Tell us a little about who you are, your background, and how you’ve kept your identity as a mother?
I am a research psychologist currently stationed in California with my Marine husband, our two-year-old daughter, and three-month-old son. Being Norwegian, working, and being a triathlete is a huge part of my identity. “Mom” is not part of my 30 second elevator speech. I’ve definitely been better at maintaining my identity than I have been at incorporating motherhood into it.
I recently partook in a research study at work during which we interviewed and assessed 57 (current and former) female Fortune 500 CEOs, extracting commonalities and recommendations for women at work. Because of our findings from this study, I have a new sense of security in my ability to manage both being an ambitious worker while remaining a dedicated mom. I didn’t hesitate to ask for two extra months of maternity leave. I’ve made my wishes to go into leadership known, despite having young children. Our study showed that wearing two hats while balancing work and motherhood is absolutely possible—you just have to get creative. This is especially the case if your husband works a lot, is often gone, or you are a single parent.
What do you find most fulfilling and most challenging about motherhood?
I find that the most fulfilling aspect of motherhood is seeing our children grow. The other day my two-year-old came home from daycare counting, “one, two, three.” She speaks an adorable mix of Norwegian and English. My three-month-old son has just started to roll and discover his hands. These days you’ll find him on his side gnawing at his fist. Every time something “clicks” for either one of them—like when Maria learned which side is up in her books or when Ragnar started smiling—I get a huge sense of accomplishment on their behalf, of pride, and of joy.
The most challenging part of motherhood is letting go. Let go of the floors that need vacuuming. Let go of Maria’s frizzy hair. Let go of the out-of-town work conference. Pre-children, I was a typical type-A perfectionist, and the post-partum depression I experienced after my first child was born I’m sure was due in part to the decreased lack of control I perceived. Slowly, I am coming to terms with my new reality as a mom. I was scared to have a second child in case the post-partum depression came calling again. Thankfully, it didn’t, and I think it’s partly because I’m learning to let go. For me, having two is better than having one in this regard.
What advice would you give women who are desiring or seeking motherhood?
You have to know yourself and be honest with yourself about the way you want your life with children to look. Attempting a lifestyle that doesn’t come naturally to you, your husband, or your children, will get in the way of your happiness. I have to work. If all my income went toward daycare, I would still work. I went to a work conference once that was out-of-town and left my daughter with a nanny for five days because my husband was deployed. That would not have made some moms happy. For me, however, it did. What makes you happy might not make other people happy and vice versa. And that’s okay.