CEO Sports & Leisure,
Sodexo North America
Some of the buzz these days surrounds women in the workplace and the various barriers to their professional advancement. My personal experience over the years, probably like many others, has varied between amazing bosses and mentors who encouraged me to grow, and of course the not so great bosses and the leaders who felt threatened and excluded me. Over the past 9 years, my journey has been more about the evil two words we call “mommy guilt.” It’s the other hidden barrier that so many of us share which often holds women back from the next big promotion.
Let me explain: I’m the working and traveling mom with an awesome stay-at-home dad as a partner.
Here I am, in the job of a lifetime at an amazing company that values my Quality of Life, working smarter, diversity & inclusion, promotions, gender balance, vacations and personal time. Finally, I made it to the C Suite – the years of great mentorship, hard work and people willing to give me a shot at something new have paid off.
So how come I sarcastically quote myself as “mother of the year” and often have poignant memories of late night FaceTime calls with silly filters instead of life events, while feeling like I am letting everyone down by not being home as much as I should?
How will my son feel when he is 30? Will he be in the therapist’s office wondering if his mother valued her career more than she valued him?
I, like every other mother I know, think of myself as the MOM: the fixer, the planner, the shopper, the healer, the maker of appointments and scheduler, the one who orders diapers and toothpaste using GoGo Inflight, the person who notices it’s time to trim fingernails. You name it. We do it. Even from the road.
Growing up, I had an awesome, nurturing, fridge-is-always-full, laundry-always-folded-and-put-away, picks-up-from-school-with-a-smile and snacks at the ready – mom. And a just as awe-inspiring, hard-working, corporate, engineer, logical thinker, amazing athlete and funny dad who took no prisoners, and still doesn’t.
What were women originally put on this Earth to do? Recreate, nurture and gather. Men are to hunt, kill and protect. Fast forward to 2017 and we find ourselves in this new age where genetically and physiologically, both sexes still have inherent signals in our minds and bodies which indicate how we are supposed to respond or act and tell us what we are meant to “do” all day.
Honestly, I battle with this daily. Could I really stay home full time if given the opportunity? Could I take a step back and work part-time or remotely? Is that even in my DNA? I adore my job, my colleagues and our clients and value the positive change my company is making to people’s Quality of Life across the planet.
I don’t think I’m alone. That guilt is part of the bigger picture on gender in the workplace. I don’t have the answer. (You thought you were going to read this whole article and I was going to give you the answer!)
Here is what I do know. I am changing the conversation at home. The conversation is centered on the fact that there is no place I would rather be, but that mommy is also very good at her job and she loves working. Our household resembles the relationship between Emperor penguins. The mom goes out and finds food while the daddy keeps the egg or the hatchling warm until she returns. This significant mental shift not only makes me feel better, but it gives me strength and confidence as I walk out the door.
My hope is that when my son sees me excited and happy in my career he will grow up to respect women in the workplace and therefore be more inclusive – and also a better future husband and father.
Lastly, I have to remember that many young boys don’t get to spend this kind of time with their fathers. It’s very unusual, even today, so I know this special time with his dad will remain with him for his lifetime. I also respect the fact that one of us is able to stay home.
Working mommies have to forgive ourselves and know that we are doing the best we can at any given moment as we are changing the world. And for those mommies at home raising our children in very different circumstances; you too are changing the world.
We can’t have it all. We can’t please everyone and there is no work-life balance. My goal is work-life integration and when I’m home, I do everything I can to be present and engaged.
That is the Quality of Life that I can bring to my own soul and to those around me.
One more sleep baby, mommy is on her way.