#InItTogether

October 23, 2018 Sponsored

 My career journey has taken some unexpected turns after being on one path for many years: marketing in the medical device field. In fact when I started this blog 8 years ago I was traveling around the country to stand in operating rooms, meet with sales reps and present to hospital admin. It was a job I loved.

But in parallel, there was a hobby I loved too. Wildly different from spine surgery, it involved fashion and shopping, and finding ways to bring my personal style into my workwear. And journaling that thing everyday on a blog. The goal was to be polished and professional – but make it fashion. It made getting dressed every morning fun and interesting. And it gave me confidence while I was at the office or traveling.

 Fast forward a few years and my “hobby” turned into much more than that, with opportunities I would have never imagined possible, thanks to all of my amazing readers (like you!) and some incredible #bossladies like Amber Venz at RewardStyle and Vanessa Flaherty at The Digital Brand Architects. I had pinch-me moments, am-I-dreaming moments, is-this-for-real moments… and still do. All. of. the. time. Juggling both my career and my hobby was an absolute privilege. I had what I considered the best of both worlds and wouldn’t have it any other way. Even as I was burning the candle on both ends – it never felt like I was.

 Then I had a baby.

Lucia rocked my world in every way imaginable. In between the coo-ing and cuddling and the newfound sensation of my heart literally bursting with joy every time I held her, there was the emotional rollercoaster brought on by fluctuating hormones, a changing body and the self-induced pressure to “do it all.” I consider myself lucky for having 3 months of maternity leave (although my male manager’s initial response to my request was: “wow. that’s a long time.” pause and stare, not comfortingly).

A privileged three months with Lucia and yet I still had a breakdown after going back to work. Lucia was such an incredible sleeper that I only saw her for one waking period in the morning and one waking period after I got home from work, and barely so, as I had to run a mile to catch the ferry that would get me home in time. Never mind the pumping gear (that I toted back and forth 2 miles on foot every day) and sneaking into an empty conference room every two hours as my male manager leered my way – never comfortingly.

New mom returns to work and has a breakdown? 

So cliche.

But then again, why is it cliche? Why is the transition from pregnancy, to post-partum recovery, to learning the newborn ropes, to heading back to work, and figuring out the pumping thing while managing expectations from every angle (home, work, self, family) a universal challenge for mothers everywhere? If this is a known problem, why aren’t we all moving mountains to fix this thing?

And here is where my career journey has made some unexpected turns.

 I quit that job.

I made sacrifices in my career goals (medical device industry, on hold!) and looked for a role that would allow me the flexibility to spend more time with my baby, blog on the side, and still contribute my experience in a way that helped me feel fulfilled. In other words, I created my own balance. I started consulting part-time (sometimes full-time, depending on the week). I longed to work for (and with) other women who understood the challenges of wanting: wanting to be  more present in my child’s life, wanting to work and be successful, wanting to achieve some new form of “having it all” that didn’t cause me to have a breakdown or lose my sense of self in the process.

 We are #InItTogether. We can move these mountains and create a better, more fulfilling balance for ourselves. We can lift each other in our shared experiences of being women. It takes us all doing our part. Women who are in leadership roles can continue to push the boundaries and build better workplaces for other women. Women who, like me, are the first to ever be pregnant in the company, can start the conversation and help make the case to leadership: let’s be creative and figure out more ways to support a new mother when she returns to work. And most importantly, let’s change the timeline on ourselves and learn to say “I am struggling,” as it happens, rather than “I struggled.”

Excited for the future and excited to see where my career journey continues to take me. Thank you so much for stopping by today. And thank you to LinkedIn for partnering with me on today’s post, helping me put into words so many feelings that I’ve kept to myself up to this point.

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  • Amazing, Anh! So inspiring and I know it couldn’t have been easy. I’ve always admired your poise, strength, and sense of self shown through your blog. Can’t wait to see what’s to come for you and your family.
    -Ann

  • I was lucky to have 4 months of paid leave with my baby, and now that I’m 4 months into being back at work, it is still hard. I want to be home with her, but I also know that without some work to call my own that I would feel lost.

    How did you go about looking for more flexible roles? I know my company supports part time work, but I know my finances don’t, and I cannot understand how people bridge that gap.

    • Hi Katherine! Thank you so much!! You’re right – the decision is often made more challenging from a financial perspective! I feel fortunate that the blog has become so much more than a hobby and helps me bridge that gap. Without it, I may have considered other lifestyle changes (short term) to get me to a place where I was emotionally and physically ready to be back in the workforce in a full time capacity. xx

  • Wow, goosebumps. Absolutely love this and agree with all of it! You’re a wonderful role model to all of us moms and moms-to-be. To create your own balance while still feeling fulfilled with the things you love can be a scary change – there are so many what if’s. I’m lucky to work for a company that provided 5 months of paid time off for maternity leave, but I think it is criminal to expect any woman to come back to work at less than 3 months postpartum. Even after 5 months of maternity leave, coming back to work was the hardest thing I ever did emotionally and physically. Your post fires me up to help make a change!
    PS. I’m a long time reader and serious fashion fan of yours. Your style is so chic, timeless and effortless. Whenever I need an inspo boost, I scroll through your blog. Thank you for all the hard work you put into it!
    xo, Holly
    http://www.theglossylemon.com

    • Holly! Thank you SO much for all your support over the years!! It means the world to me! Hoping one day we can meet in person xx

  • Thank you for this post!
    Lots of people write on this topic in a ‘ugh its so hard’ voice but this post was refreshing, succinct and a great intro to what I think will be many more conversations to come.
    Thanks for sharing and looking forward to continuing to follow your journey (and ultra polished looks!)

  • Really enjoyed this post, Anh! Thank you so much for speaking out about being a woman in the corporate environment, and all of the pressure that we’re under, whether it’s work, home, family, etc. This was such a fascinating read, and I’m so inspired by how you voluntarily took some time off to focus on the aspects of life that mattered the most to you! <3

    XO, Elizabeth T.
    http://clothestoyouuu.com/

  • I’ve been a long time reader of yours, I’ve always loved your content. Simple, yet classy, at times casual, but very put together.
    After a long day of work, I love that your entries are visually easy on the eyes and the notes are is quick and to the point.
    This blog post, I think has been the captivating for me, and I couldn’t relate with you more.
    I am Canadian and we are entitled to a YEAR of maternity leave. There is now the option to extend to 1.5 years! I felt I was ready to go back when my daughter was 9 months. There was no way I could have gone back when she was 3 months.
    I applaud you and all the women who have found balance within such a short period of time.

    • Wow – thank you so much for sharing!! I strongly believe that your system is doing it right!!! I can understand how at 9 months you were ready – it feels like the perfect amount of time!! And thank you for your kind words, means a lot to me!! xx

  • Thanks for so eloquently putting into words what I’ve been feeling for the last four years (my oldest is 4 now!). I also quit my job, stayed home for a year and now I am back at work. However, I am happy to report that the place where I work now allows me the work life balance I needed. So I can be present for my family but not lose my identity.

    • Thank you so much for sharing! I can completely understand your reasons for doing that and love that you’ve been able to find an employer that supports a healthy work/life balance now!! xx

  • supal // @chevronseclairs says:

    I loved this post and it’s so nice to hear about your career and transitions. I’m in the phase where my personal life is about to change and I know time really starts to speed up now. Thank you for being open!

    chevrons & éclairs

  • wondering where your partner was in all of this…..did he struggle with this, take time off to parent your daughter, rush to get home in time? would be interested in his transition to working father…..

    • Hi Karen, this is an excellent point!! I’d love to speak on this topic. He has been extremely supportive and 50% (or more!) in the care of our daughter! Thank you so much for reminding me that I should share his experience as well!! xx

  • Dear Anh,

    I have been religiously following your blog since we met at Chandon a few years ago. I love your style–not just what you wear, but how you wear it, and by it I mean the way you’ve shared your life with us readers.

    I’ve always wondered what your daytime job was/is and I loved hearing about it in this post. As someone with a full-time job in one field and a side-hustle fueled by passion for another field (books and writing!) it’s so inspiring to read about the path you’ve traveled. Thank you.

    Best,
    Lori

    • Hi Lori!!! Ah – I still remember that event! It was wonderful meeting you. Thank you SO much for your note. Would love to see your books/writing!! xx

  • Raquel Laguna says:

    Amazing!! All women out there who have careers as well as running a home. So proud to be a woman living in this time frame👏🏼👏🏼❤️❤️

  • Thank you for sharing.. i think it is important that someone will start conversation. Support your decision whichever difficult it was.

  • Thank you Anh. You have highlighted an area that needed further improvement for women working across all industries. As a working professional and transitioning to a new chapter in my life, I believe there are also a cultural lense to bring it for all women. Why is it we have to push ourselves to the point of breakdown and lose our passion in what we thrive and are our most creative self? It is important for other women to see this is actually a challenge and issue that we do not see. Again, thank you for speaking about this subject.

  • This article is spot on. I was in a leadership role at a company and I had the responsibility of generating $30 million in revenue per year. It was a lot of pressure but I loved it, until I had my beautiful baby. I too had 3 months (which barely seemed like enough) and had to pump at work. It would be so hectic at work that I would miss my “pump time” because of group conference calls and meetings running over and I ended up with Mastitis. Twice. No bueno. I had to stop breastfeeding earlier than I wanted because of my career. That was all that I need to make me step away. This was no longer my path.

    Some days it’s hard because my identity was tied to my career for so long (we won’t even get into the change in income while I pursue my true dreams). However, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Thanks for sharing your story, it reminds us Moms that we did the right thing!

    #inittogether

    All the best,
    Angel

    http://www.fromangelsangle.com

    • Hi Angel, that was exactly my reasons too!! I too lost my milk supply earlier than I had hoped and felt like a failure for that reason. My feelings echo yours exactly. Thank you. xx

  • Inspiring and refreshing, you’re very talented! I am a long time reader and admire your style both in fashion and blog writing. Just to share my story to contribute to the conversation: when I had my first child, I had a demanding consulting job and had to fly east coast to west coast for a client totaling 20,000 miles in my 1st trimester and I didn’t dare to tell the partner how uncomfortable that was for me; when I returned to work very first day, I got pulled into a long client meeting and didn’t know how to tell the partner it’s my pumping time. I quit that job and moved to industry – no traveling and found my balance. I was also lucky to find a good nanny. For my second, my current company started a massive reorganization before I went on mat leave, when I returned to work after 5 months I have already had manager changes four times, was simply forgotten for the promotion, and was constantly given unconscious bias remarks towards new mom returning to work. No channel to raise these issues. Thank you for starting such conversations and yes we are all in this together.