With all the pressures mothers (and parents generally) face, how do you navigate your life when your career is important to you, but so is your family? And, is it possible to have a baby and bloom in the workplace? Or is ‘having it all’ just an illusion?
Following the celebration of her recent ramarketing baby shower, Yasmin tackles these topics head on, addressing her personal experience of pregnancy and the workplace. She discusses how she is planning for motherhood and her next career chapter.
To set the scene, I have my dream job. And, I’m not just saying that because this is a ramarketing blog. I have an incredible team and work in a business that I’ve loved for more than 6 years. I’ve progressed quickly to a senior position and all at a relatively young age.
If you follow ramarketing, you’ll know that we recently gained private equity investment via NorthEdge. I found out part-way through the PE process that I was going to be on the board of directors and this news was almost immediately followed by a positive (and somewhat unexpected) pregnancy test.
Don’t get me wrong, my partner and I have been together for over a decade and we always wanted children to be a part of our future. So we were and remain thrilled. We appreciate we’re blessed – but the timing was ironic, to say the least.
Having a family full stop
Before sharing some of my experiences, I wanted to say that families come in all shapes and sizes. And pressures surface whether you are planning a family, have a family, are trying to conceive, or are going through the adoption process. I’m surrounded by friends and family who have less than traditional routes to building their own beautiful families and so I’m mindful of the nuances involved when talking about children. This is an honest (and personal) account of my fears and thoughts so far.
I questioned whether to even write this. But, I think anyone in any position of leadership has a responsibility to be authentic and real. And if one person reads this and feels comfort – it was worth my time writing it.
For context, I’m currently 35 weeks pregnant, the size of a pig, and hungry all the time.
Hungry and hormonal
As my gorgeous colleague Emma nodded to in her recent hormone blog, they are a pain in the ass. It’s not been as challenging as some, but my pregnancy has been less than plain sailing so far. There are unrealistic ideologies that women bloom, feel amazing and look beautiful. I’m sure some do – but that definitely hasn’t been me. I even debated wearing one of my oversized hoodies to a leadership session we had planned a few weeks back… comfort over my style is my new fashion mantra.
My point is that when women are going through changes of some kind – whether it’s menopause, childbirth, or fertility treatment, there is a whole host of challenges (and hormones) that come with each life stage. You are so aware of them that you second-guess every decision or reaction you have inside and outside the workplace. Women are so conscious of not being emotional or stereotyped that any physical change adds pressure. When in reality, it probably makes you perform at a higher level because you’re more aware of it.
Your expectations are too high
Work is a huge part of my life. And when you have amazing colleagues, an exceptional leadership team, and friends within the workplace that make work even better – life is good. And, because of that, I set high standards for myself. Like most, I work a bit more than I probably should and I want our business to be the best it can be. That’s what we’re striving for. To be world-class. The past 6 years have called for continual improvement, self-awareness, and change. So I’m big on working hard, challenging myself, and learning new things.
But, maintaining my own high standards and those of the people I surround myself with over the last few months has been really, really hard.
If I’m honest with myself, I’ve set unrealistic expectations and I’ve done that alone. Raman and Emma are truly incredible and they have given me the space I needed to enjoy this time. But, I’ve wasted a lot of it trying to make sure that no one saw my standards slipping. Why? Because as a woman leading a team, I didn’t want to let anyone down. I wanted to be able to do it all. My work standards haven’t slipped, but maybe my own should have adapted.
And from the advice I’ve received recently, it will continue to be hard to work at a particular pace once the baby is actually here. So, is it unrealistic to want to continue to perform at a high level after children?
From the little time I’ve had to think about having a family and re-aligning my expectations – I guess the answer is I don’t know. But some of my idols have loving families and prioritize them – so there must be a way of achieving balance. And for any expectant parent reading this – stop worrying and enjoy the experience. It’ll work itself out.
Advice from every angle
I’m sure a lot of parents feel this. Starting a family somehow warrants unwanted opinions from every corner. Don’t get me wrong, some colleagues (ahem Katie) have been life saviors in their advice and guidance. But other not-so-close acquaintances have put the fear of god into me. Telling someone their whole life will change and that there is no way to control it is terrifying. What has saved me is the women who have told me that it’s doable (hey Gemma). And that whilst it’s hard, people across the world do it. And, in much more challenging circumstances.
Here’s some advice from me – if you’re a parent talking to an expected parent – try and add light and shade, as they’ll figure it out for themselves soon enough anyway.
Que sera, sera
The biggest thing I’ve observed over the past couple of months is how supported I am. How North Edge (especially Paul and Liam) calmed my fears, how Emma and Raman have been so excited for me personally, and how my team has upskilled and changed pace so quickly and openly.
I have been able to be open and honest and have been made to feel that work and home can work alongside one another instead of against each other.
But what about those that aren’t as supported? Those who are made to feel ashamed of their personal lives or very real emotions? Just thinking about people in this situation makes my heart ache.
If you’re in a leadership role, please be there for your team.
Respect works both ways. Take a hard look at how mothers (and parents) are supported. And, be the change the 21st century needs to see.
And, for those of you reading this knowing what’s to come for me. I have no idea right now. Ignorance is bliss. And to answer my first question, I still have no idea if you can have it all.
I’ll be sure to keep you posted and I’m excited about the ride. And, despite what I said about unwarranted opinions – any advice will be gratefully received (unless I don’t like what you have to say!) 😂