Welcome to our first official MotherBoard guest blog post by Pam Turos: founder of GoodCauseCLE.com, entrepreneur, writer, social worker, and mother of three. We met Pam as part of the Cleveland Leadership Center‘s #AccelerateNEO civic pitch competition earlier this year. Pam’s practical, honest approach to working motherhood – and our shared love of our awesome city – made us fast friends.
Sometimes by choice, often by necessity, my career journey has been a winding road of stops, starts and stalls over the last twelve years. One summer, my babysitter took home more of my paycheck than I did. Thankfully, she was worth every penny. But the kids and I walked dogs together in the afternoons and evenings to balance out the cost of child care, so I could continue working part-time in the mornings. There have been stretches of time when the balance sheet (or schedule) was so off kilter, that it just seemed easier to stay home. And as much as I love my family, I spent more time than I’d like to admit crying in the sandbox (or the laundry room) during that phase of life. So I always assumed that as soon as all of my kids were in school, I would go back to work full-time.
We’ve all read articles about the stay-at-home mom who tried to get back into the workforce after ten years and the working mom who tried to do it all at her own expense. But those articles didn’t apply to me – I have always worked in some capacity, though my availability may have been dependent on night-time feedings and preschool schedules. So once kindergarten registration was complete for my youngest, I reached out to my professional contacts and started asking about full-time jobs. Seems easy enough, right? Except that nothing in life is as simple as we’d like it to be and working motherhood is no exception.
That first year trying to get “back to work” was full of unexpected lessons and introspection, some of which I’m still processing. First and foremost, I realize now that when I was negotiating professional positions, I fell into a trap of believing that
my own time was less valuable than other people’s – think dollar figures here. Because “We have my husband’s insurance” or “I need to have flexibility for the kids” – I was willing to accept any position that met our most basic needs. What I didn’t realize at the time is that I stopped growing professionally as a result, and the women who stayed fully committed to professional development had skills, relationships and experience that I just wasn’t getting on “almost full time” diaper duty. If you take a lower paying job that happens to meet the needs of your family, chances are, you will get treated like an entry level employee.
In my mind I was ready to move forward professionally, and I even offered to take on more hours and responsibility at work. But in my colleagues’ mind, I continued to be “just part-time” and this was most evident when it came to projects and leadership. More than once, an idea I presented at a meeting would be implemented by full-time staff members. When I discussed my desire to do more with my manager, I will never forget her telling me that her own professional goal when her children were young was to just have a job that would let her manage her family. I don’t want to “manage my family” – I want to be fully present in their lives. Women shouldn’t have to choose between having a rewarding career and being an engaged parent, but we each have to decide what that means to us and then surround ourselves with people who have the same beliefs.
When it became increasingly clear that my employer and I had different ideas about the meaning of “potential to grow” – I took a leap of faith and decided to create my own full-time job. I’m now working more than I ever have as a freelance writer (at a professional rate I deserve), and I’m managing other professionals who also freelance on my client’s web development and video projects. This summer I can afford to pay the babysitter and also enjoy an afternoon at the pool with my kids once in a while. And with the upcoming launch of GoodCauseCLE.com, I’m in the position to offer other women opportunities to contribute in ways that are flexible and meaningful to them. It’s the best of both worlds. My family, my clients and my colleagues all get to know the best version of me – a busy, happy, fulfilled, and capable mom.