Recently, company culture towards working mothers has seen some improvement. For example, fewer people are talking about the unrealistic idea of “having it all” (which creates unnecessary pressure on women), and more discussion around making work flexible to better support parents. Additionally, many companies have created policies that give benefits to working parents. The U.S. Navy recently extended their paid maternity leave policy to 18 weeks, and IBM is now making it easier for traveling moms to ship breast milk to their babies.
Every working mom experiences guilt, despite having the best policies in place. Though parenthood is not always easy, it can occasionally inspire a more determined work ethic, as these three women illustrate.
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Elizabeth Chambers: Co-Owner of BIRD Bakery and Chief Correspondent of the Human Rights Foundation
“I’ve never been as motivated as I was when I was pregnant with my first child. I had a definitive amount of time to get things done and I wanted to accomplish as much as possible in what seemed to be a very short 9 (really, 10) month span. Everything seemed to count more and I felt as if I were working for not only myself but for someone else too. Without even knowing it, my daughter was pushing me to succeed. She’s now 8 months old and I realize this has become a reoccurring theme that has extended far beyond her time in the womb.
As a mother, I’m more focused on success now than I’ve ever been and I think that’s largely in part because of the example I want to set for my daughter. I’m extremely aware of not making excuses as a result of being a busy, first-time mother with a young child and have tried my best to use that fact as more of a motivating force and less of a crutch. I want to be the woman that my daughter thinks I am. Which of course, is solely my interpretation of what that would be, as she has been on this earth for a solid 32 weeks—less than 250 days. But it shows the power of parenting and how it has redefined my view of success.
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Before becoming a parent, I would have defined my success by how much I accomplished in a day and how many goals I achieved. That is more true than it has ever been before, but there is now an added component. Success is now marked by not only what things are done, but how they are done. Being a parent calls into question the approach—to everything. It becomes not only about achieving goals and marking things off your to-do list, but about being a more decent person in the process. With everything that I do, I’m mindful of the way that I do it. I’m careful to approach things in a way that would and will one day make her proud to call me her mother.”
Chelsea Cohen: Founder, and CEO of Synaptic Talent
“Prior to having my daughter, I pursued a traditional path to ‘success:’ studied hard, got good grades, went to top schools, worked for top companies, and received excellent performance reviews—even awards such as Google’s ‘Biggest Impact on Innovation in Diversity Hiring.’ However, my definition of “success” changed once I became a mom. I couldn’t imagine commuting to an office, being away from my daughter just to put in extra hours for a promotion or to attend company happy hours. While I was on maternity leave from Google, I moved with my husband and our new baby to Baltimore, M.D. for my husband’s job—during which I spent lots of time doing research to potentially start my own recruiting business. I was lucky enough to have three things that made starting a business a lot easier: a valuable professional network, a solid reputation, and a supportive partner. So, shortly after my daughter was born, I gave birth to Synaptic Talent.
I want to show my daughter that women can build their own futures and be entrepreneurs. Eventually, I hope to pursue my passion for women’s empowerment by using my profits to become an angel investor for women-owned businesses. It is difficult to imagine going back to work for someone else, mostly because the creativity and grit involved in being an entrepreneur feel so empowering and stimulating and because being my own boss provides me with the flexibility to focus on my number one priority: my daughter. Starting and running a business with a baby isn’t easy, though. Several times in the early days of both motherhood and my business, when my daughter was home sick from daycare, I would attempt a work call while breastfeeding or even while changing a diaper! But I am a more efficient, productive entrepreneur and a balanced, purposeful, happy mother.”
Heidi Krupp: CEO & Founder of Krupp Kommunications
“After graduating with a degree in journalism, I landed my dream job working at ABC News as the assistant to the publicist at ’20/20.’ It didn’t take me long to realize that I wanted to be a publicist and not a producer. My mentor, the literary agent, Jan Miller, strongly suggested that I raise $5,000 and start my own PR business. I actually found someone who wanted to purchase my 1989 Toyota Celica convertible for $5,000 cash and I was on my way! I started Krupp Kommunications, Inc. (also known as ‘K2′) in 1996, working from my studio apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey. K2 is now a 30-person agency located in New York City’s Chelsea district. In a lot of ways, K2 was my first ‘child.’
As an entrepreneur, I focused a great deal on my career, versus my personal life. As a result, I got married later in life, so I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to have a child. My journey to motherhood was long and challenging. Fortunately for me, I see challenges (and problems) as gifts, because they are always associated with growth, and there are always valuable lessons learned. People always say ‘You can have it all,’ but they never tell you how.
My breakthrough came when I simply learned to let go. I stopped worrying about whether I could conceive, and started focusing on having my baby. If I could be strategic when it comes to business, why couldn’t I apply it to something else that was important to me? After letting go, I finally gave birth to my ‘miracle son,’ Caden, but the lesson didn’t end there. My husband, Darren, is involved in K2. I needed to let go again while I was on three-month maternity leave, and let him handle everything (fortunately for me, my husband is brilliant!). This helped me to become a better leader because after having a child, I saw things differently. I needed to apply this ‘letting go’ thing to my business. So when I did return to work, I used the magic formula of ‘letting go and focus’ to change the way I do business. I started focusing less on myself, and my abilities, and more on building an agency staffed with gifted storytellers. Who knew I could ‘have it all by letting go?
Today, Caden is 4½ years old, and my husband, Darren, and I spend as many mornings and nights with him as possible. Both the business and our child are important to us in different ways, and Darren and I rely on our vision and instinct to guide them. To me, success means watching both of my ‘children’ grow up. Whether it’s celebrating my team’s wins or rooting for Caden’s achievements, becoming a mom is the greatest joy of my life!”
In what ways has become a mother—or the idea of becoming one—altered your definition of success? Let us know in the comments section below.
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