navigated work and motherhood

Embracing the Unfigured Out: Navigating Work, Motherhood, and Self-Discovery

“How do you do it all?”

I’ve been asked this question countless times by friends, and co-workers. The perception of perfection. 

Sidenote: my family knows me a little too well and will be the first to check me on the fact that I certainly don’t have it all figured out. 

The portrayal of possessing the capacity to work a demanding job, be an amazing mom/wife/sister/daughter/friend/[insert role here]… yet the flawed truth of it is, I don’t have a grand plan. I’ve been a serial people pleaser all of my life, and most days I face that sneaky feeling of (cue ominous music) imposter syndrome that so many people feel when they’re lauded as “successful.”

One day at the office, I was practicing a presentation in front of a peer, and thought I was asking for feedback by stating, “How was that? What did I mess up?”

And the answer I received was, “What makes you think you messed up?”

I wasn’t seeking feedback. I was seeking validation.

Motherhood Revelation

In October 2019, I gave birth to my son and learned what it meant to be a mother. Talk about seeking validation – what did I do to make this small person cry all day and stay up most of the night?

This was the first time in over 10 years since joining the workforce that I ever left the workforce. I learned what it meant to spend the entirety of a day keeping another human alive, and most importantly, I learned what it meant to have a village. My husband, my family, his family, close friends, and co-workers picked me up, and picked up the slack. 

I didn’t get everything right being a first-time mom, no one does, yet it bothered me for a while. Actually, it still really does. Yet I realized that the love I felt and showed to my son could be enough, and for one of the few times in my life, I really felt like it was ok to ask for (A LOT of) help.

Pandemic Pivot

Next, in February of 2020, I learned what it meant to rejoin the workforce once my maternity leave ended… only to have the world shut down in March due to the pandemic. 

As grateful as I was to have the extra time with my baby boy, I was admittedly looking forward to putting on pants without an elastic waistband and eating lunch without worrying about washing bottles or the next naptime. When COVID hit, I (along with many other working parents) was shocked to find myself at home with nowhere to go, no family to see, no play dates. Just our four walls, sweatpants for days, and our village now accessible only through Zoom.

I decided to take the time to invest in myself. To find myself again, through the BLI (Brand Leadership Institute). My manager at the time (BLI alumna, Allison Lavender) nominated me for the program at AstraZeneca, and in this experience, I figured out not only what authentic leadership meant but what MY authentic leadership was. 

Yes, that meant watching self-led videos on what motivates you during diaper changes, drafting my MVP (Mission, Vision, Purpose) during midnight power pumping (and no, I don’t mean weights). In those early hours of the morning during the year of the BLI, I learned more about myself than I had in the last several years.

Lessons in Leadership and Self-Acceptance

I came to realize that kindness does not equal weakness, people-pleasing does not mean compromising your own standards, and that authentic leadership with transparency of self and values can foster trust organically within a team. And that receiving validation makes you feel good, but accepting feedback while also accepting yourself will make YOU better.

Now as a mother of two, a wife, a daughter who strives to call home more often, a leader of a team, and a big fan of messy buns at work, my goal is no longer to have it all figured out. Instead, I find peace in giving myself a bit of grace to enjoy the in-between moments, to lower my expectations, and as a wise friend once told me, to bring in the village who has my back – no matter what.

Thoughts from BLI Alumni, Alyssa U
Director of Training, Lung Tumor Franchise, Global, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals

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