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Here’s why bringing your whole self to work might just make you happier

It’s not always easy as parents and caregivers to bring our whole selves to work. It takes courage to bring authenticity about who you are, and honesty about what you need in the everyday work-life juggle. But, as one working parent reflects, showing up authentically will boost your confidence and take you on the path to more satisfying work.

At the height of the #metoo movement, I found myself drawn to a Quartz piece that detailed all things onerous about the term, ‘mompreneur’. While I found myself nodding to most of the sentiment in the article, I had cause to pause at one particular line, “… using the label mompreneur or boss mom implicitly denies women the freedom to exist professionally independently from their role as a mother”.

What was it that made me pause?

Labels aside, why do we need to operate like the professional person and the parent can’t co-exist? Why can’t the two be interlinked? What makes women feel that by merging the two, we’re denying ourselves career progression or professionalism?

I’m a mother of a three-year-old, and I have embarked upon three professional roles since becoming a mother. My first was with the same workplace I was at before having my daughter. The second job was an opportunity for huge career progression and — with a role that was advertised as flexible — enticing for a working parent looking for career progression. When I went for this role, I made a conscious decision to talk about my then nearly two-year-old in my interview. Why? I had decided I didn’t want to work for someone who wasn’t willing to accommodate working parents. I also made a conscious decision to bring my whole self to the workplace from day one. I later found out that my boss loves hiring parents. They are, she says, “more productive and organized than most”. She’s not wrong! Wrangling child care, sick days, drop-offs, and the occasional conflict mean that efficiency is more important than ever.

What has it meant to bring my ‘whole self’ to work? Well, it’s brought me open conversation with other parents. There’s nothing more comforting than hearing the challenges of other parents, of receiving advice from those with older kids, and offering advice to new parents entering the workplace. By bringing my whole self to work these last two years (complete with the occasional breakfast cereal smear or sticky handprint on my back), I have offered everyone around me the opportunity to do the same.

And it’s refreshing! Has it limited my career progression? Absolutely not! I have thrived and, as a result, I’m able to power ahead in my career with confidence in my ability as a working parent.

This was no more apparent than during the application process for my current job. When asked in my interview, “What do you like to do outside of work?” I responded with, “Well, I try to be the best parent I can be”. When the interviewer paused for more, I said, “I realize you’re probably looking for something more from that answer, but I work four days a week and I have a three-year-old at home. I don’t have time for much else”.

Here’s the thing. I got the job. I got the job with honesty, by being true to myself. In fact, they stated that I would be a good fit. I negotiated a full-time role down to four days. I set up hours that work better for child care pick-ups (for my husband) and drop-offs (for me — I think it’s worth acknowledging a shared load here). I have brought my whole self from the get-go, and it has made me feel empowered, happy, and no less professional.

I’m not suggesting this is easy or always comes naturally, but when we persist in striving for separation from the professional person and from the parent, we’re often only hurting ourselves. We’re creating personas, rather than honesty. We’re creating stress when we don’t need to.

It’s taken me years to learn how to be honest and true at work, and now I find myself in the strongest career position I’ve ever been in.

I know what I need from an employer, and by being myself I’m not offered the jobs that wouldn’t work for me, and that’s fine! For those who do hire me, they get a highly productive, dedicated employee, one who acknowledges life outside of work.

My advice to all parents is to put your whole self first. Own who you are. You might just find that you end up doing amazing things with amazing people — people who embrace the whole you.

Written by Carly Greenwood, content strategist, sometimes blogger, and mother-of-one. Passionate about empowering parents in the workplace and encouraging meaningful conversation between working parents. And coffee. So much coffee.

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