We are so happy to welcome Meagan Mulloy to the MotherBoard blog! Meagan is a public relations executive, mom of two and wife to Mike. She is the only brunette in her family of gingers, right down to their golden retriever pup, Teddy. An extreme planner with an affinity for family, community, wine and an intense spin/cycle class, she is creatively and passionately navigating through the challenges of motherhood as a professional. Nicknamed “Mighty One” by her dad, she is a resilient mama always trying to live up to that title.
“You’re so lucky.”
That’s the response I most often get when I tell fellow moms about my part-time role at a public relations firm— a job I genuinely enjoy.
Maybe I am a little bit lucky. But the reactions I get tend to make me believe that many of us feel like work is an all or nothing endeavor.
I get it. Because I felt like that.
After having my first child five years ago I was working in a full-time marketing role. Throughout my maternity leave, I was panicked. I had overwhelming feelings that I could not leave this needy baby for 60 hours a week (including commute). My daughter was small, and had lot of trouble feeding. I felt so attached I was unsure if I even had an appetite to be a professional again, but it didn’t matter— we could not afford for me to stay home.
So I did what I thought was the next best solution. On pins and needles, I worked up all my courage and asked my boss if I could work part-time. The answer was a resounding “no”.
I was devastated. The clock was ticking on my leave.
And then it dawned on me. I had really been thinking all about myself (and my baby), and not enough about my employer. My role was a large one— there’s no way I could have done what needed to be done as a part-time employee.
I went back to the drawing board. I called a colleague, who had happened to have a baby within weeks of me. No surprise, she was also feeling overwhelmed. Together, we decided to approach the organization about a job share.
We were terrified and doubting our value. But we leaned on each other for support and met our boss with our proposal.
I’ll never forget when he started nodding in agreement as I explained our solution. It was a win for him. He could now have three creative brains on board, instead of two, since we were about to free up a new full-time position for him.
I try to remind myself of that “ask” often because I believe it’s an important reminder that we are in large part in control of our own destiny.
Time passed and as life— and especially motherhood— brings change, I ended up switching employers to go back to work for a public relations firm I had worked for in the past, this time in a part-time role. I have been back in this role for five years now and am very happy.
That said, as my kids (now two of them) have grown and schedules have evolved, I have felt the ebb and flow that motherhood brings.
Our family is now at a different point in our life. We could get by without my income. During the back to school fiasco this year, schedules were getting crazy and I was feeling so stressed and unsuccessful finding childcare and rides. After the fourteenth plan fell through, for a brief moment I was ready to throw in the towel.
I went for a walk in the woods- my version of therapy. I realized my job had become a career. It is part of what defines me. I like helping clients. I like the small victories that come from my day to day. I like contributing to the big work my small firm does. It makes me feel fuller. I needed to find a way to have both. And somehow still get my son to preschool.
And then I realized what I had to do. I had to ask.
It’s never fun asking. And even though I knew I had thought my plan through from every perspective this time around, I still found myself doubting my value. But I put aside these feelings and I asked.
I asked my current boss if I could come in an hour later so I could drop off my son and make up the work through flex time in the evenings.
Guess what? She said yes.
I understand that my industry is one that may fare better than some when it comes to a more flexible schedule. Every situation is different. But we are moms. And moms can problem-solve every unique and intricate situation.
I also think my boss is wise. I wouldn’t have been happy had I not been able to re-work my schedule. I just know, as much I love my job, our family schedule would have been too stressful.
Today, I drop my kids off. We are rushed every darn morning, like most of you, but I get that undeniable satisfaction from personally greeting their teachers, viewing their latest artwork on the walls and a final hug after their coat’s in their locker. For me, this is happiness.
Happiness makes me a better professional. Instead of anxiously worrying if everyone got to school safely with everything they needed, I am able to hop in my car for my 40-minute commute with a clear head and an appetite to dig in to the day’s work. I genuinely feel grateful and motivated, and I think my work reflects that.
Just recently, our family took a day to explore downtown Cleveland, our home city. As we took the waterfront line around Lake Erie’s edge, my daughter noticed the fancy new buildings of the Flats East Bank. My husband said simply, “Mommy helped make that happen.” (My firm, Lesic & Camper, worked on the project for many years to help bring it to fruition.) My daughter’s eyes lit up. My heart exploded.
If you are feeling strapped at work, maybe things aren’t always what they seem. Think about what tweaks would make you happy and still allow you to bring value to your employer or clients.
And then please, don’t be afraid to ask. You might just get lucky.