I'm a mom of two adorable, crazy boys, who light up my life and give me heartburn like you wouldn’t believe. After having my first child, my whole perspective on life changed, and I saw my career in a completely different light. When I was contemplating cutting my schedule back at work, I was nervous about talking with my superiors about my decision, and with good reason. I was basically given an “all or nothing” choice and decided to take “nothing” - i.e. staying home with my kids. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made in my life.
Fast forward four years, and after I successfully re-entered the workforce after being home with my kids and freelancing on the side, I realized I needed to have a conversation with my boss to cut my schedule back. I definitely had flashbacks to my first professional conversation at my former company, but this time, I was prepared. I had numerous conversations with other colleagues and moms beforehand, and I went into the conversation advocating for myself, my family and my need to balance both. I was clear and honest about my goals and how I saw myself getting there. And the most unbelievable thing happened - my boss agreed to cut me back to part time so I could spend more time with my family!
I have to admit though - I haven’t always been a great self advocator, but I’m getting MUCH better at it. That’s because I’ve realized over the years, after talking to countless other moms who desperately want to make changes in their lives, that women (including myself) DO NOT ASK FOR WHAT WE NEED. We somehow are either waiting for permission to ask for what we need (until we’ve hit a wall, fallen ill, or our child is ill) or feel as though we don’t deserve what we are asking for. We’ve been led to believe that what we really need for ourselves and our families to feel balanced, happy and productive should not be a priority, isn’t important or worse, is a liability. I’m here to tell you that’s complete bullshit.
Self Advocacy is the Doorway to Empowerment
Asking for what you need, whether at work or in life in general, is the key to unlocking the power that’s always been within you. Instead of waiting for others to give permission or read our minds (as I’ve done so many times in the past), self advocating allows us to put ourselves in the forefront, and get what we’ve needed for so long.
Self Advocacy Should Not Be a Solo Thing
How often have you heard “If you want something done, do it yourself”? Sure, it’s true, but when advocating for yourself and what you need, it’s important to talk to the RIGHT people and get those people on your side. Getting the right people to have your back boosts your confidence and helps you get even closer to reaching your goals. I’ve found immeasurable support through my family, friends, coworkers, even online moms groups, who help support and uplift one another. Don’t try to go at it alone, darling.
Self Advocacy Is Hard at First….But Not Impossible
Like all difficult things, self advocacy takes practice. It also takes a plan. I’ve found that the best conversations I’ve had to get what I need were not ones where I tried to bully or manipulate the other person (which I can’t do anyway) or even negotiate with them, it’s when I have a concrete goal in mind, and actionable steps to get there. When I share those steps with the person in question and how they can help me reach my goal, that’s where I’ve found the most success. With my first employer, I had the goal in mind of spending more time with my kids, but I was looking to my employer to provide me with the steps to get there. The second time around though, I had my end goal in mind, which was to strike a better professional balance, but I also had the steps in mind (work from home, drop to part time, work only on specific projects) and laid them out in a way that mutually benefitted us. Not only did it show my boss I was organized about my plan, but that I had put a good amount of thought into it too.
No matter what challenge you’re facing, either personal or professional, advocating for yourself is the key to navigating the issue in the best way possible. I spent most of my life being a pushover and waiting for others to tell me what to do or how to do it - when I began standing up for what I needed and believed in, I began seeing a unique power within me I didn’t realize I had. I now am on a journey to empower other women, who either haven’t found ways to advocate for themselves or who need that tribe of women behind them to support them. Try it out today, even if it’s something like telling your husband “I needs to take a nap, and you need to take care of the kids for 1 hour…” and comment below on the outcome!