Opinion

OPINIONATED STORYTELLING

That Old Dilemma and How I am (Really?) Surviving it

I'm a former journalist and I have spent a significant period of my professional life working for Brazilian business outlets, covering careers and human resources. I wrote and discussedknowingly, about the careers of business people and of young talents, and was part of inumerous discussions about women in the workplace. I still didn't have any kids, and without them, everything was different. Back then, I was dealing with the theory.

Then I moved to the other side of the counter, as a corporate communication's executive, where I could see from up close how a "traditional" career looked like, and see in practice many of the concepts I had learned during my years as a journalist.

Right then I got pregnant with my first child, and found myself facing that giant, hideous, terrible dilemma of balancing career x motherhood.

I had always been an independent woman and never thought I would be able to stop working because of children. I couldn’t even picture myself having a joint bank account with my husband.  It was then my first spit into the wind of motherhood, one that quickly fell on my own face.

Married to a business man who had an even tighter agenda than mine, I began to feel that suffocating agony of maternity leave - the same that affects 95% of mothers, or more. How could I return to work leaving my baby behind? It’s funny to see how our priorities and values change immediately after a child, like a button we press on their birth.

During that period I made the hardest decision of my professional life so far. After a long conversation with my husband, we thought it was important that one of us slowed down, especially in that first year of Luísa’s life. So I decided to quit my job to be closer to my daughter. At the same time, and here comes the dichotomy, I knew I would be unhappy being a mother and housewife 100% of the time, which caused me huge distress.

Luckily, my profession allowed me to continue working from home and my personal decision paid off well professionally. As the months went by and the routine of the house with the baby fell into place, I devoted myself to work more as a freelancer, which was relatively easy thanks to the contacts I made in my previous professional experiences.

I confess that, at first, adaptation was not easy – I missed the interaction with people, for instance. But with time I got used to that, scoring a few lunches and meetings out. I got a lot of work as a freelancer, made some money and, in parallel, became a mommy blogger (thanks to Cristiana who inspired me), which later turned into a recognized and innovative website. At this stage, in contact with so many other moms, I was again sucked into the discussion motherhood x career, the question that inevitably mothers have to keep thinking about. Yes, there are exceptions, but in almost all of the cases I know, this decision is much heavier for the mother than for the father.

In the meantime I had my second daughter, and the routine already established went on. Indeed, little changed in my life after the youngest was born. With a nanny giving me support at home, I kept in this home office model / entrepreneur, which lasted a little over five years.

Until one day, traveling on a holiday, I received a call from a headhunter offering me a director position within an international public relations firm. To be honest, I didn’t give it much thought. I got to the first meeting with the headhunter openly saying I was honored with the offer but would not accept it. I had a balanced life and would not give up seeing my daughters grow up - something I had accomplished with my independence. I was absolutely clear with him and talked about my concerns with my children in every interview after that. And guess what? They still wanted me.

Conversations continued, I got seduced by the proposal and, making a careful evaluation, I thought maybe it was the right time to change. My two girls were already going to school, I was spending more time alone in my house and the topic of motherhood (only) were getting tired to me. After gastritis caused by the anxiety, I decided to accept the challenge, making the second hardest decision of my career: going back to the marketplace.

Maybe today I don’t have such a creative and independent activity as before, when I compare to my entrepreneurial phase. Maybe now I have a more normal relationship with my job, like everyone else, with ups and downs. Maybe it’s less fun. Or maybe I just don't stress too much about the future and what is to come. In fact, I’m not the kind of person who makes long term plans for life.

But I know that the girls are fine, that I have adapted well, that my husband was (and still is) very supportive. And life goes on. Getting dressed to work, having a 'real' job and interacting with people every day are things that make me feel very good. Meanwhile, my job allows me to participate in all of the girls’ school meetings, occasionally go pick them up, and drive them to their swimming lessons. It also allows for the fun parts of playing a lot with them when I arrive home at night and to fully focus on the family weekends.

Occasionally, I drop one or two plates, but I also learned that this is part of the motherhood package. And I’m (almost) sure that I'm closely seeing my daughters grow up.

Roberta Lippi is a working mom always trying to find a balance for life. She is thankful everyday for having Luísa, 7, and Rafaela, 4, as her inspiration and energy source. She is a dear friend and has the warmest smile. You can read more about her 'mom adventures' here (in Portuguese).