This post, submitted by a SheByShe member who prefers to remain anonymous, challenges us all to ask the question, "What happens when we are truly open to new possibilities?"
Eight years ago, I got on a plane from New Zealand to America, expecting to come back 'home' within 6 months after my new recruit training was complete. As a 24 year old walking through the gate, the only thing carrying me were my legs; my mind and heart were screaming to stop and run back to my family. Reflecting upon it now, I'll admit that walking through the gate was only the start of the emotional roller coaster that would ensue throughout the following years.
Four months after I arrived in the USA, my 'job' in New Zealand fell through and I was being sponsored to remain at HQ in Los Angeles. Two years later, I married a Texan. One year later, we lost our first son to holoprosencephaly. Within 4 years after that, we had a healthy son and daughter, all the while trying to fight for my career in a fiercely competitive biotechnology company. Like many companies, membership in the 'boys club' often defined career advancement. Being promoted into an International Sales Management position in 2012, as the first female in a 5-person exclusively-male team was a highlight. Shortly after, I experienced a bittersweet lowlight of stepping down as I fell pregnant with my daughter: knowing full well that I could not work the hours nor tolerate the stress associated with my international management position with a baby in the house. Already having a 2.5 year old was difficult enough. Did I mention that the other managers on my team had stay-at-home-wives/moms yet my husband and I both worked full-time?
I stepped down into a training position: something which was calculated in my career to provide me the breathing room to give my kids their Mom, and my husband his wife. However, there wasn't a day I didn’t feel a hint of conflict in my decision: that I somehow let females down for taking a side step for the family. Reading Ann Marie-Slaughter's article "Why Women Still Can't Have it All" gave me some respite when she said "women should think about the climb to leadership not in terms of a straight upward slope, but as irregular stair steps, with periodic plateaus (and even dips) when they turn down promotions to remain in a job that works for their family situation...think of these plateaus as “investment intervals...[or]...putting money in the family bank,”. I re-read that passage multiple times and felt my decision had finally been validated.
As my youngest began sleeping through the night, I felt it was time to turn up the intensity in my career path again: hiring a business coach to help me overcome things that I 'tolerate' at work and helping me re-define what I wanted professionally. For 3 months, I was ridiculously busy: writing and re-writing resumes; applying for jobs; getting rejection letters; networking with like-minded professional women, and being generally 'active' in my career choices. This process could be a blog in itself. However, four weeks ago, I let it go. I needed a mental and emotional break. I had never been turned down for a job before and it had been incredibly depleting getting those emails - tainting my previously spotless job track record. I figured I was doing something wrong, and needed some time to reflect. I was fighting the current, and it was exhausting.
A funny thing happened during this break: two recruiters (one whom I had never met) reached out me to with amazing opportunities. One opportunity would result in a "Director" position and the other had the word "National" in it: hugely promising roles with incredible companies. I realize I haven't got either of these jobs yet; I’m still in the interviewing stage. Both opportunities may still fall through. However, it reminds me to be open to the possibility that the universe can conspire with you; that the universe doesn't discriminate against those with young kids. How this turns out, I don't know. What I do know is that having kids doesn't stop me from trying to achieve amazing things with my career, and it shouldn't stop you either.