Being a full-time working mother means having multiple responsibilities. Not only do you hold down a full time job, but as a wife and mother, your work doesn’t stop at the end of the day.
Instead, it rolls into cleaning up after your children, feeding your family, grocery shopping, budgeting, paying bills and numerous other day-to-day tasks. Working mothers effectively work two to three jobs – of which only one is monetarily paid.
Having worked in the tech industry most of my adult life, I’ve had the unique experience of simultaneously being a mother, wife and full time contributor to this demanding workspace. I’ve learned through my experiences that the road for a woman in tech can be bumpy and you may have to fight at the beginning to be heard and accepted.
Yet those bumpy experiences don’t define you as a woman – instead they have the potential to propel you to higher points in your career. But while building your career, make sure to take care of yourself, keep work and life in balance, and don’t be afraid to have a family.
The hard decision
There are many women out there that are torn between full time work and their home life. They feel that if they try to have a home life, then they aren’t going to be taken seriously in the workplace. And unfortunately, there are still companies out there that penalize a woman for taking time off to tend to family related items.
Sadly, this has contributed to women prioritizing their career and not having a family until their career is firmly established. But there’s nothing wrong with adopting that perspective.
In fact, it’s born from the knowledge that if you’re having children, there’s the potential you’ll be passed over for better roles, because your focus is believed to be ‘split’. So striking a balance between work and family becomes even more difficult – especially when either side demands an uneven amount of attention.
The constant juggle
For these women, myself included, the balancing act requires a lot of juggling. And often, there was no balance to be found. It just takes tenacity and finding the right company.
In my opinion, companies who are more worried about their bottom line than their employees, are not places to make a career. That said, they can however be places to gain knowledge on the path to a brilliant career.
Finding the right path for you – one that allows you to have that balance between career and family, where you work to live instead of living to work – should be your prime objective.
Who (or what) are we competing with?
Being a mother of three and a wife early in my life (when my contemporaries were solely focused on their careers), meant I had competing priorities from the very start.
When other women my age were going out for drinks after work, I was making the choice to go home to my family, instead of drinking with the team. To compensate, I worked extra hours at home to meet my work obligations and try to shine (and be recognized) through my work alone.
So there were numerous times I wasn’t around for family functions – from family get-togethers, to making dinner, or helping kids with homework.
Worse still, my company loyalty was questioned when I prioritized either my family’s or my own health. So I’d work when I was sick, delayed medical procedures and never took more than half a day of vacation at a time. I was flat out told that if I didn’t do the job they wanted me to do, there were hundreds of people who would work more, for less.
In the blink of an eye, things change
Despite all that, I worked really hard to succeed at work – even with a secondary full time job as a mother. I bought into the idea that if you only worked 40 hours a week, you were working a part time job. I wore that mantra as a badge of honor for nine years.
I succeeded in building a company's onboarding program and learned how to make a positive impression on my coworkers, managers and clients despite not spending any time out of work hours, at the office. For those nine years I had a successful career and worked my way up the ranks and moved into management.
Then my world came crashing down when my company was acquired and I was let go, while junior male counterparts were retained.
The loss of the better part of a decade of my life, seriously caused me to re-evaluate my choices. I had a lot of self doubt and did a lot of self reflection. I questioned what I’d actually gained over the last nine years. And what had I lost? Did my family suffer? Were my skills worth less (or worthless) compared to counterparts who had been there less time?
On reflection, I found that for me, I’d prioritized the wrong things. I had regrets because there were family milestones I missed and personal goals that I never realized.
I had lived for the job instead of having a job to live.
It was a depressing realization that rocked my world… and I almost left the tech industry for good. But, as the saying goes: “It’s not how you start, but how you finish.”
A new start = new beginning
Thankfully, being a woman in tech no longer means being a second class citizen. More women are stepping up to be leaders and are making their mark on their industry. While not exactly equal, the playing field is continuing to positively evolve and women are gaining the respect they deserve and acknowledgement for their achievements.
Those companies that aren’t striving for gender equality are getting hit with lawsuits and suffering financial losses as people stop using their services. Most recently, Blizzard has seen the departure of thousands of subscribers and big name sponsors like Coca Cola and T-Mobile, when years of systemic sexism came to light.
We’re not there yet. There’s still a lot of work to do for women, but we’re seeing change happen.
Tiny is a great example of a company that cares about it’s employees and one that continually pushes for a true work-life balance.
Since joining, they’ve always emphasized taking care of yourself and your family first and they strive to ensure that our team (who work remotely, all over the world) know each other and can communicate with efficiency.
Everyone at Tiny helps each other be better and we celebrate the milestones of life as they come. This is an example of a company that does it right. And working for Tiny, I’ve always been secure in the knowledge that I was there because of my experience and expertise, not because of my gender or ethnicity.
Technology can be a force for good
Here’s the thing, working in the technology sector is a great opportunity to grow in many different directions. There’s always the drive to achieve, and in the end, it’s that drive which makes working in tech so great. The sky’s the limit on what you can do.
Being a woman in the technology industry doesn’t need to mean that you have to sacrifice your personal life upon the altar of the company or career advancement. Working 40 hours a week is not a part time job, it’s a full time job.
Conversely, working at a company that doesn’t celebrate your family means that you’re being asked to choose your work as your life. And working to live is not living to work and in my experience, that lesson is particularly hard for women to learn. Striving for a work-life balance, giving yourself a break to breathe, smelling the roses, taking a class, bettering yourself in some way... it’s these things that are truly more important.