This is a guest post by Megan Elizabeth Gray, an Associate Counsel at Condé Nast. If you are interested in contributing to our blog with a unique story to share let us know.
Women often wonder whether to “mention” during job interviews that they had a “career break” while on maternity leave. These wording choices are intentional; they reflect how women often feel like they need to be secretive or even ashamed of the time they invested, away from the office, in motherhood. While understandable given cultural and societal (patriarchal) pressures and norms, this way of thinking must be banished from the collective female psyche.
Motherhood is a journey like no other, and it teaches you skills like no other. Maternity leave is, in one sense, a career break, but in another, a vast and undeniable career enhancement. For these reasons, the fact of your maternity leave(s) should not only be “mentioned” during job interviews; it should be whole-heartedly embraced, highlighted, trumpeted, and celebrated.
Some people (read: people who aren’t moms) usually fail to appreciate how all of the skills learned, cultivated, and strengthened as a direct result of motherhood are entirely transferable to the professional workplace. There is no one who multi-tasks, discerns information, or endures through challenging situations like a mom. There is no one who empathizes with and leads her team members like a mom. There is no one who gets things done like a mom. Moms are the C-suite for little people.
So how do you talk powerfully about it in a way that is personal to you? First, take a step back and consider how motherhood has made you a better fill-in-the-blank. (Lawyer, banker, sales representative, IT professional, etc.) Here are suggestions of such skills:
Creative problem-solving: all day (very) long, you embrace new challenges, often in real-time; whatever comes up, you’ll solve it…because you have to.
Judgment: there is infinite baby advice available and no “right” answer; you gather the information you need, then decide what’s best for your family.
Flexibility: babies do not, ever, follow your “plan” (ha!) and are constantly evolving beings; you readjust, adapt, and grow along with them.
Learning: you educate yourself methodically on new topics; you’ve acquired entire universes of knowledge about which you are now an expert.
Strategic action-taking: each day, you have tiny windows within which to get all things (so many things!) done; you strategize, prioritize, multi-task, DO.
These are just five examples. There are countless more! Look inward, and discover what is authentic to you. Armed with this powerful reflection, and the perspective that motherhood is an asset to employers, not a liability, you then prepare your personal pitch/story. It could go something like this:
“In addition to the career experience we’ve been discussing, I also note that in 2020 I was on maternity leave with my first child, Lily. Motherhood has been a transformative journey for me. It has unquestionably made me a better lawyer by strengthening, in an unparalleled way, my capabilities of synthesizing data, staying calm under pressure, and mitigating risk in a way that allows a person or, by extension, a company, to thrive. I would seize the opportunity to bring these skills, and so many more, gained from my maternity leave to the professional arena.”
Remember, so much is about how you feel about your journey and you're worth. If you feel powerful and true in saying that your maternity leave enhanced you as a professional, this will be energetically reflected no matter what words you say. Own your story and feel confident in your ability to communicate your truth. You are a warrior! There is nothing harder than being a mom – if you can do that, you can do anything.
Megan Elizabeth Gray is a lawyer, writer, wife, and mother. She is currently Associate Counsel at Condé Nast, after ten years in private practice at a top global law firm. Elizabeth She writes about her reflections on womanhood, sisterhood, motherhood, human-hood, and life as a lawyer-mom. She published her first book, Enjoy Your Life: Thoughts for Awakened Daughters from Conscious Mothers, on the last day of her maternity leave with her daughter, Lily, all proceeds of which she is donating to domestic violence charities. Originally from New York, she lives in London with her family and is both American and British.
If you want to stay updated with her career and motherhood journey, follow her on social media on LinkedIn and Instagram.