A colleague has announced today that she is moving on. She found a new position at another accounting firm that offered her convenient work hours. I was initially upset because not only is she an asset to the department as a professional, but she is also a fine office mate. I offered her my best wishes and then asked her if she would mind some unsolicited advice. As usual, she graciously accepted.
She had mentioned some time ago wanting to have children soon after she married this coming July. She was still debating at the time whether to leave the workforce. She's a young lady in her late 20s and has been in the accounting field for most of her professional life. She talked about taking a break and raising the children she would start having.
I bit my tongue at the time to avoid burdening her with my experiences. I've learned through relations with my younger sisters (five of them, mind you) and a teenage daughter that it's best to let the younger generation find their own way. Unlike my generation who heeded the advice of elders, this new bunch of young and ambitious girls want to figure things out on their own.
So what did I share with her? I told her to continue working, even after she has children and even if it's only for a few hours a week. I told her that somewhere down the line, she will want to don the apron and and skip story times and make her way back into the workforce. And when she does, she will need to be marketable, but it will be difficult without the continued experience.
I always loved working. I stayed home full-time to raise my kids and earn my degrees, but took advantage of every opportunity to work. Only I never stayed long enough to really master the required skills needed to compete in today's workplace. Don't get me wrong, I'm doing a great job at my current position. But I initially struggled for two reasons. First, I entered a new profession and second, I didn't work in my selected field when I should have. Accounting requires too many hours, and while I had decided my children would be my first priority. At the time, I had bought into the idea that you can't be a great mother and a dedicated professional. I was dead wrong.
I'm doing both now, and volunteering and following a passion I long dreamed of. And you know what, I'm a great mother. Don't ask my kids right now, because they're a little ticked off with me. But don't take my word for it.
At my company, I am impressed by the willingness of younger women balance their work and home lives. Their ambition and drive is remarkable. They don't work to merely pay bills or whittle their time away. They are working with the diligence and energy to someday make it to the top echelons of the business world. And I am now right alongside of them.