Don’t worry about anyone else’s expectations.
The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How do you deal with the pressures of work and being a new parent at the same time?” is written by Keri Gohman, president of Xero Americas.
Becoming a mother changed everything for me. An up-and-comer at General Electric before the birth of my first child, I was nervous to go back to work because I felt like I needed to prove having a family wouldn’t distract me from my job, one that I worked hard at and loved. I learned that I can have it all, but to be successful I have to do so unapologetically and on my own terms. Here are a few rules I’ve set for myself:
Before the birth of my first child, I was working until 9 and 10 p.m. because I loved the work. Reentering the workforce, I was afraid working more limited hours would be an issue. I had to leave every day at 5 p.m. to go pick up my child. What I learned was ruthless efficiency. Every second of my day mattered, and I had to prioritize the work that would really move the needle.
When I had my third child, I chatted with my boss up front about how much travel I was willing to do. I was worried broaching the subject because I thought it might result in making some big tradeoffs. While I did make a few, at the end of the day it didn’t matter. If you have a boss who doesn’t get it and is unwilling to try, there are plenty of other companies where supportive environments exist.
Be present outside of work
Even though I may be willing to respond to an email or take a call on the weekend, when I’m riding bikes with my kids or having dinner with my family, I’m focused on that. That’s not always easy with a demanding job, but it’s essential to get the most out of every moment with my family.
We also need time to ourselves to recharge and reflect. One of my favorite pastimes is trail running, which I’ve been doing more since relocating to Denver. I’ve found that I don’t reap the full benefits of exercise when work intrudes, so I make sure this time is blocked off.
Don’t doubt yourself
Every woman I’ve talked to who has come back to work from maternity leave thinks they aren’t doing enough, aren’t good enough, and have lost their mojo. I felt that way after having all of my three kids. But this is entirely in your head. As long as you’re producing and doing great work, chastising yourself does more harm than good.
One thing that helps is talking to other women who’ve been through it. After the birth of my first child, I was fortunate to find three other women who were all just coming back from maternity leave. We would get lunch at least one day a week, which helped us all feel like we weren’t alone.
Focus on your own success
I can’t worry about how anyone else is doing. I have to set my own terms of success. Yes, I’m not the best school volunteer; I don’t always bring in homemade goodies when it’s my turn to bring in a snack; and my Facebook page does not rock. But I’m okay with that.
As my career and family have grown, I’ve learned to forgive myself more. By striving for perfection, I set the bar impossibly high and stop having fun. Instead, I’d rather enjoy a happy and balanced life.