In Fall 2016, I returned to work from my third maternity leave. I was in survival mode. I had a 1.5 hour commute (each way), a husband who had just become a teacher so was throwing himself into his work, and we were raising a 4-month-old, a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old. I felt like I was barely making it at work and barely making it at home (barely making it in life).
One morning, a co-worker (a fellow working mom) asked me how I was doing with everything. I told her “I feel like I’m performing 80% at work and 80% at home”. My coworker looked at me with shock and admiration and said “Monica… That’s ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY percent!”
The math was simple. Objectively, I totally understood and agreed with her point: what I was accomplishing in life was absolutely amazing. But in my heart, this equation didn’t bring me any reassurance. I still felt like a failure.
Another milestone in “The Pierce Family Whirlwind of Fall 2016” was my oldest son starting Kindergarten which meant our family was “starting” our life in public schools. Along with this came Room Parent sign-ups, class parties, field trips, and new social circles – for my son and for me! I met dozens of new, wonderful women; many of whom happened to be stay-at-home parents.
Now before you think I’m igniting the ole Working Mom vs. Stay-at-Home-Mom debate, let me first tell you this: I was a stay-at-home-mom during three maternity leaves and it is the HARDEST friggin’ job in the world! After being home with my kids all weekend, I look forward to going to work on Mondays so I can rest! I have the utmost respect for stay-at-home-parents. Plus, that’s not the point of this story. So read on…
Before Fall 2016, I had never really known any stay-at-home-moms because I had been working full-time since I graduated college. Everyone I interacted with were either family, friends from college, or coworkers (who, if they had kids, were obviously also working parents).
Meeting all of these stay-at-home moms was very new territory for me. Joining into their circles, doing the class parties and the field trips and even the Moms Nights, I often felt like a fraud. They talked about who had this teacher… and what Little Jimmy was doing in that class… and what new program was being proposed by the PTA… I knew no one and knew nothing. I had no relevant contributions to make to the conversation since most of the topics of interest in my life were IPOs, enterprise applications, or high-maintenance SaaS customers. But of course we bonded over the kid stories. Whether you’re a CEO in Manhattan or PTA President in Suburbia, all parents can relate to the joys of a 2-year-old puking in the middle of the night.
Around this same time, my experience at work was just as alienating. I was in the office by 8am (after leaving the house at 6:30am) and worked my ass off for 8 hours straight. No lunch breaks, no water cooler chat, no socializing – I even worked while I was strapped to my Medela. Being at a typical Silicon Valley startup that was all about ping pong tournaments and happy hours, where most of my coworkers were 20-something singles or 50-something millionaires, not many of them could relate to my lifestyle. I began to feel a backlash for not “Leaning In” (doing the nightly email login, going to all the “extra curricular” events at the office, etc).
That 80% + 80% = 160% statement continued to linger in the back of my mind. If I was living 160% of an ‘average’ person’s life, why did I feel so down on myself? Then it finally occurred to me to think about those respective 80 percents in isolation.
When I was at work, I was only able to be about 80% of the “standard” employee.
When I was with the other moms, I was only able to be about 80% of the “standard” mom.
Wherever I was, I always felt like just 80%.
The next and most important question was why was I arriving at this “grade” of 80%? Who said I was only performing at 80%? Who is setting the standard for what 100% looks like? And that’s actually where the idea for We Lean OUT came from.
On the “Work” side of the equation, I realized that the company I was at – where your ping pong and schmoozing skills have more value than your professional ability – was not the right fit for me. I found a company full of professionals who value their work but also their families and their personal lives. I found a more-accurate grading scale on which to measure myself as a professional.
On the “Mom” side of the equation, I decided to reassess the “grade” I had given myself and when I was honest with myself, I knew that “80%” was ridiculous. I may not have known who had this teacher… or what Little Jimmy was doing in that class… But I knew I was a damn good mom.
So now when I “do the math” on my life performance, it looks like this…
There is no math! There is no score. I’m living my life according to my own standards, my own grading scale. And I’m passing with flying colors.
Do you ever feel inferior in certain areas of your life because you’re balancing more than one version of it? Have you ever felt ostracized within a particular area of your life? How do you measure your own success at work, at home, etc? We want to hear your thoughts so Comment below! Subscribe above to receive future posts directly in your email. Visit and Like our Facebook page.