By Debra Condren
A reader sent me this question: "I have a cherished baby and a husband who is willing to support me. Women in my new mothers group pressure me to abandon my established small business any time I complain about exhaustion. They say I’m selling myself and my family short trying to do it all, but I love my work. –Torn"
Around the end of the third postpartum month, most women start feeling like themselves again; many describe it as a sensation of resurfacing after feeling as if they’d been underwater. Don’t panic, and don’t make impulsive decisions. As you ease into the transition to motherhood, be gentle with yourself and trust what you want, not what others pressure you to do or to think.
Unapologetically following your career dreams is the surest way to be the happiest individual and the best mother, partner and community member. Staying true to your ambition allows you to live your best life. But society holds a double standard: ambitious men are go-getters; ambitious women are the b-word. I’ve worked with thousands of woman and each possesses the same fear: if she goes wholeheartedly after her dream, she'll be seen—or she'll regard herself—as selfish, bitchy, a bad wife, or a bad mother. It's exactly this fear of ambition that has forced women to leave our dreams and our great talents by the roadside, rendering us half of what we should be in every area of life. If we buy into the message that we should put our ambitious dreams at the bottom of our priorities pile, to be nurtured only after everyone else's needs have been attended to, our turn never comes. Our joie de vivre dries up.
Find a new, supportive mothers’ group that espouses this message: You can and should honor your ambition in the face of social sanctions—without guilt and without sacrificing the rest of your life. Give yourself permission to make the choices you deem appropriate, without second-guessing yourself. Check in with yourself daily, tuning in to what you want. Trust your own timetable, listen to your body and heart, to your baby, and partner with your husband to keep yourself in the game while taking care of your and your family’s needs.
You deserve to love your work, to be as ambitious as you wish, to earn your worth, and to find personal and professional fulfillment.