Here’s the deal: you might love your job, but your job does not love you. Not even a little bit. It doesn’t call to check you on you, it doesn’t send you Christmas cards, it doesn’t slip a Reese’s peanut cup under the door after you’ve had a bad day.
Your job doesn’t care.
The PEOPLE at your job care about you, but that’s different. Don’t get confused.
Early in my career I was really into presenteeism. I thought my job loved me back. I showed up early, stayed late, raised by hand for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. My friends thought I was a jerk, my boyfriend thought I was a jerk, my boss thought I was a star. She and I are still friends, but time and distance means we haven’t seen each other in years. (Hi, Liz!)
During MBA school, I didn’t have a boyfriend. And it lonely and wonderful at once. You see, I’m not the kind of smart that gets in to Harvard Business School. I’m the kind of smart that needs to show her work. I got into an amazing business school (go Beavers!), that whipped me into shape professionally. It was the best two years of my life (until I was #blessed with a life of sticky little hand prints on my work clothes) and it was 100% all encompassing. I had nothing outside of Babson for those two years. I never had to balance.
Post-MBA school I got a job with LEGO. Why LEGO? Um, it was the only offer I got. Like I said, I’m show-your-work-kind-of-smart.
I was traveling all over the place, raising my hand for every project and every trip. I WAS IN IT TO WIN IT.
Then thanks to Match.com I found my person, within the space of 6 years we married and had two bebes.
After Bebe #1, travel came with more costs, not just my time, but her time. I was missing irreplaceable chunks of her little life. You want to know my low point? Bursting into tears in the Billund Airport (this teeny, tiny airport in middle-of-nowhere Denmark) after security confiscated my breast milk ice pack (maybe it looked at the Danish TSA agent the wrong way?) And I don’t even remember what the trip was for!
The female agent could not understand why I would need an ice pack.
“I have breast milk”
“But where’s the baby?”
“IF I HAD THE BABY I WOULDN’T NEED AN ICE PACK FOR THE MILK. THE MILK WOULD BE IN THE BABY.”
Cue ugly crying in a foreign airport. Cue beeline to the vodka samples in Duty Free.
After that something clicked. It wasn’t worth it, none of that was worth it. None of it got me a promotion, none of made me happier, smarter, richer, funnier. None of it was for me, it was all for my J-O-B.
And my job doesn’t care about me. It’s never texted me a heart emoji, not even once.
When Bebe #2 arrived, I remembered all that. I told my boss (at least in my mind) before I left on mat leave: I can’t travel until after I’m done nursing. (Pro tip: if at all possible, work for a Scandinavian woman – THEY GET IT.) In fact, let’s be choosey about my travel. And guess what – EVERYTHING WAS FINE. No one freaked, they didn’t demote me, in fact, I did better work and got on better projects more suited to strengths because I wasn’t over extending myself.
Monday I embarked on my first real big trip in two years.
And as trips go, it’s small, I get it, but for me it is significant. 6 days out. I’m in Denmark to talk about the super cool stuff I get to work on next year, then I travel to California for a moment that’s been about 9 months in the making (I get the baby metaphor there, thankyouverymuch!). This trip is the most bitter of sweets (is that a thing people say?) I’m delighted to be here, but so bummed to miss Halloween and my family for 6 days.
I chose this trip because it gives back to me, it gives me energy to see my work come to life, it’s something I’m doing for myself as much as my job.
So, here’s my recommendation for working parents: do what is right for you at the time. It’s a long life. You will have a long career. The Best Career Advice (from one of my Babson professors!) I ever got was: you will work for different reasons at different times in your career, honor that. There will be time for travel, there will be time to stay home, time to chase money, time to work on a passion project.
All of that will come, and just remember your job doesn’t care about you. It’s not there at the end of the day with a cocktail and a smile. It’s not.
Here’s a little framework I use to prioritize work stuff when EVERYTHING feels like a priority:
- Am I right person to do this project/trip?
- Often not. Will I learn something new? Will this fill my cup? Be honest.
- Will this matter in 5 minutes? 5 months? 5 years?
- I love this question because it separates the urgent right now stuff from the actually important stuff.
And now, a podcast recommendations (I can’t do anything without a podcast) that has helped me sort out how I approach my career:
Hosted by this guy they call the ‘entrepreneur whisper’ this interview show takes early stage entrepreneurs and through a conversation, strips them down to their core values and reveals how those values impact their professional life. Having a hard time finding your meaning in work? Start here.