Do any of these sound familiar?
- When she thought about returning to work, she was nervous and thought maybe she should consider changing careers.
- Breastfeeding while working was a challenge. After a few months, she made the heart-breaking decision to stop because it was just too difficult to do both.
- She missed her pre-baby body.
- She felt she shouldn’t have to choose between her two identities of being a mom and being a career woman.
- A co-worker alluded she was being lazy, when she was actually giving them every ounce of effort she could muster.
- Sleepless nights with the baby while her husband was travelling for work left her exhausted, but she still showed up for work the next day.
- She knew being a working mom wouldn’t be a fairy tale, but she didn’t think it would be this hard.
- And yet, despite all of these challenges, she said “I’m right where I want to be”.
This is the struggle and the joy of the modern working mom. This woman’s story could be the story of any of the millions of moms that head out to work every day. But here’s the thing, this woman I was listening to is not your average working mom, she is tennis superstar Serena Williams.
The five-part HBO documentary “Being Serena” follows Serena from her last match at the Australian open (where she won while eight weeks pregnant) to the birth of her daughter and her journey to return to tennis (culminating earlier this week at the French Open). After watching only five minutes, I realized she was bringing a voice to so many of the mixed emotions and mental struggles moms face while they are adjusting to motherhood and having a career. Many of her worries, thoughts and feelings were the same worries, thoughts and feelings so many moms I’ve talked to have had, myself included.
But yet, when we are in the middle of it, we feel as if we are the only one.
We look around and see all the other moms who appear to be going through their day effortlessly, fitting in every demand of work and family life, all while posting the perfect Insta story in the process.
It’s not that easy. Even the greatest female tennis player of all time, who has any resource she could need at her disposal, still struggles with balancing her identity as a mom and tennis player. She struggles to breastfeed. She is torn by the flurry of new emotions. It is not an either or choice for her, it is both and.
Serena’s return has also grabbed headlines surrounding her fall in the rankings. Fourteen months ago, before her maternity leave, Serena was ranked number one in the world. Earlier this week she was ranked 453. There have been numerous articles and interviews discussing these antiquated rules and the apparent “punishment” female tennis players experience if they choose to take time off to become a mother. Even in this situation unique to tennis, we can see a similarity in the discrimination many working moms face in the workplace. This example around a player’s rank is obvious and easily quantifiable. Unfortunately, many working moms face more subtle discrimination tactics that are harder to prove, like being passed over for a promotion or not being asked to work on a special project.
So, what is a working mom to do? To start, realize you are not alone in the wide range of emotions you are experiencing. It may look like the working moms around you have it completely together, but chances are they are feeling just like you. This is why we need to talk more and share our experiences. You could talk to your spouse, friend, co-worker, Facebook group or even your journal, just don’t keep it all bottled up. These conversations might surprise you in their ability to bring clarity to a situation that has been bouncing around inside your head for weeks. Be gentle with yourself knowing that this might take some time to figure out and it may continue to change, grow and evolve. And finally, release yourself of any and all mom guilt, it doesn’t do you, or your kids, any good.
Are you a working mom struggling to define what “having it all” means to you? I want to talk to you! Comment below or send me an email and we’ll schedule a time to talk. Come join our Facebook group Balanced Heart Moms and join a supportive community of women who share their stories and lift each other up.