Working Mothers & What it Means to Be a Woman

A Story About Working Mothers

In the fall of 2008, I was nearly 12 weeks from having my daughter and was extremely pregnant waddling around the office for my company where I served as HR Director.  My boss at the time, Bob (whom I have written about before here) arrived at my office for a site visit. It wasn’t uncommon for Bob to visit.  Bob was a 60 plus white male, never married who lived alone.  He was generally an average boss who had worked in HR for 20 some years.  Aside from his strange habit of eating lemon rinds at restaurants during our business lunches and dinners, I couldn’t really complain.  During my pregnancy, I thrived at the office.  I kept my schedule, worked with my team as we pushed forward toward the inevitable conclusion where I would take maternity leave after Ryleigh was born.

That visit, my boss asked me the question, “Are you planning on returning to work after the little bambino is born?”

“Of course,” I said.  “I’ve never been one of those stay at home mom types.

I like working.  It’s important to me.”

Bob, who referred to my baby as a “little bambino” from the moment I told him I was pregnant told me, “I don’t think you are going to be able to manage.  Women can’t work and be a parent.  You have a lot of responsibilities here.  You should stay home where you belong,” Bob said.

Working Moms & the Workplace

I was floored.  I’d been pretty vocal about my return to work, talking with my VP’s, the corporate HR team, and even making plans for meetings after I came back to work.  I returned back to work just 10 weeks after Ryleigh was born.  My boss, who had been downsized just before my maternity leave was no longer my boss but now my peer.  Even still he expressed his surprise about my return.

I’ve often thought about that interaction as I grow more experienced and mature as a woman who is also a mom.  Unfortunately, often times what it means to be a woman is that we are often underestimated and expected to fail.  We shouldn’t be, but we have a lot to prove so we speak our mind, and share our opinion only to be called names, publicly reprimanded and labeled.  Luckily, many successful women are bull-headed, stubborn, and up for the challenge to fight battles like birth control, right to vote, and discrimination at work for being pregnant.  We’ve been backed in a corner before and over the course of history we’ve come out on top.  A recent example is Rush Limbaugh’s comments and the support of women and the media for Sandra Fluke.

What it Means to be a Woman

What does it mean to be a woman? Being a woman is not just about being a mother even when it comes to work.  It’s about having the guts to choose your own path.  It is about following your dreams, aspiring to goals, and following your heart.  Sometimes that means staying home and not returning to work, and sometimes that’s not what it is at all.  What it means to be a woman is that you can create your own road and success while balancing your time, energy, and focus on being a mother, a friend, or mentor.  Your influence or success is often times not demonstrated by the size of your checking account or fatness of your wallet but in the love and relationships you have with others.  The power of being a woman comes from the power of being different and the benefit of being yourself.

Celebrating Women on March 8, Women’s International Day

My mother is a strong opinionated woman who dropped out of high school and got her GED.  She chose to put her own personal dreams aside to raise a family of three girls to help make me and my sisters better people so that we can live our lives influencing, helping, and learning from our partners, family, business interactions, and friends. Her sacrifice has benefited, motivated, and inspired me in ways she may never imagine while at the same time she drives me up the wall.  She is my mother, a woman, and for that I am grateful.

Today is international women’s day.  Why are you grateful for being a woman?  And what does it mean to you to be a woman?  Who has influenced your dreams, life, and goals?  Be sure to take a look at this powerful video below courtesy of Kronos.

*This post is sponsored by Kronos who is a proud supporter of International Women’s Day.  Check them out on Twitter @kronosinc and their blog Time Well Spent.  Learn more about our advertising and sponsorship programs

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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