I remember the day in 2007 I decided that I wouldn’t go for the promotion. I was 8+ years into a career with Thomson Reuters and had been waiting for 2 years for this position to open up, preparing myself mentally to take over the Regional Manager role. I had won several President’s Trip awards, the highest award achievable for an Academic Account Manager and I was ready for a new challenge. And I was 6 months pregnant.
What would it mean to take on TWO new jobs at the same time? I had no idea, really. “Mother” was a job that I felt totally unprepared for, even at 35. I actually felt more confident in my ability to be a good regional manager, taking on the responsibility of 8 account managers, than I did for taking on the responsibility for this one tiny new human. There were rules for managing those 8 people- at least the job description was pretty clear. But this new human? She didn’t come with a manual OR rules for successful job achievement. And this new human wasn’t planning to shower me with accolades and financial rewards, I was fairly certain. Even the ingestion of 15 parenting books and 5 or 6 parenting blogs a day couldn’t give me a clear indication of what being MOTHER was really going to feel like for ME.
I agonized. I cried. I talked. And talked and talked. And cried some more. (I was in my third trimester, after all). I just wasn’t sure I’d be successful at taking on both of these new jobs at the same time. I knew that the regional manager role would require quite a bit of travel, quite a lot of hours on the computer and phone, and a lot of extraverted energy. I knew that pre-baby, I could have immersed myself into the role and I would have KILLED it. But post-baby? Amidst sleepless nights, breast feeding, baby puke and rocking, I just wasn’t so sure. Actually I was sure. I couldn’t do both.
I was raised to believe that I could do anything I wanted when I grew up. A marine biologist, psychologist, psychoneuroimmunologist (we made this one up at the time, but apparently it has since become an actual thing.) President. Whatever I wanted. And my mother’s generation fought for the right for me to be able to have this option while at the same time being allowed to embrace femininity and have a family. HAVE IT ALL.
And then I ran smack into my own limitations. Mid-life crisis at 35.
Fortunately I realized these limitations before I made the mistake of trying to take on both roles. I stepped away from competing for the regional manager position because I recognized that I simply did not have the energy to operate effectively in both roles. Sure I could have tried. I could have muddled through and hired a nanny and a housecleaner, and not seen my baby for weeks at a time. I could have turned away from that tiny new human’s need for me. But for that role- as MOM- I truly was the only person who could do that job. There were many others who could do the job of Regional Manager, and my teammates would do just fine with any other manager. But that tiny little girl needed ME. So that is the promotion I took.
I still grieve a little over the loss of my professional advancement opportunity at Thomson, even 7 years later. I ended up leaving the company altogether 9 months later because I wanted to give my all to this new job for a few years. I delivered another tiny new human 19 months later and then learned that the job description had again been changed on me- Mom to two is entirely different than Mom of one. And it still changes, almost daily. The benefits of this job are less concrete, I get paid in hugs and smiles, lost teeth and inches grown. And the management is often mercurial and arbitrary. But the role of MOM is the one that I will value most when I’m at the end of my life. At the end of the day, that’s what is most important to me.