I come from a family of working Black moms. My grandmother worked as a maid and a cook with eight children. My mother worked as a maid, went to college, and became a teacher before having two children of her own.
I knew I was going to be a working mom too, and I embraced it. My mom always told me Black women have to work twice as hard to be considered just as good. So I did, even after having my first baby in 2014.
It wasn’t until my son was almost 3 that I felt like all my efforts at my large corporation were finally, finally being recognized and appreciated. My senior vice president told me he respected my work. I had made my first hire and he turned out to be stellar. My manager told me I was almost ready to have her job.
It’s not easy to advance as a woman, especially as a woman of color, in Corporate America.
Around this time, a friend sent me a job listing. It was for a position at another company that I had applied for a year earlier, back when I was feeling a little less appreciated. I almost didn’t apply, but it was a position working on a Black product line that I liked, and I thought, Well, I can always apply. It might not lead to anything.
But then I got an email, then an interview, and then another interview, and finally an offer. The opportunity was exciting, but less senior than my current position and the new company couldn’t match my salary.
Amid all of this, I had found out I was pregnant with a second baby I had waited so long for.
I talked to a friend—an older Black woman in leadership—about what I should do. She knew how demanding my job had become. I checked email constantly, and I got on my laptop a lot after I put my son to bed, sometimes as soon as we walked in the door from daycare. I took calls at night, worked on weekends, sometimes joined conference calls on Saturdays and Sundays. Honestly, I didn’t mind that much, because I was dedicated and I loved my work.
But with the new baby…
My husband is a terrific dad, but he works late most nights of the week. So that would leave me to pick up two kids from daycare, nurse the baby as soon as we walked in the door, get food/drink/entertainment for my toddler, and then check my work email to address anything pressing.
Just thinking about it was exhausting.
My friend told me that moving on might be the best decision for my young family.
“You’ll get back to the money,” she told me.
How could I take less, though? I was making more than I ever imagined I would at this point in my career.
My parents got divorced when I was 6, and my single mom struggled with money sometimes—our lights were turned off more than once. I didn’t want that for my family.
And did I really want to start over at 37?
It’s not easy to advance as a woman, especially as a woman of color, in Corporate America. I had reached a point where people in my company knew and trusted me as a go-to person. I was on a path to move even higher. How could I walk away from that to go to a company where I had a lot of learning to do and nobody knew me?
The opportunity was exciting, but…the new company couldn’t match my salary.
I talked with other moms at the new company, and they said they loved the work-life balance. They did their work, but they didn’t put in crazy hours, and they didn’t take things home.
I started to think maybe a pay cut wasn’t so terrible.
I thought about things other women had said to me:
“I will work hard, but I put family first.”
“Sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step forward.”
“You are young, and you have your whole life to do amazing things. But your babies are only babies once.”
So I decided to take the new job—and the pay cut.
It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. It would be wonderful if we as women really could have it all at the same time, but I can’t right now. I can’t be the high-paid career woman that I want to be and at the same time be the kind of dedicated mother I need to be while my kids are still so little.
Something has to give. And I waited so long and endured three miscarriages to get two children. I’ll cut back on spending where I need to so I can put them first.
I know that I made the right choice for my son and my unborn daughter. I also know that they won’t ever get it or really appreciate it. But I will.
Recently, Barack Obama said something that made me feel even better about my choice.
“At the end of our lives, whatever else we’ve accomplished, the thing that we’ll remember are the joys that our children … bring us,” he said. “And holding their hand, swinging them on a swing, listening to them talk about what had happened in school; simple stuff, but ultimately that’s what matters.”
I was never anybody’s president, but I couldn’t agree more.