I have ready many blog posts and articles this week from women writing about their mothers. Here is a guest post from a former client who had to make a tough decision as a working mother. This wasn't a life-threatening decision, but she felt her decision could drain the life out of her connection with her two young daughters. She found that her choice to be home less often actually strengthened her bond with her girls.
My eyes welled up while 28 of my colleagues' eyeballs focused on me. That was not what I had planned. But during a live, on-stage professional coaching session, I admitted my fear out loud. My emotion got the best of me.
How could I possibly commit two years of my life to earning an Executive MBA while working full time when my two daughters were so young?
In addition to working in a highly visible corporate position and having expatriated with my family from the United States to Europe, conquering such a prospect seemed as daunting as climbing Everest. I would be spending classroom time on two separate campuses outside of my country of residence (1 week per month) and studying (estimated by alumni to require 15 hours per week). All of this on top of working (full-time plus), what would be left for my husband and children?
What frightened me the most was wondering that while I would physically be present during the remaining hours, would I have any emotional capacity left to give to my girls?
We traveled to London together to visit the campus and they saw me off - waving cheerfully as I rolled my heavy book bag down the crowded sidewalk. Their enthusiasm helped fuel my resolve to come up with a plan that worked.
My number one coping mechanism was the calendar - which I broke down into small bits. Then I went to every session, did every assignment, attended every business meeting, and completed every task one at a time, step by step. I checked each commitment off the list, crossing them out when they'd been completed. During each MBA class in Dubai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Mumbai, I kept at it, checking and crossing off each one when done.
During these months, I found myself at the homework table side-by-side with my girls. They would ask, "Why are you going to school? Didn't you already do that?" and "What will you get when you are done?"
This January, at age 41, I donned the cap and gown and celebrated the grand finale with classmates and my family. There stood my mom and dad, my sister and her family, and my husband all alongside my young daughters who had grown 2 years wiser since this journey began.
Their smiles and hugs made me well with another emotion - pride. I was so proud to pass on to my daughters these important lessons: you can climb any mountain, step-by-step, no matter how big it may seem, with determination, tenacity, and support from those around you; and, you can never learn enough!
We women, yes, working mothers included, can invest in ourselves. It takes time and commitment, and lots of tiring and even frightening times, but in the end, we are both enriching ourselves and our children by modeling what we most want for them. I want my daughters to be successful, happy, loving, and wise women. I have to do what it takes to show them this can be done with grace.
What story are you creating now for your daughters to remember later?
So many stories I read this week were about mothers sacrificing for their daughters. I believe you can also create stories that your children will love telling of how you stepped into your full potential. Your family will support you if you ask them to. Then invite them into the story with you, step-by-step, so everyone learns and grows in the process. This, I believe, is the model of motherhood in today's world.