Hi Is This Normal,

I’m a former CMO of a big ad agency, recently resigned board member of a major non-profit and mentor to countless young ambitious women all over my city. I’m proud to be the mama of two beautiful boys (twins) who are nearing their 1st birthday.

I have spent my entire life (aside from the last 20 months) building my network, climbing the corporate ladder and holding myself to an impossibly high standard as a female change-maker in the industry.

I don’t want to go back. I want to be my kids’ mom. That is all I want. Everything I used to care about and focus on and throw my energy at and stay up late for and work weekends for means TRULY NOTHING to me now.

And I can’t stand how much doubt people have in that. I’m so sick of the stigma, of having to explain myself, of the ‘wasted talent’ attitudes. I don’t want to feel like I’m sacrificing and yet, that’s all my community is making me feel.

How do I break the stigma and get people to see my decision as exciting, empowering and a new adventure? Or should I not even bother and just keep getting pummeled for reprioritizing my life?

Thanks,

CMNo.

 

Dear CMNo,

Here’s the deal. You could have written this very thing about me (ok, maybe not the CMO and board member part, but you get the idea). I did the career thing, I worked my butt off to climb that ladder, and I relished in my own success. I get it – you worked hard, and it paid off. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished! And now twins?! I have two kids, four years apart, and my brain actually breaks trying to picture doing it with two at the same time. Kudos to you forever. Xoxox.

But let’s start by being real with yourself: why do you think you’re worrying about what your friends and others think about this decision?

Here’s what I think: the people in your life aren’t putting nearly as much pressure on you as you’re putting on yourself. Sure, they might have some doubts about your decision to transition from your career to full-time motherhood. But is it possible that no one is really paying as much attention to it as you think? Self-doubt is a bitch, and it can sneak in even when we’re 100% sure we made the right decision. Or maybe, just maybe, they’re projecting their own self-doubts onto you, because you had the courage to actually make the leap. A quote from one of my mama role models Kristen Bell comes to mind here: “I find that the vast majority of people who are judging are just fearful or insecure.”

That being said, it is true: Women are often between a rock and a hard place when it comes to motherhood and their career. Go back to work and we’re bad moms. Walk away from our career and we’re throwing away our future. It’s a terribly unfair decision. How awesome would it be if people were just like, “Wow, you’re going to balance motherhood and your career, that is amazing!” Or, “Enjoy these years at home with your kids, when you’re ready to reenter the workforce you are going to absolutely kill it!”

You’ve probably noticed, being almost a year into this mom gig, that mothers are judged relentlessly, pretty much no matter what we do. We’re judged on what we feed our babies. We’re judged on how we get them to sleep. We are judged on sending our kids to daycare, not sending them to daycare, being too attached, not being attached enough. We also (maybe mostly?) judge ourselves. It feels like everyone is demanding absolute perfection from mothers, yet can’t seem to agree on who the perfect mom actually is! Sadly, I think this will always be the case, and we can either drive ourselves mad trying to win, or just say eff it and do what makes us and our kids happy. My advice to you: just say eff it. Your priorities changed when you became a mom, and there is not a single thing wrong with that. Are you walking away from a lot? Possibly. Are you walking toward something that could offer you more, just in a different way? Probs. And are you walking away forever? That’s entirely up to you.

Ignore the naysayers, and focus on making the most of this time (it goes so fast, I can’t even tell you). Something tells me you’ll have no problem reentering the workforce down the road, should you choose to do so. And if you do, think of all the nose-thumbing you’ll get to do at everyone who questioned your decision. Best of luck on this new adventure, you’re in for quite the ride!

Don’t Let the Haters Get You Down,

Is This Normal

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