Things have been a bit hectic lately. And I have no one to blame but myself. You see, I voluntarily took on extra responsibilities at the office. I am the type of person who wants to be challenged, who wants to always be learning something new. And I didn’t feel that was happening, so I volunteered to work part-time with another office in my organization. I hoped that the added work would present some new opportunities and also be a learning experience for me. Well, it was a learning experience, just not in the way I had hoped.
In an effort to show my dedication to the new team, I began answering emails after putting my son to bed. I offered to attend a major industry conference just days after my sister’s wedding, and while pregnant (my flight was canceled due to weather, so maybe someone was trying to tell me something). And I tried to learn as much as I could, all the while trying to keep up with coworkers in their 20s who don’t have families. I even attended a happy hour, which caused me to get home just prior to my son’s bedtime. I liked the people and I enjoyed the work, but it didn’t work out. And when I say it didn’t work out, I mean that it didn’t lead to some greater opportunity. They didn’t ask me to stay.
Soon, I will be heading back to my office permanently (I never really left, and maintained most of my work during the 4 + month stint with the other team). And somehow I feel as if my head will be hanging low, as if everyone knows that I didn’t really want to come back and that I ultimately failed. And I have to be ok with that. It isn’t easy – in fact, it goes against everything I feel that I stand for and how I want to be seen as an employee. But I know that, in some way, a decision I didn’t want to have to make was made for me.
As a mom of young children, I have to be ok with not ‘leaning in’. So much is said these days of having it all, and also of how having it all is impossible, a myth. And this is so true. Choices have to be made in life, whether in your career or in other areas. And my choice is to happily go back to my old office, to a job I know how to do, to an environment which allows for things like remote work and short-notice leaves of absence. To a place where I often feel stagnant, but where I understand my role, at least most days.
For some moms, leaning it might be the right choice. For others, especially those who are the primary breadwinner in their family, it might be the only choice. For me, at this point in my life, I have to be ok with it not being my choice. It is harder than you might think. There are days I want to volunteer for a new initiative, or ask to be involved on a project team because I want to learn more about it. But I simply can’t overcommit myself (again) at this point. I am guilty of doing this and getting in over my head. For me, this equates to no answering of emails after hours, no happy hours which extend my already long day, and fewer work trips to put stress in an already hectic schedule at home.
Has there been a time in your life when you have chosen to not lean in? Do you feel it was the right choice for you?