My life changed even before I had kids. Days before I got a big promotion at work, I found out I was pregnant with my first child. When my boss, a longstanding dean of admissions at an Ivy League university, called me into his office to offer the promotion, I quickly said yes. I worried that he would retract the offer in a heartbeat if he knew I was pregnant. The reality of being a working mom in college admissions, like many professions, is full of sacrifice. I knew getting pregnant could keep me from future promotions, assignments, and especially my ultimate goal of becoming a dean of admissions one day. So I kept my pregnancy a secret.
Weeks turned into months. Before I knew it, I was going into the last trimester of my pregnancy. I’m sure my boss suspected I was pregnant, but I didn’t want to take any risks. I wanted to be a mom and I wanted to reach my professional goals as well. When I finally told him I was a few months away from my due date, he replied that he expected nothing to change. It took me years to realize that everything changes once a woman has a child, and that is the ultimate secret to all the doubters.
Over the past 10 years, I have had two more children, become a dean of admissions, and started my own business while working full-time. I have learned that as ambitious as I thought I was before I had children, becoming a mom is the most motivating experience of all. In fact, my expectations increase as each year passes because I have something to prove to myself, my kids, and anyone who doubts a working mother’s potential.
Now that I am further along in my career, I wouldn’t think of hiding a pregnancy or hiding that I am a mom. Having three children defines me, and it has made me stronger and more confident than I ever was. My days are never predictable and this is part of my success story. It’s rare not to have a sick child, a school commitment, or a momentous event in one of my children’s life on any given day. Despite the “working from home” days and the phone calls in between the 50-yard breaststroke and the 50-yard backstroke of their swim meets, and the emails I write leading up to school drop-offs, I get a whole lot done. I usually wake up early and stay up late, but I have never been more productive.
I have grown tremendously since having children. I still have incredibly high standards for myself, my colleagues, and the students I work with. But I have learned to be flexible and forgiving of them and myself when things don’t go as planned. I often have less time to prepare for work projects. This has made me more efficient at what I do and more spontaneous as well. In my younger days, I used to memorize my speeches word-for-word. Now, I have a couple of key words that guide me through a speech. It’s the stories that I weave into the messages I hope to impart to my audience, and being a mom provides a treasure chest of examples.
I also recognize that being far from perfect gives me humility and empathy. Everything I do whether it’s sewing a button onto my son’s school uniform after he’s dressed, doing my younger and older daughter’s hair moments before the father-daughter dance, or interacting with a student who needs me, I am emotionally present. It adds time to my hectic day, but my kids and students feel like they are the most important beings when I am in the moment with them. I never imagined saying this in my younger days, but I am more patient and easily moved by our youth, and I believe this has come from being a mom.
I used to need complete silence when I worked. I couldn’t even have the radio playing in the background. Now, I write articles, op-ed pieces, and prep for the videos I make for my business in my kitchen as three kids, a dog, and an array of events take place around me. The constant noise and activity infuses my work with a realness that I am forever grateful for. As I leave my job in a matter of weeks to pursue my business full-time, I am looking forward to the chaos of my life as a mom entering everything I do even more. My kitchen is my office. And, the chaos in it reminds me that life is not perfect, but change and children breathe life into our greatest accomplishments.
If I can write this with my six-year-old son squeezing a whoopee cushion in my ear, anything can be achieved. Becoming a parent changes us. Being a parent day in and day out changes us even more. This change unearths skills we never thought we had, and makes any success that much more impressive. So thank you, Max, for that whoopee cushion distraction. Thank you, Sophie, for trying to get him to stop. And, thank you, Dotsie Bea, for napping through all of it so that I could finally finish this piece. I never could have done this 10 years ago, and that’s why it means that much more.