In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, and this year’s theme, #BeBoldForChange, we are featuring stories from our leaders and employees throughout the month of March, describing their own bold moments in relation to workplace equality and honoring diversity and inclusion.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme, #BeBoldForChange, made me wonder what I would tell my younger self when my husband and I decided to start a family. I remember the pure bliss we felt when we heard the words, “You’re pregnant!” And at the same time, I was overcome with intense worry as a new executive about what this decision would mean for my career.
Would I be able to keep up? Would I be passed over for a promotion? Did I have the stamina to be both a great mom and a great executive? How in the world was I ever going to squeeze back into my business attire? And the list went on.
Fearing the answers to all of the above, I hid my growing belly for as long as I could. When I had to leave early for doctor appointments, I snuck out the back door and left my office light and computer on to give the impression that I had just stepped out for a minute. I attended exhausting social events and sipped sparkling water in champagne glasses. I draped myself in pashminas.
When I could disguise my pregnancy no longer, I made the big announcement. While people were mostly excited about my news, everyone had an opinion — about everything. From breastfeeding to the length of my maternity leave. I heard countless stories, all well-intended, about the critical importance of staying home for the first few years with my child. Then the guilt set in. I wondered if I was a bad mom for loving my job and feared that my daughter would grow to love her nanny more than me.
Three months after my baby was born, I made the decision to return to work. I’ll never forget my first day back in the office, quietly enjoying a freshly brewed latte in the break room and taking in the silence. I realized that satisfying my passion for a profession that I love actually makes me a better mom. I came to understand that it’s not about the number of hours you spend doing one thing or another; it’s about being fully present in everything you choose to do and content with your choices. Through my work, I’m able to show my children that they can follow their passions, too — and still have plenty of love to give to those around them.
So, to that younger self and to anyone thinking about starting a family: Own it. Having a child is one of the most amazing, miraculous and incredibly challenging parts of life. The experience will reveal an inner strength you never knew humanly possible. I still don’t have it all figured out, and there are plenty of days when I feel defeated for missing a school event or buying a store-bought pie for the bake sale. But I find comfort in knowing that I’m not alone. I surround myself with incredible mentors and sponsors who cheer me on and pick me up when I fall, and I try to do the same for those around me.
Heather at the Girl Scouts of Greater LA for their “ToGetHerThere” luncheon celebration in November 2016.
I truly believe you can have it all — just not at the same moment. The key is to decide what the right balance is for you and your family and to lock arms with people who have your back and will support you every step of the way.
Heather Rim is chief marketing and communications officer, overseeing AECOM’s global marketing and communications professionals to inspire brand loyalty, advance business development opportunities, and engage employees and the marketplace. She serves on the boards of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Downtown Women’s Center and the University of Southern California Center for Public Relations.