Before I had my first child, I thought women had to decide between being a mom and a fulfilling, successful professional life. I was wrong. Very wrong. In fact, the more kids I had, the more opportunities came my way. Not in spite of my kids, but because of my kids. I landed my dream job in my forties, after I had my 6th child and before I had my 7th. Sure, it’s not a Fortune 500 career trajectory or a Sheryl Sandberg version of success. But it’s my version of success -- and happiness.
What’s the secret? Forget the rules. And be true to yourself and the things that last.
Sheryl Sandberg famously told women during a commencement speech to “put our foot on the gas pedal and keep it there.” My advice is exactly the opposite! Pursue your dreams, but don’t be afraid to slow down or jump off the train when your heart calls you to tend to things that last – love, marriage, babies, and happy kids. You can always jump back on the train. It’s your journey. You don’t have to choose between June Cleaver or Barbara Walters. There are miles of space between them.
When I was pregnant with baby #1, I was an at-home mom by default (I thought I was in between jobs). With time, my decision to be home became a conscious one that felt right for me and my husband. The most surprising thing was that the more kids I had, the more I found I was able to put on my plate. You know the adage, when you want something done, ask a busy person. It’s so true. Having kids taught me to prioritize, delegate, and accept life’s imperfections. I also learned the all-important skill of jumping off the train: taking breaks in career and passion pursuits to tend to the things that last. It’s scary. You wonder if you can jump back on; if you’ll still be relevant. But every time I did it I came back stronger. I lived my life and cared for my family as the seasons of my life demanded. I ignored the trends and voices telling me that what I was doing at home with my kids and family wasn’t important or would take me permanently out of the game. I stubbornly remained true to my heart, my values and the things that last.
In time, I came to realize there are people, companies, and organizations that could benefit from my experiences. Networks, editors and political consultants want to know how millions of hard-working moms like me think. And so I wrote a blog, a book (one of the hardest things I ever did), helped my husband run and win a congressional campaign (exhilarating and stressful), became a political pundit, a speech writer, a media spokesperson and consultant for a non-profit, The LIBRE Initiative.
It definitely didn’t come overnight. It’s sixteen years in the making. I started out on little known blogs and eventually got published on established websites. I did skype interviews out of my living room on livestream websites, bribing kids to stay quiet while I did my five-minute segment. Eventually, those small jobs led to on-air live in-studio interviews and regular guest spots. There are times I had to say no because a child was sick or I was too pregnant to travel. Other times, I was so tired and homesick I wished I had said no. Finding the right balance is experimental. It’s imperfect and requires constant recalibration. But we learn and we grow.
Today I work and write from home with occasional travel for television segments on The Today Show, FOX News’ Outnumbered and other cable news shows. My life and work today are more interesting than I ever imagined it could be when I held my first baby in my arms. At that time I was in love with my baby, but terrified about how she and her future siblings would alter my life. Motherhood is beautifully life-changing. Instead of fighting its constraints, surrender to them. Realize that they are making you more patient, more wise and better prepared to pursue your dreams. Let them shape the contours of your journey into a life well-lived and blessed by the things that last.