Confession time: When I started doing my research for my book, I focused initially on interviewing cool CEOs and ambitious ladder-climbers. Women who leaned in, way in. Some of them found that motherhood propelled them to even higher career goals...but others described the guilt-ridden letdown of realizing they wanted to be less ambitious, temporarily, or even permanently. Hm!
I realized, quickly, that I'd been a little biased in my approach and started interviewing a much wider array of new moms -- shift-workers, middle managers. People who do their own hair (like me). The big upshot? Unshockingly, some of them became less ambitious post-motherhood...and some of them became more. Just like the first group.
ALL of these mothers needed transparency and camaraderie as they grappled with the transition to working motherhood and its impact on their ambition. That need was universal, and that became my driving, judgement-free mission as I wrote. Lean in like crazy, or, just show up with your pants on. Either's fine!
Fast forward to a fascinating lunch I attended yesterday. It was hosted by Deborah Epstein Henry's Law & Reorder, a consultancy that helps law firms with work/life balance, and Debbie interviewed The Wall Street Journal's Joann S. Lublin about her new book, Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World. Lublin focused her research on that first group of women, extremely motivated, glass-ceiling-busting women. From her interviews, she distilled four qualities that predict extraordinary success. Only, guess what? All four happen to be hallmark qualities of women going through their Fifth Trimester -- and in my opinion, whether you want to move up at this moment or not, they make you star material. "You can remember them because they spell R.I.P.E.," Lublin told the crowd. Here they are:
1. Resilience: Many of the women Lublin interviewed shared heart-wrenching setbacks that they experienced on the way to the top. Coming back to work post-baby requires the very definition of resilience, bouncing back from one of the most physically and emotional upheavals you'll ever experience. Check.
2. Innovation: One of my favorite stories about my mom: In 1985, when she was traveling with my baby sister, their connecting flight was canceled and they ended up in an airport hotel for the night...with no extra diapers. Never fear. Super Susan was on the case. She folded two hand-towels into a cloth diaper, and poked leg holes into a shower cap like rubber pants. (Whether it's rethinking your schedule, your commute, or your childcare options, nothing sparks creative problem solving like being responsible for a human life.) Check, check.
3. Persistance: There are a million ways to express your persistence as a new working mom. Mine sounded like this: "whoosh-whoosh, whoosh-whoosh, whoosh-whoosh" three times a day for several months as I pumped breastmilk while working, proving my dedication to both my baby and my job. Check, check, whoosh, and check.
4. Empathy: The number one thing that makes you see your co-workers as whole human beings? Realizing that you really need them to see you as one.
Check, check, check, check. You're golden.