"Changing your life starts with buying pants that fit."
Katie is a mom of twins, as well as a Regional Employee Relations Manager, and Workplace Investigator for a fortune 200 Healthcare organization. Katie is a sought after executive coach for the Director and VP level, visionary in the HR space, and known for her ability help women grow in their careers by knowing their employee rights, crushing the interview process, and understanding their intrinsic value.
She’s also a writer, and sought after resource to discuss topics like like work life integration, emotional intelligence in leadership, and risk mitigation.
Finding pants, meaning, and redefining success.
By: Katie Richards
I will admit, that in the early days of twin motherhood, I was somehow torn between two different worlds. One world included feedings, routine, and regiment. The other included conference calls, steamed blazers, and power point presentations. I NEEDED these two worlds for my own sanity, but I never felt like I was succeeding in either of them, back then.
I spent the first two years of my daughter’s lives hunting for balance, and almost obsessively seeking the approval of those I worked for. I was “so good at having it all” at least that’s what people said about me. I “had it all together”, all while attempting to hide the spit up stains on the pre-pregnancy pants that I refused to throw out, but could no longer button. When I look back on that time, I see an insecure girl who wasn’t getting enough reassurance and seeking it out in all the wrong places. I also see chaos, and somewhere in the middle was me, pretending like I was succeeding in every facet of my life.
Truth be told, I wasn’t. I was overwhelmed, I was insecure, and I was trying to be the career woman I used to be, before twins, before the immense responsibility set in; before everything changed.
I know this is where I am supposed share that I had some giant moment that changed the trajectory of my future, but I didn’t have one moment that changed the way I looked at my life, or how I look at the integration of family and work.
Maturity has allowed me to understand that work life balance is simply non-existent, and those who believe it still is, are likely the same people that think unmonitored art projects are reasonable for 3 year olds. Those folks are a little disconnected.
At some point, I decided just to buy new pants, and admit that I had gone up a few sizes. It made me feel better to wear a new style, and clothes that fit. I also decided that it was time to stop arriving at the office so early to impress others and instead, redistribute that time to where it mattered; at home. I came to the realization that someday I would go back to early mornings and late nights, but during that season of my life, my girls needed me more than my career ambitions did.
I discovered that work life Integration starts with education.
As parents, we spend hours upon hours researching the best strollers but far less time knowing what are maternal rights are in this country. The American Journal of Public Health shares that approximately 273,000 woman take maternity leave each month. This same research highlights that nearly half of those women are not paid for their time. What staggering numbers. As a mother, I’m in awe of the 50% who are holding on for dear life, and empathetic to the struggles that financial burden can put onto a new family.
In the United Stated all 50 states and Puerto Rico fall under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This means that eligible employees can take unpaid, job-protected maternity leave for 12 weeks. Notably, some states are more generous than others, providing paid leave. California, Georgia, New Jersey and Rhode Island are the only states in the country to allow for this “benefit.”
Many also don’t realize that upon returning to work your company is legally required to provide you with the option to pump breast milk. In section 4207 of the Affordable Care Act employers became required to provide employees a reasonable amount of time to pump for one year post the birth of a child, and provides provisions about the location. If your employer tells you to use the bathroom, or a public area, they are not in alignment with what the federal law is expecting of them. You are entitled to a location that is shielded from view, and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public.
For me, work life integration has two bookends, balanced between education and personal choices.
For me, choices started with understanding what I prioritize in my life, and coming to terms with the fact that my work schedule will sometimes need to come before my home life. I’ve discovered that there is a power in saying no, because over committing and exhaustion are not badges of honor in the business world, or as a mom. The choices that I make, define my performance at work, my ability to provide for my family, and the legacy that I leave behind for my girls.
It’s never far from my thoughts, that someday my daughters will look back and remember who I was when they were young. A few days ago my daughter, Maddie, told me that she wanted to be like me when she grew up. Thinking she was referring to my work, I asked her if she was going to be an “HR Lady.” She looked at me confused, and said, “no mama, I want to shop for all the best snacks, and give the greatest hugs.” My view of the world has been reshaped by little moments like this, when I am reminded that the work I do as a mom will be cemented into the future through my kids, not merely through the businesses that I impact.
It will be shaped by teaching my daughters about their rights, and helping other moms fight against businesses and leaders who don’t follow the rules, and don’t understand the weight of what we’re trying to accomplish.
I’ve learned that I’m not super mom, that I don’t have balance, and that’s ok.
What I do have is limits, pants that fit, the love of two little humans that look up to me. That is the evolution of what I call, success.