Career first or children first? Why is this question typically only addressed to women, and why do we have to choose between the two? This thought came to my mind at 2:00 AM while I was answering emails, prioritizing my upcoming work day and nursing my two month old son. We need to get past the idea that career and family is either-or. So many women don’t pursue their opportunity to advance their careers out of fear of not maintaining a fulfilling home life.
Being a successful leader in my career, a wife, and a mother is a challenging task. Having a successful career is challenging on its own, as well as raising children. I was determined to succeed at both. At a very young age, I was pushed to be very independent as my parents barely spoke English and worked 20 hour days every day in our family restaurant. Many times I felt alone and unguided, but always felt loved as I knew my parents worked so hard to provide for our family. My childhood was guided through my imagination of what I thought life should be like from television, books, friends and neighbors.
I set in my mind at a very young age that I wanted to have my own career and not have to rely on others, yet I also wanted to have a large, fulfilling family of my own. I was in for a challenge and I knew that I would have to sacrifice some things along the way, but I made a commitment that my happiness would not be sacrificed.
The failures, the judgmental road blocks, and the hurdles that I faced were all lessons learned and taught me that in order to rise above the competition I would need to handle rejection humbly, appreciate those who truly have supported me, and move forward (with no animosity) with an intentional goal. Every decision that I made in life thereafter including which college I was going to, what club to join, what sport was I going to play, who I was going to date, or even what company did I want to work for, were all instrumental decisions towards my intentional goal.
My advice to every woman who wants to have a successful career and loving family is to set short and long term goals. Ensure that any major decisions made must position you closer to your goal—don’t stray because it may be too difficult, or feel that everyone is against you.
Short term goals can be small, yet impactful moments: “I want to be there to see my son giggle for the first time, and help my daughter practice for her part in Willi Wonka at least once a week,” or “I want to help my team win that new client and finish a specific project by the end of the month.” Keep your goals close to your heart.
When times get difficult or when I am exhausted, I just think of my goals and I keep going. A healthy work-life balance is feasible as long as you are part of company that supports your goals. I was lucky enough to begin my career at the age of 20 when I graduated college with a company that truly cared about its team members and valued work life balance. I didn’t intend to work in insurance or employee benefits, but I did intend to work for a company that valued hard work, provided growth opportunities, valued work life balance and made work fun for all. I would recommend that everyone communicates what is important to them and make it a part of your frequent conversation during your monthly check-in meetings or annual reviews.
As a leader in my organization and a mother of three, I encourage every woman to set goals, stay focused and enjoy life. Every aspect of my life is rewarding in different ways and I truly love every moment!