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7 Famous Women on Being a Working Mother

Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg Speaks At The American Enterprise Institute In D.C.Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg Speaks At The American Enterprise Institute In D.C.
Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. Allison Shelley — Getty Images

Balancing work and motherhood is no easy feat. But that hasn’t stopped people like Hillary Clinton, Mary Barra, and Sheryl Sandberg from doing both—and finding success along the way. In light of Mother’s Day on Sunday, seven different women, including media moguls, high-powered businesswomen, and politicians, share the trials and triumphs of being a working mom.

Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo

While speaking at the Women in the World Summit in 2016, Indra Nooyi told a story about coming across an old note that was written by her eldest daughter when she was just four or five years old. It read: “‘Dear mom, I love you. Please come home,'” said Nooyi.

“I have to remind myself of what I lost,” said Nooyi of the challenges of running a Fortune 500 company while parenting two children. While she said she doesn’t regret her life choices, she did add that she’s suffered “heartaches” and would counsel her younger self to be “careful of your choices.”

“You will look back and it will hurt like hell,” said Nooyi. “And it does.”

Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee

From the moment her daughter Chelsea was born, Hillary Clinton was determined to balance her career with motherhood.

At the time, Clinton was working as a lawyer. Shortly after becoming pregnant with her daughter, she learned that her firm did not have a maternity leave policy because, at the time, “no woman who worked in our office had ever come back to work full-time after having a baby,” she wrote in a commentary piece for Fortune in September of last year.

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“Well, I wanted to come back. I loved what I did. And it was important to me to contribute to my family’s finances, especially now that we were having a baby. Finally, as my due date approached, I decided to take matters into my own hands. When Chelsea was born, my employer agreed to grant me four months off to be home with her,” she wrote.

She continued: “And it meant a lot that I could have that time with my new daughter, knowing that my job would be waiting for me when I came back.”

Ariana Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and Thrive Global

Though becoming a mom was Arianna Huffington’s “dream come true,” she “always felt guilty” about working, she told the Huffington Post in April of last year.

“I think that’s something which every working mother feels,” she said. “And it’s really horrible because I don’t think I would’ve been happy if I was not working.”

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

Sheryl Sandberg’s husband, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly in 2015. On Mother’s Day 2016, Sandberg wrote a Facebook post detailing how difficult it is to be a single mother—a world which she described at the time as “new and unfamiliar.”

“I never understood how often the world would remind my children and me of what we don’t have—from father-daughter dances to Parent Night at school. Until we lost Dave, my brother said that he too did not realize how many ‘father’ events there were at their public school in Houston and how hard they must be for the many children without fathers,” she wrote.

She continued: “For many single mothers, this is the only world they know. Each and every day they make sacrifices, push through barriers, and nurture beautiful families despite the demands on their time and energy.”

Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube

In 2015 interview with TIME, Susan Wojcicki, who is a mother of five, emphasized the importance of family time.

“I’m not the kind of person who hangs out in the coffee area for an hour and has random conversations with people,” she said. “I like to be home for dinner with my kids, so I am ruthless about blocking my time.”

And while being a mother has its challenges, she did note how much she’s learned from the experience. “At work I have to delegate,” she said at the time. “At home I got better at getting people to help me so I can focus on the things that are important.”

Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States

Speaking at the White House Working Families Summit in 2014, Michelle Obama recalled a time when she struggled with a work-life balance when her two daughters, Malia and Sasha, were young. Obama said her babysitter had quit, and she was subsequently forced to take Sasha, who was only 4 months old at the time, to a job interview with her.

“Who I was at the time was a breastfeeding mother of a 4-month-old—and I didn’t have a babysitter, so I promptly took Sasha to the interview with me. And I thought, look, this is who I am. I’ve got a husband who’s away. I’ve got two little babies. They are my priority,” she said at the time, according to the Huffington Post. “If you want me to do the job, you’ve got to pay me to do the job and you’ve got to give me flexibility, and flexibility means that I will work my tail off for you, but you better pay me and value my family.”

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors

In a TODAY show interview in 2014, Matt Lauer asked Mary Barra if she thought it was possible to run an major company and be a mother at the same time. She responded: “You know, I think I can. I have a great team, we’re on the right path…I have a wonderful family, a supportive husband and I’m pretty proud of the way my kids are supporting me in this.”