Motherhood In The Workplace: I Was Asked to Tone-Down the ‘Mommy Thing’

I will never pretend I don’t have children again.

My children are everything to me and being a mother is a huge part of my identity. It has been for almost 15 years. That is except for the one year I was asked by my former boss, who also happened to be a woman, to tone down the “mommy thing.”

It still haunts me. I decided to return to work after being home with AD for 20 months. My oldest AL was 8-years-old and my daughter B was only four-months-old. I was still nursing, yet I accepted a job in the corporate office of a franchise company to manage their communications. I wanted to give my “career” a chance. Looking back, I realize I was overwhelmed at home and suffering from a major case of the grass is always greener.

I knew on my first commute into work I had made a mistake. I cried as I drove around the beltway to work and again as I drove back home in the dark, but I wanted to give my new opportunity a chance. I told myself I would do it for one year and see how I felt then. I ignored my instincts.

On my first day I sat in a room with my new department and we took turns introducing ourselves. Of course, I went on and on about being a mother to three children. No one else mentioned their kids. In fact, I didn’t realize anyone else on the team even had children until later. After our departmental meeting, my new boss pulled me aside and “suggested” that I don’t lead with the “mommy thing.” I was stunned and insulted and embarrassed. I figured she knew what she was talking about. I hadn’t worked in the private sector before. My experience was with not-for-profit organizations, trade associations, or at a newspaper. Again, I ignored my instincts.

Instead, I fell in line and kept talk of my children to only my closest work friends. I didn’t lead with the “Mom thing” and I was miserable A LOT. I was asked to travel to their North Carolina office for a two-day meeting and I couldn’t even acknowledge that I didn’t want to go because I was a nursing mom and the thought of leaving my baby for two nights brought me to tears. I brought my pump, but my chest almost exploded because I didn’t feel like I could ask for pumping breaks during this marathon meeting of all men and my boss who didn’t have children. The pain was excruciating, but I suffered silently. I went back to my hotel room and tried to relieve my breasts, which felt like rocks, and I cried and cursed myself.

I hated working in an industry where I was usually the only woman in the room. Everyone was respectful and plenty of people could see the value I added to the company, but I wasn’t always comfortable because I wasn’t able to be me. I wasn’t able to be true to all of me. I couldn’t chat about the late-night feedings or the weaning of my daughter or the amazing no hitter my son pitched. I had to miss Thanksgiving lunch at my son’s school and tell my boss I had a doctor’s appointment instead of admitting I was going to a parent-teacher conference.

I grew resentful and didn’t feel like there was a compromise to be found. I decided that I couldn’t have the career I wanted and be the mother I wanted to be – at least not at this company. So, exactly one year after starting I left the company and started my daycare. I promised myself that I would never again compromise who I am. I would never again pretend I didn’t have children. I would be a better advocate for myself and for other women.

This is one of the biggest lessons I learned the hard way. Being a mother is not a detriment, nor does it impede my ability to be a professional. I will not compromise my heart for the sake of someone else’s insecurities. I won’t make apologies for being a mother or a woman to anyone. This is an asset. And this is why I enjoy working with and surrounding myself with other women business owners.

When I joined Femworking, which is a networking organization for female bloggers and business owners, I finally understood that I was not alone. Plenty of other women and mothers have come to the same conclusion. We are not going to simply “lean-in” and accept some screwed-up standards or rules on how to be successful in the workplace. We are going to forge our own paths.

We are creating our own businesses and controlling our own destinies. I love being my own boss and not feeling one ounce of guilt for attending Thanksgiving lunch or a parent-teacher conference.

I am one of the hardest working people I know. I juggle so much and I never complain because I am the one putting each responsibility on my plate. I am deciding how much is enough. I am prioritizing my own life and my family is always on top. I lead with being a mother in all my interactions, because this IS who I am. And being true to you is how to be a success.

Have you ever felt like you had to choose between being a mother and being a professional? Is this what motherhood in the workplace is like for you? Please leave a comment or join the discussion on the Tiny Steps Mommy Facebook page.

I will never make apologies for being a mother first.

I will never make apologies for being a mother first.

 

About 

Nicole Dash is a writer, blogger and business owner who lives in the suburbs outside Washington, DC with her husband and four children. She started her career as a journalist and copy editor. She also managed public relations and corporate communications for a national franchise company, but in 2006 started a child care business. In 2012, she launched Tiny Steps Mommy, a lifestyle and parenting blog that quickly gained a following and connected her to an expansive group of women-owned businesses. In 2013, she started a digital marketing consulting business that focused on growing community in an authentic way. Through those connections she was inspired to open Play, Work or Dash, a coworking space that also offers onsite childcare up to three hours per day. It is where like-minded professionals pursue their business goals with the extra level of support parents desire; a place where you "bring your kids to work." She is an active member of the Washington, DC blogger community. She has been published on The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Mamalode and Pop Sugar.

Comments

comments

Comments

  1. Holler! Please submit this to the Huff Po if you haven’t already. Also, if you are so inclined (and can find the time), the book Womenomics, by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, is a great read and speaks to the importance of allowing parents to be there for their young children. Not only does it make the employees loyal, instead of the employees being resentful, they work harder. Having the majority of positions be tied to a desk from 9 – 5 should be a thing of the past.

  2. I’ve done this, not commented about my children or strained to make an after hours appointment for their care so that I wouldn’t need to use leave to “handle” my children. I’m in an office environment that doesn’t respond that way to children or family life. Years ago, that wasn’t the case and I’m sure in some industries it remains so. I’ve learned, just like you have, that it’s worse to try to be someone we aren’t, to try to hard people who are so integral to our being who we are. I am the professional I am largely because I deal with smaller humans a lot. The patience and bargaining skills I’ve learned the past 13 years could not have been garnered in a board room.
    Arnebya recently posted…DevelopmentMy Profile

  3. Mercedes Dash says:

    As usual great work! I have always worked. I took 2 weeks off with each of my first 4 children. Luckily I was able to be home for number 5 as by then I had started my home based business. It was very hard managing both work and family, but I did the best I could for them and I think now as adults they would agree. Yes, family ALWAYS should come first.

  4. Blanca Alvarado says:

    I am now a retired educator, but I remember how hard it was being a single parent to three children ,while trying to work. You would think that school administrators would be more understanding of working parents, but that was not always the case. I remember one in particular who ,when I was called at school to respond to an emergency , that required stitches for my daughter, asked me if someone else could do it. He just didn’t understand why I had to leave immediately. I transferred out of there at the end of that school year. Luckily, my next administrator was wonderful and supportive of us as teachers and parents. If it’s not the right fit,move on. Great post, Nicole!!

  5. I completely relate to your story. I worked at a law office that did not have a place for me to pump. Sometimes I worked a 12-hour day and my breasts were like rocks. I could not decline working late if it was needed. I missed my son and felt like an awful mother. My focus was on mothering even as I worked on case files. I lasted a little over a year then began to work at home when I became pregnant with my daughter. It was the best decision I ever made.
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  1. […] Motherhood In The Workplace: I Was Asked to Tone-Down the ‘Mommy Thing’ (tinystepsmommy.com) I decided to return to work after being home with AD for 20 months. My oldest AL was 8-years-old and my daughter B was only four-months-old. I was still nursing, yet I accepted a job in the corporate office of a franchise company to manage their communications. I wanted to give my “career” a chance. Looking back, I realize I was overwhelmed at home and suffering from a major case of the grass is always greener. + After our departmental meeting, my new boss pulled me aside and “suggested” that I don’t lead with the “mommy thing.” I was stunned and insulted and embarrassed. I figured she knew what she was talking about. I hadn’t worked in the private sector before. My experience was with not-for-profit organizations, trade associations, or at a newspaper. Again, I ignored my instincts. […]

  2. […] Motherhood In The Workplace: I Was Asked to Tone-Down the 'Mommy Thing' (tinystepsmommy.com) My children are everything to me and being a mother is a huge part of my identity. It has been for almost 15 years. That is except for the one year I was asked by my former boss, who also happened to be a woman, to tone down the “mommy thing.” […]