On Instagram, I double tap photos of immaculately dressed influencers posing with Starbucks in the front seat of Range Rovers. On Facebook, I click through a sorority sister’s photo album from St. Barts – her fifth vacation this year, somehow. On Netflix, I binge watch a show about gorgeous people buying gorgeous homes with gorgeous beachfront views. None of it fazes me – am I immune to jealousy?
But then, on LinkedIn, a notification pops up prompting me to congratulate a college acquaintance on her big promotion. I feel like I got punched in the gut. Nope, definitely not immune.
There’s a piece of wisdom constantly echoed by popular social media users in the era of everything being #goals: these pages are just highlight reels. I appreciate the reminder, but I don’t need it. The trips, the material possessions, and “flawless” bodies don’t affect me, except to occasionally influence me to buy a new moisturizer or try a new workout.
LinkedIn, on the other hand? If I dare wander over there, the land of exciting new ventures, promotions, and professional achievements, I’m instantly second guessing every decision I’ve ever made. So yesterday, with a fussy baby on my lap and mascara streaked under my eyes, I deleted my LinkedIn page. And it felt good.
When my boyfriend (now husband) and I moved across the country five years ago for his work, I was thrilled to leave the 9-to-5 world behind to start freelance writing full-time. “This will be the perfect set-up once we eventually have children!” I excitedly told my friends and family. I was in love with the idea of creating my own schedule and working for myself. When we had our daughter in 2019, I felt so privileged to stay home with her, working during her naps and after her bedtime while simultaneously saving money on daycare. That honeymoon feeling didn’t last long.
As my daughter began napping less and demanding more, my freelance work slowly began sliding toward the backburner. When the world shut down and I unexpectedly got pregnant again in 2020, that backburner was where my work lived. Today, with a toddler and newborn at home, it feels like my work is off the stove completely – sitting in Tupperware in the fridge. Getting moldy, probably.
I’m starting a Masters program in August– the first step on an entirely new professional path. I’m excited to begin the three-year program, yet still sometimes feel a twinge of inferiority. Should I be embarrassed that I’m just starting, when it seems like all of my friends already have slews of degrees and letters after their names?
On Pinterest, I see a quote. “The most important work you will ever do is within the walls of your home.” I pin it, save the image, make it my iPhone wallpaper, and repeat it to myself like a mantra over the course of the day.
I fish saliva-covered Play-doh out of my toddler’s mouth for the fourth time today. This is important.
I sing off-key to my 4-month old while washing the 2,947 pieces of my breast pump. This is important.
From the moment I understood what motherhood was, I’ve known it was important. But whenever I log onto LinkedIn, no matter how many “mom wins” I’d had that day, I’ve never felt so excruciatingly unimportant.
It’s a beautiful thing that every woman can chart her own path when it comes to working and motherhood. Chomping at the bit to get back to a demanding career as soon as possible after giving birth? Hell yeah. Thrilled to stay home full time with your little ones? Amazing. I recognize my own privilege that I am able to work part-time while tending to my daughter and son, and also realize many mothers would love the set-up I have.
Even so, I grapple daily with a painful feeling of inadequacy when I see my friends climbing the corporate ladder. I cheer them on, while crying to my husband about my ever-plummeting sense of self worth. I yearn for the important meetings, the paychecks, and the pencil skirts, while trying to be grateful for the play dates, the milestones, and the yoga pants. When full-time working mamas tell me, “You’re so lucky to be home with them,” I know they mean it. When I tell them, “You’re so lucky to have a career you love,” I mean it, too.
A few days ago, when I dramatically deleted my LinkedIn in a sob fest exacerbated by postpartum hormones and a cranky baby, I realized something: my angst over being unable to “have it all” is not remotely unique. It’s far from it. It’s a suffocating pressure felt by moms everywhere, regardless of their specific circumstances. Whether a woman feels like she’s neglecting her work, her children, her marriage, her home, or herself, virtually every woman feels like she’s neglecting something.
Right now, I’m “neglecting” work – and that’s OK. One day, my children will be in school and I will run full speed toward my professional goals. Instead of comparing myself to women on a different path, I am making it my number one priority to find fulfillment in what I have at this moment, on my path.
I’m not abandoning my LinkedIn forever, but I’m breaking up with it for right now. At this juncture of my life, I’m protecting my peace by disconnecting from that world. I won’t get any digital kudos when I’m promoted from Baby Mom to Toddler Mom, and I’ll never get any special awards for keeping my children clean, fed, and happy, but I’ll do my best to remember that “Mom” is worthy title. I can take pride in it. This is important.