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Navigating Parenthood & A Career

Posted February 9, 2022
Denisse Soker

Balancing Being a New Parent & A Career

Over the past seven years, Denisse has focused on B2B digital marketing in the technology sector. In the past few years, Denisse has become a proud parent and has faced new scrutiny in the workplace, particularly during the interview process. Whether you’re a parent or not, her need to redefine values and examine where work aligns (or does not align) with that vision is extremely relatable.

“It was a journey. The deep reflection began with my maternity leave. I felt comfortable with motherhood right away. But when I needed to go back to the workforce, it was a huge dilemma. I felt stuck and needed a change. I wanted to advance to the next level. However, that’s when everyone began questioning my choices about my career and the risk it could introduce to my family.

“I was asked, ‘Why do you need to go on a new adventure? It’s more comfortable and more stable where you are.’ I wanted to be true to myself. If you are ambitious, you want to keep moving. But people were very blunt about what they thought I should do as a mother and what was best for my family.

“I chose to stay true to myself and go for that promotion, which meant looking for a job while on maternity leave.

“That was a nerve-wracking process. Because people were questioning me, I questioned myself. At times, it was hard to know whether I was staying true to myself or caving in to the pressure. 

job description vs vision

“Once you become a mother, everyone offers their opinion on everything, including your career.”

External pressures aside, Denisse knew that her values and priorities could change after becoming a parent. She wasn’t sure whether her career goals would remain the same and gave herself time to introspect. The additional leave mothers get in many countries (an average of 18 weeks at least partially compensated versus 0 weeks in the United States) outside of the United States affords mothers time to adjust to the demands of raising an utterly dependent child before easing back into their career.

“Before going on maternity leave, I put decisions about my career on hold. I felt I owed that to myself. I knew I had to reevaluate my boundaries, values, and what’s important to me. I also separated what society told me about being a mom and what I wanted for myself and my family. It was interesting to go through that thought process amid some major changes in my life, but ultimately, I decided to look for a new job.”

The job hunt did not go as expected.

“There were a lot of questions that I was asked during interviews that weren’t very appropriate. They wanted to know how I would feel about working full time while being a new mom. They wanted to know if I was ready to work at all. They wanted to know how I would balance being a mother and working. They wanted to know how often I needed to pick up my kid and the time I’d need to spend away from my computer.

“I had family members tell me that I could create boundaries and a new normal. In the interview process, I had to set boundaries with future employers and be very transparent about what I needed from an employer from the start. I didn’t go through long interview processes for companies that weren’t suitable for me. It set the tone for me to find a place where I got the flexibility to be both the parent and the employee I wanted to be.”

Why Transparency is Key

Denisse took the time to understand what she needed for herself and what she wanted for her family. She realized that communicating goals and needs clearly during the interview process would help establish whether or not both Denisse and the prospective employer were a good match.

“I think as people, we shouldn’t feel ashamed to be open and share not only our struggles but our day-to-day experiences as a parent. 

“I read a LinkedIn post from a colleague who’s also in the marketing space, and I really related to it. She said that when she picked up her kids, she put ‘busy’ in her calendar because she felt she needed to hide the time invested in her kids. If they were sick and she needed to be home to take care of them, she wouldn’t say they were sick. She would take sick days.

“At the beginning, when I’d just come back from my maternity leave, I wasn’t comfortable sharing much about being a parent because I saw that everyone else hid that part of their lives. It was kind of taboo to talk about parenting. It was like you had to be an employee and prioritize work over family

Wish list of employee traits

“Transparency comes not just from the workplace but also from regular people. We need to be more open about parenthood and involvement with our families. People like me would feel more comfortable if we knew it was okay. We wouldn’t be ashamed that we need to pick our kids and do the stuff that’s required of us as parents.”

While COVID-19 has been a terrible ordeal, there were a few silver linings. Sitting on Zoom calls with coworkers has opened up our lives to one another. It has exposed more people to the unavoidable messiness of life and is forcing us to be a little bit more transparent.

“The pandemic definitely accelerated increased transparency. However, it was a movement that had already started. During the pandemic, I was exposed to Brené Brown. I love her books and lectures. She has been advocating for more vulnerability. 

“I think that if people shared more, it would allow other people to feel more comfortable being vulnerable.

“Being a parent accelerated my comfort with being transparent. Today, I’m in a workplace where people are very open about parenting, and they feel okay sharing about picking their kids up. They even share pictures of their kids. I hope for other parents that this will eventually become the norm for everyone.” 

What Stands Between Us & Vulnerability

After reminiscing about her experience as a working mom, Denisse shared what she would tell her past self if she could travel back in time.

“I felt comfortable being a mom, but then when I started finding my place as a working mom, I became a bit depressed. I saw I wasn’t getting the same opportunities. I wasn’t advancing at the same speed that I previously did.

“I don’t know if it would help, but I’d tell myself that it’s okay to get the opportunities that fit me at the speed it happens. I needed a job that suited me as a person. That’s something that took me a lot of time to feel okay about.

“If I could leave upcoming mothers with a specific piece of advice, it would be not to give up. I think there’s a lot of pressure, and companies will be forced to take a more human approach.”

In November 2021, 4.5 million people quit their jobs in the US after 4.2 million quit in October. While health concerns, job safety, and lack of healthcare have contributed heavily, the number one reason people quit is toxic work culture. 

When people are faced with a significant change in their lives–like becoming a parent, facing a global pandemic, or any number of things–they reevaluate their values. If their company doesn’t align with their values, they may quit.

Wish list of employee traits (2)

Employers who want to retain their employees should model a transparent and open manner. They should allow employees to admit they are family members and take care of the people around them.

“It will take time for people to adjust to these changes. I think employers have to go through a learning process. Those who don’t adapt will hit the wall and reevaluate their culture. I believe this will happen to a lot of companies.”

For more on finding balance and a better work culture, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.