Learned Behavior

Around 7ish every morning, my freshly awoken daughter usually makes her way to my office upstairs, wiping sleep from her eyes and carrying a plush toy. She always asks if we can spend some time together, and while I’m usually an hour or so into my work day, I try to pause and give her some time. Breaks are healthy. :)I noticed after about a week of this routine, she’s started showing up at my office more often. Truth be told, she’s always itching for reasons to go in there, and I can’t blame her for that. My office is chocked full of stuff a toddler would like to get into – markers, a glass angel figurine, paper, pens, a stapler, a turquoise file cabinet, a vase full of brightly colored artificial flowers, etc. (my office is my own personal paradise). But lately, when she shows up at my office, it’s with one of her wooden chairs, her play “computer” and a dolly that she’s lovingly referring to as her baby that day. 
She will plug away on her pretend laptop, scribble pretend notes on scratch paper, pick up her “baby” and sing to it, then gently tell it that she has a meeting to go to, and talk to her friends on her toy cell phone. 
She said to me, “I’m doing work just like you, mommy!” and I must say, my heart was touched. 

From last year. We like to sing along to the Frozen soundtrack when we do…just about everything.😏


First and foremost, our children learn how to act based on observing our behaviors, and it seems that I’ve been able to pass on some behaviors I was hoping my children would pick up, specifically, my daughter. I want her to see her mom as a working woman. 

I want her to see that it’s possible to be a career woman, and be a family woman, and be happy maintaining both. Now, don’t get me wrong – this is not my attempt to control her destiny in any way. She is free to choose what her adulthood will look like when the time comes. If she wants to be a stay at home mommy, she’s free to. She could marry a rich man and spend her days shopping and lounging (how nice, right?!). She could decide to work full time while attending night school to become a doctor or lawyer. She could also put herself through grad school while taking care of children of her own. I will support all of that as long as it’s what she wants because I love her. I also feel a sense of pride in getting to show her one version of womanhood that I’ve found to be respectable and commendable. 

While I was out grocery shopping with Adrian this week, another mom approached me as I was piling my selected goods onto the checkout conveyor belt with my 3-month old strapped onto my chest. “I’m impressed that you’re out shopping with your baby!” she told me. I thanked her for that compliment, and we chitchatted about diaper deals and managing outings with kiddos. Later that same day, as I was talking to my husband about future plans for our family, he reiterated his appreciation for the energy I bring to our home.

I think all moms can list at least 50 tasks that are just everyday responsibilities that have to be maintained in order for life to go on at home. What we don’t always do is step back to take in the scope of all these tasks. We chauffeur, we cook, we comfort and cuddle, we wake up in the middle of the night, we wipe noses, we wash and fold, and many of us do these things while also working jobs full time. Some of us even work those full time jobs out of the same homes we work so hard to keep clean and inviting (like me!).

Make no mistake, our children see us doing these things. They may not always express their gratitude (just two days ago, Kennedy told me to go away while I was dropping her off with her grandmother 🙄) but they do take notice of us tucking them in at night, waking them up in the morning, and always being there. My daughter sees me working and deems it cool and important, which I take as a positive step in building her identity. When she gets older, I can let her know about the time I spent in school to be able to work the job I have, and hopefully that will inspire her, too. 

I like this version of motherhood on me. It’s been a crazy ride to adjust to the growth of our family while also returning to work, but I feel like myself doing this. I also feel like I’m putting my best foot forward in setting an example for my children, who will hopefully come to conceptualize womanhood as including lots of things beyond just beauty or homemaking – it’s also intelligence, multitasking, and serving. 

Lions, Tigers, and Bears

I’ve been working in management for about seven months now, and the transition from part time to leadership has been…turbulent, exciting, overwhelming, inspiring, and necessary. It was time for me to move on from teaching, and at first I was unsure if this was the right move (I thought I might journey back to marketing and public relations) but now I’m certain it was. When I was studying in the MBA program, I took two courses centered on leadership and management, and in both, I indicated to my instructors that I wasn’t interested in working in management. I felt it was scary, I didn’t want the headache, and most of what I’d read about management seemed like it involved an intense amount of pressure. Those things aren’t untrue; I’ve experienced pressure, headaches, and nervousness since assuming this role. However, I feel like I’m able to grow more in this position than my past one. I’m constantly challenged to grow and get better, and I like that. One of the ways I’ve grown is through my ability to face what I’d been fearing about management: managing.

It’s not as simple as telling people what to do. That’s simple delegation, and even without management or leadership experience, anyone can pass off work to someone else. Managing requires additional accountability, responsibility, and an element of protection. Good managers don’t throw people under the bus when projects go wrong. Good managers work with their team members’ strengths as well as shortcomings. Good managers recognize their own strengths and shortcomings, too. But great managers are not necessarily always leaders. It’s leadership that pulls the team together in the face of difficulty. Leaders keep their team safe from misguided emotions or responsibility that should not be shouldered by their own team members. Leaders are lions.

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The tigris is still my favorite cat, but lioness is a close second!

I’ve had to grow into a lion.

The truth is that in most aspects, I’m a lot more like a tiger.

Tigers are the largest of the big cats. They don’t hold the distinction as “king” or “queen” of anything, as they mostly travel and live in limited groups, or alone. Lions travel and live in prides, large communities of lions all working toward a common purpose. Both are hunters, and tigers are aggressive fighters, but lions (males anyway) are said to have an advantage in combat due to their mane’s ability to protect their necks. Tigers don’t have manes…but they’re giant, thrashing animals.

I’ve always had some sense of aggression about me. My instinct is to challenge authority’s orders because I’m too strong-willed to just blindly obey what someone I don’t know tells me (hence why I would have failed in the military). I’m also a professional loner, and capable of fighting my own battles, performing my own stunts, licking my own wounds. Naturally, I am a tiger. In the professional environment, I have to be a lion.

Lions also do lion shit, like draw blood, growl, patrol, and protect. Lions are leaders. Doing lion shit has been tough, but also gratifying. It’s hard to learn to navigate “drawing blood” through assertiveness, consistency, and courage. I don’t let myself get railroaded anymore because I can’t – I can’t afford to, as railroading means the entire team falls off track. I have no choice but to protect my team members because their time is valuable for our collective goal, and I can’t afford to have them distracted by other people from outside the department or team. It’s a balancing act…but I’ve fallen into it okay.

Then, there are the bears; I work for two of them. One is like a koala – (I know, I know…they aren’t really bears, but bear with me) calm, pensive, subtle, and very approachable. The other is like a grizzly – constantly working toward a greater good, a hunter, one you can learn a lot from, and markedly more aggressive. Navigating between their two differing dynamics is also a challenge, but I don’t think I could have grown into what I am now without them. I’ve worked a lot of jobs, and for a lot of bosses, but I’ve only had one other boss in the past that I respected as much as these two. We aren’t buddies, but we work well together.

There you have it – my animal kingdom analogy for my professional life.

Oh my.

 

I’m grateful I’ve had such an environment in which to grow.
#LionShit