What I’ve Learned About Myself as a Working Mom

by Becky Olson

becky-olson-what-i-learned-about-myself-as-a-working-mom

As a publicist, I’ve always found great satisfaction through my work. A true Type A personality, I enjoy making and completing to do lists, creating client plans and seeing projects through. However, I found myself at a great personal and professional crossroads in 2014 after giving birth to my first child. Until then, I had spent nearly 14 years in large PR agencies.

I was often the first to arrive and last to leave as I aspired to climb the corporate ladder. I had a dream of becoming a vice president by the time I was 30. I was also motivated by the frequent and sometimes global travel, which afforded me the opportunity to see cities I never would have visited on my own. This is how I measured my life’s success.

These days, I measure my personal and professional successes a little differently. 

During these last few years as a new (and now second-time) mom, I learned that...

I wasn’t the same person once I had a baby.

Most parents can attest to the fact a child changes their perspective. From the moment my daughter entered this world, I was surprised by how quickly and drastically her arrival affected my outlook on life, including my career.

While I was sitting on tarmacs, I wondered who would be there to drop her off and pick her up from daycare or if I would miss any of her milestones. I cried often during my maternity leave wondering how I’d be able to balance it all.

Once back, I found myself speeding down the highway to pick her up on time. I also feared I was letting my team (and myself) down if I had to step out at 5 p.m. I made the mistake of expecting I’d be the same Becky I always was when I returned. It became increasingly apparent I needed another option.

I needed to balance the scale. 

I initially thought the answer was to become a full time mom, but that left me feeling unsettled, too. I truly love my career and I wasn’t ready to give that up.

Deep down, I also knew I wasn’t cut out to stay home.

After exploring a variety of scenarios, I found the ideal solution for me with Approach Marketing working as an independent consultant. I had the rare opportunity to determine my own schedule and work on many great client accounts.  My learnings about myself didn’t end there.

At first, I thought I’d dip my toe in the water by working three days per week. I was able to attend classes with my daughter and take her on walks to the park while overseeing a few client accounts. I did this for a while but my scale still didn’t feel quite balanced.

I yearned for more professional engagement and decided to add a fourth day back to my work schedule. It’s amazing how fulfilling and uplifting work can feel when you have a say on the terms and work with others who understand.

I’m able to enjoy one special “mom and me” day but even then find myself checking in here and there – because I want to. I’ve been able to work on some pretty incredible programs with my Approach colleagues. I enjoy being creative, brainstorming, counseling clients through the planning process, as well as writing and doing media relations. I want to do this for me – and for my clients.

Consulting was the right move.

I surprised myself recently after having our second child. My maternity leave coincidentally occurred over the same stretch of time I was off with my first, so I experienced a lot of déjà vu.

I expected to have the same weepy feeling about going back and kept waiting for the tears to come, but they never did. I know there’s something to be said about being more experienced the second time, but I believe there was more to it.

I didn’t have to worry about the chaotic return or navigating traffic or missing out on important moments. I truly feel I’ve struck gold – that delicate work-life balance working parents strive so hard to achieve.

Of course, my home isn’t as tidy as it could be day-to-day, but I feel happy about the things that matter. I am continuing to grow as a professional and find great satisfaction in my work. And, as a mom, I am able to see both kids out and in the door.

I’ve learned I’m meant to be both a mom and a working professional. I’m thankful that doing PR doesn’t have to mean exhausting oneself in a big fancy office while burning the midnight oil. I like that Approach has rejected that idea and given professionals like me the chance to deliver great work in a modern, efficient way.