Ana Duarte: Five Messages to My Younger Self About Being a Working Mom
By Ana Duarte, Chief Diversity Officer, Citi March 13, 2013 11:46 AM
I am the Chief Diversity Officer at Citi and have been with the company for 18 years. I have had the opportunity to hold different roles within the company, such as attracting, developing and retaining a diverse employee workforce and fostering an inclusive and respectful work environment. Outside of the office, one of the most important roles I hold is being a mother to my 17-year-old daughter, Alissa.
When I joined Citi, I was not aware I was pregnant. My husband and I had faced infertility challenges, so we were thrilled once we learned I was expecting. However, I was scared because I had just started a new position at a new company and was facing a 4-hour daily commute. I knew Citi would offer great opportunities, but was concerned about balancing professional and personal responsibilities.
I returned to work eight weeks after giving birth to Alissa. The first few months were very challenging. During one particularly stressful week, Alissa was hospitalized with an unknown virus. I was tired from lack of sleep and felt a bit out of control at home, at work and in my personal life. I was on the brink of leaving Citi. However, my situation improved. Through my own experience, I would like to share a few life lessons, which may help those of you navigating work, motherhood and pursuing your life goals.
1. Set priorities. Not everything has to be completed! I have tried to get everything done- baking cookies, folding laundry at 10 p.m., playing with my daughter, giving her a bath and reading stories. However, I somehow felt I could not perform every task well. The key lesson here is to prioritize daily tasks, rather than trying to tackle everything. Don't sweat the small stuff!
2. Clarify expectations. It is important to establish expectations for yourself and your family. As a commuter, I am never home in the morning to see my daughter. I once asked her if this bothered her and she said no. She understood that the long hours I worked could prevent me from being involved in every aspect of her daily life. This helped me let go of the belief that I could be letting her down. This simple example helped me learn how to create a common understanding between me and my daughter.
3. Be present. Like many children, Alissa participated in school functions, sports teams and other school activities. I could not attend all of the events and often had feelings of guilt. Through careful planning, I began to make sure I attended those most important to her. Learning to be a presence in your child's life is perhaps one of the most important aspects of motherhood.
4. Have a supportive partner/spouse. My husband is very supportive of my career. He and I talk about our schedules each week to ensure someone can take care of Alissa. He was and continues to be very proud of my accomplishments. His incredible attitude has allowed me to take on greater professional responsibilities. The moral of the story is learning to share responsibilities with your spouse/partner!
5. Get involved and build your networks. As a working mother, it is important to achieve personal growth by becoming involved in something outside of the professional and family environment. I chose volunteering to achieve this goal. The activities I participated in helped me build a strong network in my local area, enabling me to learn more about opportunities for Alissa and my family. I coached basketball for six years, served as the class mom for four years and was an advisor to the Ski Club for three years. During Alissa's high school years, I was involved in the PTO, Booster Club and sports associations. Currently, I am part of several boards and professional organizations that have helped broaden my network. These affiliations don't require a large time commitment and have helped me form some lasting friendships.
Bonus tip: Be good to yourself! Take a walk, enjoy a good book, laugh with an old friend and breathe. The positive energy these actions create can have a great impact on your child and your family.