A Working Mom’s Story

black and white photo of newborn baby in the hands of her working mom
The smallest baby I have ever seen or held to date

It’s no secret that motherhood comes with many challenges. I didn’t know just how hard being a working mom would be until I lost my job trying to balance it all.

On December 4th, 2016, my life changed forever when Mallory Lynn came into the world at only 5 lbs. 9 oz. I was in awe as I held her tiny head full of beautiful black hair in the palm of my hands. To say I was in love is an understatement. Life as I knew it changed in an instant. It became more stressful. I was feeling more anxious. The effects of sleep deprivation made it harder to concentrate.

Being a working mom is a gamechanger

Once my daughter was born, the thought of going back to work felt painful. I started thinking about what it would be like to live in a cardboard box as an alternative to being a working mom. Seriously, I couldn’t fathom what it was going to be like to leave this little baby. Don’t get me wrong, I was looking forward to having adult conversations again, but I knew I would never enjoy an out-of-town trip or the challenge of a 50+ hour week the same way.

A woman's hands at a desk with a laptop
My soul was still on fire for an industry I loved

I didn’t lose my ambition when I became a mother, I just developed new boundaries when I went back to work. I was still willing to go the extra mile. Working through lunches once in a while didn’t bother me. Coming in early to meet deadlines is challenging with a little one, but can be done. I was still the same hard worker. In fact, becoming a working mom made me more efficient and better at managing my time.

The word all mothers fear: Daycare

Fast forward to my daughter turning 5 months old when I got my first taste of what it’s like to be a working mom while my child was in daycare —talk about mom guilt. I met the day with both reluctance and anxiety.

As soon as I dropped her off, my mind immediately started wandering: what if she cries, what if her diaper goes too long without changing, what if she won’t eat, what if she’s feeling scared?” and repeat.

Leaving her behind wide-eyed in her little carrier nearly killed me that day. The fancy coffee I grabbed on the way into work was little consolation. I fought tears nearly all day. Who was I? I’m sure a lot of working moms feel this same way on day one. Just for the record, if you’re reading and you’re worried, it does get easier.

A downtown area filled with traffic at dawn
Cleveland traffic can be brutal

I almost forgot to mention the commute. I drove an hour each way with traffic, which still seemed manageable until I got the call every working mother dreads. You know the one. The call from daycare telling me my baby is sick and needs to be picked up right away. Being an hour away from a child who needs you is a working mom’s personal hell.

Work/life balance as a working mom

Round rocks balanced on top of each other near a shoreline
In motherhood, work/life balance is key

The constant sicknesses with daycare can be too much for someone so small, especially with asthma. We made frequent trips to the pediatrician’s office, went through many rounds of antibiotics, and endured a lot of sleepless nights. As a working mom, I knew it was time for a change. I thought about switching jobs, but I also really wanted to start my own one-woman show in digital marketing. A girl can dream, right?

Just in time, a friend of mine referred me for an open position with a new company. They prided themselves on work/life balance and were experiencing an upward growth trajectory. I applied and got an interview. This felt right.

On my way to the interview, I thought, “If I’m going to find a better balance as a working mom, I have to be fully transparent.” So, when one of the department executives asked what my biggest strength was, I answered honestly:

“I will put in rockstar work every day while I’m here and I will often work through lunches. Becoming a mother has made me a more efficient and dedicated employee, but at the end of the day, my goal is to spend more time with my daughter.”

We also talked openly about how often my daughter was getting sick to make sure the flexibility was there when needed. I loved the prospective team I would be working with and everything was on the table.

New job, here I come

Even though I left with my head held high for standing by my new life with my family, I was sure I BOMBED it for being too honest.

Shortly after, the company’s recruiter called offering me a great salary with benefits. I gladly accepted. Primarily, I was eager to make some progress in my journey as a working mom. Secondarily, I was PROUD of being true to myself, for keeping my eye on the prize, and for hitting the ground running in my new role.

Our team collaborated on some meaningful pieces that I will forever be proud of. We were following a sound strategy and our team dynamic was on fire. We were KNOCKING IT OUT OF THE PARK on taking our efforts to the next level.

As my manager would say, we were “Drippin’ in Finesse” and the metrics were proving it!

Please don’t go, girl

Seven months passed and my manager announced that she found her dream job and would be leaving the company. I was happy for her but sad for us. It felt like we were just getting to the height of our momentum. She set the bar really high.

To date, she is the best mentor and leader I have had. Being a working mom herself, she understood that sometimes this gig requires extra flexibility. She got creative to continue to make the position work for me and she always complimented my hard work. I put her on a pedestal.

A team of hands bumping fists in an office setting for teamwork
Team work makes the dream work

My manager was diplomatic in her approach and there wasn’t a time when she didn’t foster a level playing ground for our team. I knew that replacing her would be difficult.

When she left, I thought about going for her position, but I reminded myself that I switched jobs for better work/life balance. Besides, I was still pretty new to the company. My ambitious side is always yelling, “more, more, more.” Then the working mom side of me says, “calm down, Mallory will only be little for a little while.” I made a deal with myself that if the company asked me to apply, I would go for it. If they didn’t, I would take it as a sign and move on. They didn’t ask me and I was okay with that.

A positive mindset can help through the challenges

The rest of our team was part of the interview process for our new manager. It felt amazing to have a seat at the table and we got to meet some great candidates. At the end of the day, a couple of the higher level team members made up their minds and we went along with their selection.

We knew that the chosen candidate would be different than our previous manager, but different didn’t necessarily mean bad. She seemed to be more direct, but I wasn’t worried because I have always found a way to get along with everyone in the workplace. Besides, she was a working mother, too. I really related to her.

a dreamcatcher against the sunset
Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow.” —Helen Keller

It turned out that my manager and I had different views when it came to work/life balance. Working moms don’t always unite and it’s a shame, really. I always say that I think women can be the worst toward each other and it pains me to write it here because I learned the hard way.

Sometimes work wins, sometimes life wins

When my daughter got sick, flexibility would be extended, but not without being met with career compromising expectations. This always left me feeling torn between work and my daughter. Leniency with strings attached is tough to navigate, but I kept persevering. I really wanted to turn things around because this job was important to me.

Daycare five days a week is especially challenging for a little girl with asthma. All things considered, I think my husband and I do a pretty good job balancing it all out. Our parents on both sides are still working so outside support is limited.

black and white photo of a young girl holding a teddy bear
A sick day with my girl

It’s a blessing and a curse to work in an industry where you can still keep projects moving successfully from home. I know what I’m going to say comes at the risk of sounding entitled and mama bear-ish. There is nothing that can convince me that in 2019 my butt needs to be in a seat more than with my two-year-old who has pneumonia. Maybe that’s frowned upon in some circles, but it’s who I am and I can’t change it. I don’t want to. Mallory comes first and it’s a shame as working mothers, we have to choose so often.

Self-awareness and accountability are key

After months of trying to win my manager over, my annual review was approaching. I am an overachiever by nature so I was feeling pretty low at this point. Maybe some of it was me feeling so torn between work and life so often or maybe some of it was just a personality conflict. Either way, I reassured myself by thinking about the favorable feedback I received throughout the office instead of focusing on the negatives.

To proactively prepare for my review, I asked a coworker for a copy of my job description to hold myself accountable. I wanted to make sure that through company changes, I wasn’t dropping the ball in any way.

My coworker asked me if everything was okay. In hindsight, I should have said things were fine, but I didn’t. Things weren’t jiving and it was beyond frustrating since I came to this job for more work/life balance. I thought things would be different. I asked for confidentiality explaining that I wanted to give it more time and see how some key meetings went before taking any further action.

Baby feet in a mother's hands
When a became a mother, life became more meaningful
Fall down 7 times, stand up 8

What transpired next still leaves me speechless as I sit here. The messages we exchanged were shared with my manager without my knowledge. I wish I knew then what I know now because even the most cautious person can be blindsided. I felt personally and professionally violated and ashamed.

After she confronted me in an unpleasant way, we talked about how to move forward to repair things and I was optimistically hopeful. I focused on being a better communicator, staying more organized, and taking more initiative on department projects.

After completing all tasks to date, plus made progress for the upcoming month, I was let go. The most painful part is that they cited excessive absenteeism and performance issues as reasoning. I still can’t believe it. My PTO never ran out and I even received a favorable review the month before.

A lineup of white doors with one yellow door that stands out from the rest
Which door will open next?
And now, the silver lining

No matter where life takes me I choose to be a mother first and now I have that opportunity at a really sweet age. I’ll always be a working mom because the fire in my soul will not let me be less. I don’t care where I am or what I’m doing. If my daughter needs me, the rest of the world can wait. I know that all mothers are different, but motherhood really changed my perspective. It changed my heart, my mind, and my priorities. It changed my view of the world and my personal need to give more back to it.

A wooden desk with hands holding coffee
Sometimes, life hands you a blessing in disguise

You know that the independent digital marketing company I wanted to start? Well, serving local small businesses with “More Meaningful Marketing” was my dream and it still is. Now, I have been given the time to be ALL IN on something I’m really passionate about and successful at.

Before I lost my job, this was my side hustle. It was successful before, but now I have the time to find out how I can be the best version of myself. I’m listening to business podcasts that inspire me, I’m volunteering in my community, and I’m taking an adult timeout to really invest in the relationships that being a working mom has put on the backburner. I’m focusing on empowering other women, other mothers, and being the light that other people need to shine.

Share your story

Have you faced a trial or tribulation in your life that led you to your own silver lining? Do you have a passion for inspiring others and feel like your story would help someone in a difficult place to find their personal silver lining? I would love to help you tell your story. Let’s Talk.

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