A few days before the panel, I joined the other participants on a conference call to prepare our talking points. There were five panelists in total, but other than myself, there was only one other working mom. She unfortunately had to leave the call early, so we never got to talk about the topic of motherhood or how it may come up on our panel. I didn’t speak up much the rest of the call, preferring mostly to listen to the other women’s ideas. I decided that if, during the panel, I found I didn’t have much to say, I’d just sit back and let my compatriots do most of the talking. It seemed like a safe plan.
Well, that’s not how the evening unfolded… at all. In fact – surprise, surprise! – I found I had a lot to say.
Although we covered a lot of ground in our discussion, the talking point that resonated the most with me was the struggle of balancing work and family. I may be a relatively new mom, but this balancing act has really consumed the past year of my life… and, really, much longer if you count my pregnancy and the many years in which I contemplated how the hell I would figure out a way to have kids and maintain my career. When this discussion point came up, I found myself making some strong assertions. “This is something that men just don’t contemplate in the same way,” I said at some point. I went on to point to an example of that, explaining that my husband, Chris, had decided to quit his job and start his own business when our son was just six months old. “I am proud of him, and his business is doing great,” I explained, “but that’s something I would never have considered in the first year of our son’s life. I wouldn’t have given myself the luxury of that possibility because I just assumed I would have to sacrifice part of my career in order to be a mom… especially in the beginning.” I was worried that voicing an opinion like that would alienate and perhaps even offend some of the people in the room… particularly the men. But I learned throughout the evening that this wasn’t the case at all; in fact, most of the men there seemed genuinely interested in hearing our thoughts, particularly on matters that they might not think about the same way (like work-life balance). We went on to talk about a lot of other things, but it was in the discussion about work and parenthood that I found myself really hitting my stride and finding confidence that I didn’t know I had.