Throughout my career in investor relations, I’ve built a good level of confidence to navigate the puzzles and challenges ahead of me. But when I became a mother last October, that confidence suddenly vanished. I knew what good looked like before. Now, I felt unprepared to decide what type of stroller or diaper to purchase. Relating to other women felt difficult too—not many of us become first-time moms in their 40s. Yet perhaps the common thread among us all is that no matter when we enter motherhood, our lives change drastically and gain new meaning. For me, motherhood has become about acknowledging my previous life while embracing a new one—as a human and as a leader.
This Mother’s Day, I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far from this beautiful and deeply transformative journey.
Overcoming the fear of seeking help. Motherhood can feel disorienting, and so can leadership. “What am I going to do?” I asked myself the first night in the hospital with my son. My husband had been there for me, yet I had never held a baby, never changed a diaper, never attended parenting classes. Everything was new and I needed to accept that mothers—just like leaders—don’t always have answers. Women often fail to admit what we don’t know due to fears of stalling our career or losing job security. But motherhood forced me to become more vulnerable and made asking for help a necessity. By opening up and embracing support in all forms I became better at both parenting and leading teams—and now, advising my clients.
Building a support system. Mothers and leaders alike know all too well how lonely their roles can be. A few of my friendships faded as I embarked in motherhood, which was honestly disappointing. But I’ve found support in my organization and became actively engaged in building a community outside work to exchange on parenting experiences too. That support system enabled me to thrive as a leader while making time to nurture my family.
Expanding my perspective. Motherhood gave me the gift of understanding a whole new segment of the population. It made me more understanding, compassionate, and curious too. It made me appreciate the efforts parents make to manage their families, but also respect people who have chosen not to have kids. It expanded my leadership skills by understanding that everyone lives a unique experience, and we all need a strong support system—which, fortunately, I feel that I have.
The clock is ticking. Societal pressure is very real. Growing up as a Brazilian woman, where motherhood can be imposed very early on, I’ve consciously chosen to put my career first in many instances, focusing on my development and job performance. As you progress and get to a certain point in your career, it becomes even harder to balance taking time for “self” while meeting the demands of the job. Parenthood was on the backburner for me, so we decided to freeze embryos. I eventually made the choice to become a mother, but it was a long journey. Ultimately, having a highly supportive work environment played a key role in enabling me to make that decision.
Finding work-life balance prior to having kids. Parenthood is demanding and transformative in every aspect. Ironically, before having a child, I already struggled with guilt when it came to finding time for activities outside of work, such as hikes, birthdays, or anniversaries. None of my activities seemed as important as my colleagues’ kids’ soccer practice, school meetings, or music lessons. Female leaders are under pressure. Not taking necessary breaks can place a strong toll on mental health, and women in particular also shoulder a disproportionate share of household responsibilities as a 2021 Egon Zehnder study revealed. Families need supportive workplace policies, but let’s not forget that everyone needs personal time too.
As I navigate motherhood and a new role—I joined Egon Zehnder as a consultant in 2022—I find myself still peeking at glimpses of my old life just to realize that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Stepping back with both terror and positivity, I ask myself:
- If men in business go through analogous fears and feelings about parenting (e.g., financial pressures, lack of skill) that we women can discuss with them?
- If, especially this week, what my life would be like if I were unable to make the parenting choices I have made?
- What policies can embrace the role of grandparents and extended family in making parents successful in all spheres?
In sharing my observations this Mother’s Day, I hope other female leaders realize they don’t have to bear the brunt alone—in and outside of work. Leverage your support system, seek the help you need, tap into your vulnerability, and embrace change. When mothers get the support they need, their entire ecosystem, including their organizations, tends to benefit from it.