This post might be controversial for many. Some might agree. I'm sure many others will not. This post is also very vulnerable and personal. It's my take on the much-debated question if women can have it all - career and kids - reflecting on how 2022 went for me.
Two big things happened this year for me professionally: I joined a new company starting a new job and I published my second book (on a completely unexpected topic even for me).
Had that been pre-baby, it wouldn've been at least four big things.
I never shied away from saying that I'm ambitious. I want to achieve a lot career-wise. I've already achieved a lot for my age, however, my curiosity and eagerness to do more and learn more pushes me forward. I get bored with the same. I need change and my brain needs progress.
Sometimes this can have negative connotations because I put too much pressure on myself to achieve more, be better, and get more done in the finite hours of a day that I have.
When I wasn't a mother, this didn't bother me. It pushed me beyond my limits in a good way.
Nowadays, with a two-year old, it does. I wake up in the morning with a long list of things that I want to get done (at work and at home) and even though I would tick 19 of the 20 on that list, that last one makes me feel like a failure.
Before becoming a mom, it was all ticked off and I was content. And now as a mom, even though my multitasking abilities have gone to a completely different level and I get plenty done (lots of people even wonder how do I even manage to get it that much done), I never feel like I'm doing enough.
A lot of this is because of how my brain works and I recognise my desire to control it all, not always asking for help. It's all because of the added pressure of being a parent and feeling this huge responsibility over your shoulders every minute of every day. I'm blessed with an amazing husband who's my partner in everything. I'm also blessed with a beautiful daughter who's really well educated for her young age and is easy to be around with.
I'd say no one is prepared to be a parent. You might think you're until it happens. There's so much that changes with it. It's the most beautiful and precious thing in life but it's also a lot of work. As a woman, going through pregnancy, giving birth, dealing with post-partum depression, are all real things that seemingly don't affect you, but they do - emotionally, physically and mentally. Especially when maternity leave is as short as three months as it is in the Netherlands and you have to return to work, still unsure what's happening around you and how you should deal with it all.
These are issues no one really talks about but they're very real. So for me, the first two years of being a mom, I had to figure it out - how do I work and get results while taking care of my family and my little one, breastfeeding while doing meetings, and how do I split my brain to still be focused on both and not disappoint either of them.
It was a long process and I wasn't happy with the speed of my progress. It's only now after my daughter turned two that I am starting to think about my career and take active steps towards growing it (even though not as quick as pre-mom time). Before that, as hard as I was trying, I was not getting as far as I wanted to.
So does that mean that I lost two years of my career progression to become a parent? I wouldn't say lost but the slowdown is certain and that bothers me.
As much as companies support moms, if you're not front and centre in meetings and conversations about your growth and career, little will happen. When you're not visible, you're often not considered - for your opinion, for a promotion, for the next job.
I have no intentions of preaching for equality here. We've much improved from previous generations and dads nowadays have far more rights as an equal parent than before.
But there's so much more that needs to happen in society, governments and companies to understand that giving birth to the next generation and taking care of it is not a burden and mothers should not be punished for it, no matter how indirectly.
One example: the cost of childcare is outrageous but if you don't do it, you can't work - so unless I pay for someone else to take care of my daughter, my career gets on the backburner even more.
If it's not one thing then it's the other. There's always a trade-off between career and kids and as much as I strive to do both and have it all, it's not always easy and it's certainly not possible at the same pace when it's just one of it and not both.
So can women really have it all? I'd say yes but not to a 100% as if they would only have one or the other.
If you're a mom, what's your take on having it all - is it possible?