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10 to Twins

By Jessica T

About this blog: I'm a late thirties mother of a ten-year-old and infant twins. My family moved to Menlo Park 6 years ago from Virginia - where I grew up, went to college, got married, had my first born, and got an MBA (in that order). I'm a manag...  (More)

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The mommy hustle

Uploaded: Dec 12, 2013
Maternity leave has been blissful. At the beginning of my leave, I was focused on the babies' hour-to-hour care and my own recovery - in short, survival. As the months have passed, though, my days have become busy - a natural transition for going back to work.

Several days a week are filled with professional pursuits. I've returned to the office a number of times for a few hours to reconnect with contacts, get updates from my managers, and have discussions about my return. And although I only stay on campus for a couple of hours, the hustle is on as I dress for work, feed the babies, and get out the door in time to make my appointments. In fact, some weeks ago in an effort to prioritize my time, appear professional, and be prompt, I painted two toenails on each foot (the ones that would be exposed through my heels).

My time off has also been great for reconnecting with my professional network. Free time and new babies to show off has given me a chance to reach out to several special people I've worked with over time. Theirs are the emails I put off sending when I'm slammed at work because it's just too hectic. But it's been invaluable to have a chance to keep my network of female mentors and professional friends strong and to say thank you to those who have helped me along the way. I've even forged stronger relationships with several of my colleagues who were simultaneously out on maternity leave. Our bonds have been reinforced as we've shared the experience of having new babies in addition to a common workplace.

Meeting with past and present colleagues has also meant researching their companies and businesses so as to engage in meaningful conversations about what they are up to and how the tech industry is evolving. It's allowed me to keep my mind sharp and has kept my leave fresh week after week. A sabbatical from work has given me the distance to consider business models, branding messages, and internet advertising with renewed perspective. I've even read several business books (when I'm working these don't provide the escape I need) and absorbed some key lessons about transformative leaders in the valley, vision, strategy, and yes, leaning in!

Extra time in the day has allowed me to foster friendships - new and old. I've connected with parents and teachers at my daughter's school (when I'm working, I'm rushing to drop-off or pick-up). I've even co-led two Girl Scout meetings for my daughter, something I've never been able to do before. I've followed-up with people I've met throughout our fertility and pregnancy journey and had a chance to help celebrate their special milestones - whether it's a pregnancy, new baby, or new dog.

Maternity leave has helped me be the person I want to be. The question now is, will I be able to retain this generous outlook as I head back to the working world? Will I be able to take the time to keep learning and get to know the people who are buzzing in and out of our lives?

What have your experiences with maternity leave or time off been like? How have you brought what you've learned with you has you transitioned back to "real" life?
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Dec 12, 2013 at 11:31 am

Oh dear, here we go again.

Going back to paid employment, work happens looking after your family.

Real life happens at home, not in the artificial world of the office.

If you want to talk about returning to paid employment after maternity leave fine, but please do not insult us mothers who work very hard looking after a family as not working or living in the real world, thank you.

Posted by Mother of 4 , a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Dec 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Sorry to snap, but I think you get my meaning. I feel very fulfilled without the need to have a "job". There are a lot of us about and we are not all SAHMs. Yes, I could go back to having a career, and still might, but at present I enjoy my life as it is.

Now that my youngest is getting older I find that I do have time on my hands at different times of the day to do more challenging things. My time during the day is often spent volunteering and yes I have and continue to do school and kid related volunteer activities, but it is also refreshing to do some other types of things too which are not kid related.

The libraries, the homeless, animals, the environment, the elderly or those with disabilities, among other non-profits, are all manned by volunteers, often women who are using their new found freedom from the home or paid employment to explore real life rather than the rat race of commerce. We are doing our part to making this community a better place for all of us to live and not looking at dollars as reward. It doesn't mean we are escaping from reality or some type of second class citizens. Just people doing a good job with other motivation than a paycheck.

Posted by mom of teenagers, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Dec 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Jessica - this may be a naive question, but if you went through so much to have your twins and your break from full time work has allowed you to participate more fully in your older daughters life, your friends lives and "has helped make you the person you want to be" why are you not pursuing alternatives to returning to work?

Mother of 4 - I don't see anything in Jessica T's post that implies she thinks women need to work outside the home to be fulfilled, in fact I hear her clearly enjoying not working outside the home.

Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Dec 13, 2013 at 8:52 am

mom of teenagers - I agree she doesn't talk about a need to being fulfilled as you say, she is obviously feeling very fulfilled. It is her use of the term back to work implying that there is no work to be done at home being a full time mom and her phrase back to real life, as if there is no real life being at home with her kids, or that it is somehow a fantasy or dream, that I take umbrage.

Posted by say something, a resident of Martens-Carmelita,
on Dec 13, 2013 at 10:53 am

Jessica is suppose to reply these questions, no? Both of your comments are valid.

Posted by Jessica T, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Jessica T is a registered user.

Going back to the "real life" is a reference to taking a break and returning to work (whatever that may mean for my readers). For me, it means going back to the office. I have felt fulfilled on leave, in part, because I do plan to return to work. You see, I think I'm actually a better mom when I'm working. And I've been able to really relish the time off because I know it will end. The truth is, I'm excited about returning to work. I have an exciting new opportunity that I'll be embarking on, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel ambivalent at times and daunted by the responsibilities that lie ahead.

My husband and I took a long walk yesterday and discussed whether an alternate arrangement was feasible for us. From a financial perspective, it's not. (And if you don't believe me, read up on how our state has been de-funding its public universities.) We've always also regarded my husband's role as professor as a public service. In our family, having non-traditional gender roles works even though we occasionally feel the pull of more traditional ones.

Posted by Sarah, a resident of Community Center,
on Dec 13, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Thank you for this post. When I was on maternity leave with my first baby, I felt very isolated and lost a lot of ground at work. It's refreshing to read about a positive maternity leave experience and get me thinking about how I can make the leave actually help my professional life.

I'm surprised to read such aggressive comments above. This blog post was entirely positive and included no hint of judgment about being a career mother versus staying at home. Given the cost of living in this area, there must be many families who don't have a choice regarding going back to paid jobs after maternity leave.

There is no shortage of wonderful SAHM blogs out there (many of which I read), in contrast I have seen few blogs by mothers who work outside the home. It's so helpful to hear about how others juggling a career and trying to be good parents make it all fit. Thanks!!

Posted by Samantha, a resident of El Carmelo School,
on Dec 13, 2013 at 9:26 pm

How sad that you got attacked by the SAHM who tried to fire up the mommy wars. Hey mom patrol, she chooses her choice just like you supposedly did. Yay for the fact that you decided to spend your expensive education cutting out paper dolls and stuffing Friday folders. It's like the 60s never happened in Palo Alto. Women want the chance for fully realized lives. You fully realized yours on the couch and doing laundry. When your kids are grown and you live on in your parasitic role being supported for no good reason whatsoever even though you should be able to feed yourself after daddy sent you to Smith you can meditate in yoga class on why a healthy 50 year old adult with no children at home does not have to be self supporting or self actualizing. Women went to jail to get what you have thrown out the window. Dependency generally ends badly.

Posted by mom of teenagers, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Dec 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Samantha - Speaking of starting wars, you appear to want to start one. One reason our school district is so strong is because of our volunteer parents who do much more than "cut paper dolls and stuff Friday folders". They raise money for our schools, volunteer in the classroom, drive and chaperone for field trips. They serve as docents in many of the places our children are able to visit on field trips, from Jasper Ridge to the Cantor museum. They also volunteer in schools in the Ravenswood school district.

Many SAHMs (and Dads) of Palo Alto are really just unpaid workers. They make many organizations possible from College Track to the Boys and Girls Clubs to scouting, little league, AYSO soccer, etc. Not earning a salary doesn't mean you are dependent. There are many working parents that are "dependent" on the kindness of neighbors and fellow parents to pick up the slack when their kids are sick, school is closed for the day, their child needs a ride to an after school activity, etc.

People can realize "fully fulfilled lives" without a paying job or with a paying job. Not all fulfilling activities earn you an income.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Dec 15, 2013 at 6:33 am

"I think I'm actually a better mom when I am working." That is an amazing statement. Your column is all about finally being present with your family precisely because you are not working outside the home right now.

Posted by Jessica T, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 15, 2013 at 9:30 am

Jessica T is a registered user.

Dear Mom - You are entitled to your own interpretation of my column, but this post actually is full of examples of being a better professional, friend, and community member because of a break from work - not necessarily about being a better mother. One could criticize me just as easily for pursuing other interests outside of the home when I'm on leave from work rather than solely spending my time with the kids. Here's what I've learned: I can still lead a Girl Scout meeting with my daughter from time to time when I return to work if I choose to prioritize it.

Sarah - I'm so happy to hear this blog is filling a need for working moms as well as my other readers!

Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Dec 15, 2013 at 9:47 am

I happen to think that as women we have a choice, particularly as a result of those brave women who "went to jail" for the likes of me, as to how we decide to live our lives. No longer are we supposed to look for a husband who can keep us in the manner to which we were accustomed from our parents. But the thing is we have a choice. My "expensive education" was just that, an education and education is not necessarily to find us a fit career to earn lots of money, but the ability to live a life to its full potential in whatever way we choose.

Without an education, I would not be the person I am, probably not married to the husband I have, and not have the same values at home to teach my children.

I work very hard at home doing a lot more than making paper dolls with my children, often doing things that would cost an arm and a leg if I had to get someone to look after my sick kids and clean up their vomit if I had the kind of career that meant I was not at home when needed. My volunteer choices is much more than stuffing Friday folders (don't think I ever did that one although I know some career Moms have done it as part of their volunteering at school). Am I complaining about it? No, I just want to be accepted that the choice I have made at present for my family is just as valid and fulfilled as the choice someone earning a high income from their 9 - 5 paid work.

As long as those career minded people think that I have made poor choices for my family criticize me, then the more I take umbrage about the criticism. My family values are strong and my marriage is strong - probably as a result of some of the choices I have made. Am I a weak person as a result of these choices, definitely not. I am quite capable of doing for myself the things that others choose to pay others to do. What makes me strong is the fact that I have a choice and choose what I do rather than being forced into it. Am I criticizing those who choose to have a career? Not at all, as long as they don't criticize me for the choices I make too.

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