Last week I celebrated ten years at my job, TEN YEARS! It seems like just yesterday I was sitting down with human resources, and the woman in charge was explaining the benefits of reaching this ten-year milestone. I clearly remember thinking, “Give me the entry-level pay and lack of security, I never want to be THAT old!” Well guess what, ten-years, three babies, three maternity leaves, and a million reports later…here I am, a thirty-huh? year old woman!
It takes my breath away to look back and realize how quickly the time has gone by. But here I am, and let me say, it has been a journey. My professional journey has been one of frequent ups and downs. There were weeks, days, and hours, after becoming a mother that I was unsure if I had what it took to make it all work. There were reports, reviews, meetings, and supervisors who tested my patience, sanity, self-worth and intelligence. After each maternity leave, there were weeks filled with uncertainty and hours spent guessing and second guessing my decision to remain employed. There were schedule changes that allowed me to reduce the number of hours I worked, and schedule changes encouraging me to increase them. It was tough, but my support system was tougher.
Taking a look back at the past decade, it is crystal clear that the reason I was able to sustain my career was because of the amazing support system I have. Of course, I was the one who made the decision to stick with it, and I do give credit to my resolve, but really…it’s the support system! I’ve been fortunate enough to have an amazingly supportive husband who never feels a sense of entitlement about putting his career before my mine. My parents and in-laws were supportive, helpful, and always willing to help with the girls. My direct supervisor, who is now one of my friends, and the mentor who I will always look up to most, made certain that I felt comfortable in my work environment and placed in me the trust I needed to balance my career and family. And my friends – all the friends who supported me, gave me the boost I needed when I was down, who laughed and rolled their eyes at me on the days I was ready to toss it all away, and the stay at home moms who shared with me their stories and reasons for choosing to stay home – they allowed me to see the complete perspective and were helpful in reminding me that it’s all about choice, and at the end of the day there is no right or wrong answer.
So here I am ten years later, and somehow I’ve made it. I have earned a certain amount of security for my family. But this reflection is about more than my personal achievement, it’s about the treatment of working moms. I have been fortunate enough to work for a thoughtful, intelligent, balanced supervisor who understands that women account for a large portion of the workforce and in order to have a balanced work environment it’s important to be sensitive to the needs of working parents. I know this isn’t the case for many working moms. It blows my mind that in 2015 I continue to hear stories from friends about how their boss has pulled them aside to let them know their work environment wasn’t “great for working mothers” and that perhaps they should look elsewhere for employment. I have heard stories of withholding schedule reductions, lack of accommodations for nursing mothers, and restricted leave for postpartum mothers. Women have earned the right to make their own professional decisions, and working mothers who decide to remain employed should be supported, not targeted. This type of treatment cannot continue.
Family friendly work environments should be the rule not the exception.
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