In "Lean in While Pregnant: A 39-Week Odyssey", Vice President of Programming Amanda Meeson talks about staying in the game...even when you're "staying in the game for two!
Here I sit typing this as a 38 week pregnant woman riding the Metro North from CT to NYC to start my day at The Leadership Program where I am the VP of Programming. The irony is, as the picture indicates, I cannot fully open my laptop between the space on my ever-growing lap and the seat in front of me. To be honest, everything in my largely pregnant, nesting body is telling me to put my feet up and stay home to wash and fold adorable, cozy onesies. Yet, everything at work is telling me to keep my running shoes on and stay in the game! I deeply value the work we do and the people I work with, so I’m choosing to lean in—at close to nine months pregnant.
Now, I recognize this isn’t everyone’s preferred flow and that this is a highly charged topic both in terms of women in the workforce and our nation’s debate on paid childcare leave. When you add the fierce female commentary (we can be so hard on each other, ladies!) on the personal decisions our infamous tech goddesses Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg have made, I feel obliged to give a few caveats:
#1: I have a good comfy seat at the table. My boss is a mom, our owner is a mom, I work in a company that is close to 70% female and I’ve logged over 10 years of service to this organization allowing me to piece together 3 months of paid time off.
#2: I’m having a healthy, happy pregnancy and feel comfortable working up until the finish line.
#3: I am a huge fan of being true to oneself. My priorities and perspectives may not match yours, but I hope you have found your groove. This post is about me sharing mine.
To start back at my roots, I come from a legacy of strong-German-working women. My Oma came to this country and cleaned people’s homes in Queens while my mom was with her in the stroller sleeping nearby. My own mother worked as an editor when I was born. She would bring me to work at her office (super progressive for the 70’s!) and I would lay in the infant-seat in her office while she worked. Crazy? Kind of. Empowering? Absolutely! The quest to master my balance of motherhood and worker-hood is in my veins.
At work: I am blessed to work at a company that does truly game-changing work developing strong leaders in all facets of life: schools, organizations, corporate company culture, personal coaching, and beyond. The mission of the company is alive in me (I know, so cheesy, but I’m totally serious) and my focus and contributions here are incredibly important to me. However, even the perspective of this second pregnancy doesn’t dismiss the inner struggle I feel in anticipation of leaving the company for a few months. Am I really needed? Can they do it without me? How can I contribute from afar? How am I valuable? Am I doing enough as I exit? How will I return and prove myself? Pregnancy and motherhood have been a consistent practice in vulnerable humility and I don’t swim in those waters comfortably. These feelings are real and raw.
Now, from a company’s perspective, family leave of any kind can be costly, especially for a small company like ours. It costs if a temp or freelancer needs to be hired during an employee’s absence. It can also cost in terms of increased burnout and lower morale among employees supporting the leave. Quality of product or service can also suffer as staff are spread thin to support the coverage. During my time, I have witnessed multiple child care leaves where I’ve seen parents who bounce back upon their return, refocus back to their work setting and hit the ground running, perhaps exhaustedly, but we’ll take it. I’ve also seen parents whose time leading up to child care departure and return can total close to a year of work/home adjustment and acclimation. There can be many reasons for this, whether it’s a re-assessment of priorities, personal health, health of a child, or one’s own emotional attachments and needs. The reality of these costs to a company, colleagues, and new-moms-and-dads are important to consider as I enter and exit my own childcare leave and as we advocate for mandated childcare leave in our country.
At home: When I had my first child, it absolutely changed my approach to the work because it became sacred to me to be home on time for my family as often as possible. There were less available hours in the day to work or pull late nights, so my work/life priorities had to be crystal clear. I didn’t absorb the daily blows of the business in the same way thanks to a rambunctious Reggie in my face as I walked in the door, swiftly altering my perspective. When I enter our home around 6:30pm, my second shift begins and we dive into dinner, clean-up, prepping meals and gear for tomorrow at pre-school, puzzles, bath, teeth, bedtime, songs, books, lotion, massage, etc. You know what I’m talking about and it’s exhausting, but it’s my fullest life and this yearning to be present pours out of me.
Below are a few essential requirements that have helped me lean in… at work and at home:
- A fierce and focused drive on what you want to get out of life.
- A strong partner who is as committed to your goals as their own.
- A bada*s resilience to get you through when times feel tough.
- Patience and deep breaths.
- An outlet for YOU. Mine is dancing, whenever and however I can get it. Oh, and naps, wine, and gardening.
- A company and/or boss who values family.
As I finish this post in week 39 of my pregnancy, I am officially sluggish, swollen, emotional, and slightly anxious about the adventure ahead. I am also energized, passionate, humble, and open to how the growth of our family will change my life. We are all trying to do our best to juggle and balance whatever is most important to us. I wish you the best on your quest.
For me, I remain committed to leaning in at work and into motherhood… again.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to do both.
Share your perspective with us, whether it is attempting to balance work and home or perhaps as one of the colleagues who supports those of us who take leave. Any tips to share on how you effectively lean in? You can find me on linkedin or Tweet to @amandameeson