Working mom Stephanie Schenking (NCB Management Services) shares the unexpected lessons motherhood has taught her and how they altered the course of her career.
Everyone thinks career lessons can only come from mentors, management courses or supervisors. But just like in life, lessons can come from anywhere. My kids taught me lessons that have transformed my career path. Here is what I learned from them.
Lesson 1: Values shift. Don’t be afraid to follow them.
As a mom of three kids, balancing a fast-moving career with a busy home life was a struggle, but one I took on with pride. I had a job I loved, with a company I trusted and coworkers who were practically family. I had a promising future that I worked hard for. I had it all.
And then things started to crumble.
I worked early mornings and late nights, doing my best to be present for both my children and my colleagues. I managed well until one day when I got stuck in traffic on my way to pick up my six-year-old daughter, Isabella, for her soccer game. When it became clear I wouldn’t make it in time, our nanny called and suggested I just meet her and the kids at the field.
When I pulled in and parked, I watched from the car as the nanny put shin guards on my daughter. Shouldn’t I be the one doing that? Shouldn’t I be the one buckling everyone into their car seats for the drive to the soccer game? Tears came down my face.
At that moment, there was a monumental shift in my entire world.
Four months later, I left my career to stay home with my kids. My values shifted. My goals changed. That little six-year-old girl needed me more than I needed my career. She made me realize how important being a mom is. She taught me how to sacrifice for someone else. Most importantly, she teaches me daily how to show up. How to be present. How to have fun and laugh.
Lesson 2: I am more capable than I realize.
My priorities continued to evolve. As my kids got older, I started to crave returning to the workforce. But returning after time away was not as easy as I anticipated. I had to redefine who I was professionally. I was no longer a confident 32-year-old with momentum behind me. I had to prove I was capable, even when I didn’t believe it myself.
I eventually landed a job that helped set a new path for me. I was again at a place where I loved my job, and my coworkers were my family. I was comfortable with the professional I had once again become.
At this time, Anthony, my middle son, was training to become a SEAL. Over the course of two years, we watched him physically transform. His discipline was unmatched. His workouts started at 4:30 AM, which included an hour-long drive to the training center. He followed a strict diet. He was constantly challenging his mind, spirit, and body.
One summer day, the phone rang with an amazing, new career opportunity for me. I hesitated, not sure if I wanted to step out onto a limb again. Anthony had some wisdom to share.
“Mom,” he said, “We are not made to be on cruise control. We are made to challenge ourselves; we are made to grow and expand.” And that one little conversation made me say “Yes.” Yes to a new company. Yes to a new job. Yes to a new path. Yes to pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
Anthony has taught me that challenge is the way forward and that I am more capable than I ever thought I was.
Lesson 3: I am worthwhile and I should treat myself accordingly.
As I transitioned into this new role, my 16-year-old son was always checking in to see how it was going. Joseph knew I had taken a leap of faith and was watching me every step of the way. As the baby of the family, some might argue that Joseph is spoiled. We like to joke and say he likes the finer things in life. At 14 years old, he asked for an expensive luggage set for his birthday. He shared all the reasons why this was the best luggage ever made, ultimately convincing us.
Fast forward two years later, and I was complaining about the luggage I was using for my work travel. I vowed to make my travel life easier, and that meant it was time to get new luggage. But I didn’t feel worthy of buying myself the fancy set. I had no problem buying it for my kid, but making such a big purchase for myself felt frivolous.
My children told me otherwise. That Christmas, I unwrapped the beautiful luggage set and cried. My kids had bought it for me when I couldn’t bring myself to do it. This was more than just suitcases. It was my children telling me that I am worth it. That I was always worth it.
When I went back to work after the holiday, I carried that sense of worthiness with me. I found that once I acknowledged my worth, acting accordingly became much easier. I moved through my work with confidence. I set boundaries where necessary. I advocated for myself when new projects and promotional opportunities arose. This has allowed me to continuously grow both personally and professionally.
Most lessons in life happen between the walls of our homes. I will always be grateful for what I have learned from my kids and for what I continue to learn as they grow from teenagers to adults. At each age, children can teach us. Let us not miss those lessons!
And now, go buy the luggage.
NCB Management Services was a generous sponsor of Women in Consumer Finance 2023. They are committed to supporting the personal and professional development of women across the finance industry.