2011 and that threw me a bit, mostly because I started to wonder if I am ready for the responsibility of senior management. Luckily, something usually happens that shows me I know my stuff and that doubt subsides.
Make your partner a real partner
We’ve definitely done this. Because Mike has been in graduate school since 2007, this hasn’t been as much of an issue as it could have been. We worked really hard to define our roles in our relationship and understand how each of us contributes to the household. All the way from little things (I do laundry, he does dishes) to the big things (money, kids, etc). I know life will bring new challenges as Mike finishes school and enters the workforce, but based on our history, we’ll be able to work our way through it.
Don’t leave before you leave
This one is interesting. The point Sheryl was making was, even if you know you’re going to stop working once you have a family, don’t let your current work suffer. Keep asking for raises and promotions, keep learning new things, keep offering yourself up for the new projects or opportunities. I think this is so true – a lot of women hang out in their current position and don’t put themselves out there because they know, eventually, it won’t matter. I’ve been lucky to have a fantastic boss who gives me opportunities to grow, but I’ve had to ask for my fair share of things too. I think this pertains to me more when and if I go part time (I’m thinking of dropping a day or two for a few years if/when we have a second kid). I’ll have to work really hard at staying up to speed and not letting my work suffer with a reduced focus.