For Women’s History Month this March, DWN invited a variety guest authors to share their insights. Read on to see why #DePaulWomenRock!
By Louisa Fitzgerald
In August 2012, my daughter was born. Around the same time, several friends gave birth, and during those first months of new motherhood, we leaned on each other—commiserating about sleep patterns, nursing, developmental milestones and the major life decisions that come with having a kid. For me, as with many people, those decisions included determining whether or not I would continue to work.
I’ll spare you details of my struggle to make this decision, but ultimately, I went back to work full time. And I’m in good company—according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 44 percent of mothers return to work after three months of maternity leave.
While those numbers didn’t make the choice any easier, I had a pretty good sense of what I was giving up in terms of time with my daughter. What I didn’t expect was the loss I felt when I realized that the camaraderie I had with other new moms was slipping away. Choosing to work full time outside of the home meant giving up the important mom connections that are made during the week at the park, storytimes and playdates. But with the added pressures of balancing work with raising a baby and maintaining a household (even with dad shouldering much of the load), it seemed impossible to make those relationships a priority.
Moreover, the parenting issues I face now are largely a byproduct of the decision to work full time outside of the home. I knew that I wanted to strengthen my network of moms who could empathize with my situation. And knowing that time is always at a premium for parents of young children, I decided to make an effort to seek out new moms at DePaul.
Meeting moms is easy. Casual chats with acquaintances in elevators, meetings and even the bathroom easily turn into longer conversations about kids and often end in a passing suggestion of lunch. I used to write these offers off as a polite way to exit a pleasant conversation, but I decided to start making good on them. Once I got over the initial hesitation of sending a follow-up email, I became more proactive with my invitations.
Reaching out in this way forced me to step outside my comfort zone. I’ve never considered myself good at networking, but having motherhood as common ground allowed me to set aside my apprehension and connect with coworkers in a meaningful way. And my efforts have also helped me have a broader understanding what is going on in our university and how other people’s work is important to our shared goals. Ultimately, getting to know the people I work with beyond my team, my department and even my division has made me feel more connected to our DePaul community.
What I’ve found is that making the effort is usually appreciated. I have yet to find a mom who isn’t into the idea of chatting about her kid over lunch with someone who shares similar doubts, concerns, struggles and successes. Bonus: Being sans child usually means you can have a full-on conversation without someone melting down. Moreover, the network I’m creating for myself is playing a vital role in helping me stay sane as a working mom to a young toddler. And for me, right now, sanity is the best perk I can ask for.
Louisa Fitzgerald is Associate Director, Marketing Communications, in the University Marketing Communications, Enrollment Management and Marketing Department at DePaul University.