Working Mom Diary: Leaning In and Letting Go

Greetings from Santiago, Chile!

Hello, my friends! It’s been too long. This blog is an outlet for me to think, vent and deal, in a very complicated life, and yet I tend to fail to take care of myself all of the time.

I want to say that I’ve not written for a good reason. The truth is that there is never a good reason not to take care of yourself. “I’ve been busy” feels a bit weak. “I’ve been traveling” is true, but again not an excuse for eight weeks of taking time to do something that I truly enjoy.

Ultimately, I’m not here to bash myself. I’m writing again and it feels amazing.

Instead, I’m writing to share the chaos of the last six weeks, including four weeks of travel.  Long story short, I’ve always had a this vision of the jet-setting corporate consultant life.  I still don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up, but somehow that image of being on stage talking to a group was something that I aspired to.

Over the last 15 months, I took on a new role that has actually really brought me to the place where I’m attaining that unexpected desire. I’m traveling to clients and conferences. I’m speaking on stages. I’m getting to explore new countries and cities that I’ve never been to before.

But at the same time, every time I leave, my family is down a parent. Every night that I am away, my kids don’t get tuck-ins and snuggles.  Every week that I’m gone, my husband sits alone on the couch, proud and yet exhausted and frustrated as his wife is in a new city doing new things.  And every time I get home, I’m so physically and mentally exhausted that I need at least one night to be 100% ready to be “mom” and “wife” again.

This has been my challenge, particularly as my travel has increased over the last six months. The joy of really doing something that is fun, growing professionally and personally, while at the same time feeling like I’m letting my family down somehow. I think this struggle is real for many of my friends – both dads and moms – that travel for work.

I know that I also make sacrifices. My job “allows” me to work at home full-time when I’m not traveling.  In real like, for every day that I’m gone, there are two or three days where I’m waiting at the bus for my kids at 4pm. But it also means that when I’m not traveling, I’m dealing with kids while trying to work. When I’m in my “home office,”  I’m cleaning and cooking, managing errands and school calendars.

But when you have to say goodbye for the 5th time in as many weeks, it’s hard to remember the good all the time.

A few years ago, I read an amazingly honest article/interview from CEO of Pepsico, Indra Nooyi. At the time of the interview in 2014, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In was a bestseller.  How could one amazing woman have it all, while an other couldn’t? Yet, having recently reread Lean In, I recognize Sheryl was just as honest, just approached it differently.

Ultimately, what I’m coming to realize is no parent truly has it all as they work towards career success. But they also don’t have to give up everything. I think for working moms it’s often different because many of us play many more roles for our kids than most working dads. This is not a judgement, just an observation.

We have to embrace and celebrate what we can do rather than worrying about what we can’t.  We also have to embrace that we need help sometimes – whether it is bringing in extra help or pushing our partners to step up when we can’t. We also have to learn how to take care of ourselves. We can’t take care of those that matter most to us, if we are too worn down to be our best.  Finally, we have to learn to recognize when we need help. No one can do it all.

The last six weeks have been the most stressful of my entire working life, but I asked for help, and my mom, dad and hubby stepped up.  My parents went so far as to drive up from South Texas and stay with my family when I was traveling three weeks in a row. Then, my mom drove home and flew back up a week later when I traveled out of the country.  I’m truly blessed to have the support that I do from my family.

Ultimately, both Indra and Sheryl were right.  You have to lean in while also learning to how let go of the guilt and unreasonable expectations that you have for yourself. But more than anything else, for working women, you have to recognize and embrace that you don’t have to walk the path alone unless you choose to.

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