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A Working Mom’s 3 Top Tips for Success & Survival

The lessons learned from parenting can make us more effective professionals, help us balance priorities, focus on what’s important, and be present.

Friday Focus

I spend a lot of time on the road at speaking and presenting at various industry events and conferences.

It was my 75th speaking engagement in 12 months. And my inner monologue bounced between Slow down and emphasize your core points and Oh no, I’m feeling queasy.

I continued to contend with “hyperemesis gravidarum” (severe morning sickness), in my third trimester of pregnancy. And the flight between Seattle and Amsterdam hadn’t helped matters.

This time, I had traveled without my 2-year-old son, who had been my frequent companion in the first half of the year.

Was it a personally challenging year?

Yep. But it was also extremely rewarding. And I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

I’ve now welcomed my second child, a beautiful baby girl.

In fact, I believe that the 15 years I’ve spent working as a woman in the tech world helped prepare me for some of the craziness of becoming a working mom.

  • Late nights with little to no sleep? Check.
  • Balancing projects, budgets, and priorities? Check.
  • Negotiating with a tiny, irrational overlord laying on the floor screaming because I put the cheese inside his quesadilla? Still figuring that one out.

I also believe the reverse is true – that parenting has helped me in the workplace.

Here are three things I’ve learned as a working parent that have made me a more valuable employee and have helped me find my success both professionally and as a mom.

1. Find Your Tribe

I can’t imagine motherhood without my tribe of moms.

They are my support, my lifeline, my go-to for the myriad of parenting mysteries.

They don’t judge and, like me, they’re learning as they go.

They coax me from the edge of panic and desperation and rescue me when my daycare provider cancels the morning of my executive business review.

These moms taught me the importance of having a support network in my career as well – trustworthy people with whom I can be brutally honest.

Since then, I’ve worked to build a network of peers and mentors who support and encourage me, people who challenge me and hold me accountable to do better. Having this network has helped me to thrive in my career.

I’ve built a tribe of peers and mentors I can trust, where I can be my authentic, vulnerable self.

It’s important to find people who not only support me, but will challenge me to find new and different ways to get things done – and who will advocate on my behalf.

2. Create Margin for What You Hold Dear

Creating margin started with identifying my personal limits and then prioritizing resources, so I don’t find myself teetering on the edge of those limits.

With the added demands of parenting, I’d have been lost without margin. Creating margin has helped me balance my time and energy.

From the time I leave work until I tuck my son into bed, I’m a mom and a wife. My phone is off, and my laptop is put away.

If I can’t get everything done during the workday, I’ll check in after 8 p.m. when my son is asleep. This margin keeps me sane and happy.

How does creating margin help me become a more valuable employee?

I’ve learned to set boundaries and prioritize by focusing more on what I need to get done vs. what would be nice to get done, and carefully managing my available time and energy in-between.

I discovered that it’s less about the quantity of work I do, and more about quality and impact. I’ve learned to say no and avoid working myself into exhaustion.

I’ve learned to qualify my yesses to specify when and how much. And I’ve learned to ask for help and delegate.

By creating margins, I’m able to prioritize, eliminate stress, and be a better mom and employee.

Take time to determine your margins, and then do what it takes to avoid the edge.

3. Be Present Over Being Perfect

I was going to be that mom. You know, the one who cans organic fruits and vegetables from her lush backyard garden.

The one who cooks every wholesome, gourmet meal in her spotless kitchen from scratch. The one who sews stylish outfits for the whole family – maybe even the neighborhood.

And I was going to do it all while being the consummate, full-time professional.

Guess what? It hasn’t happened, and I’m fine with that. Because I’ve learned that being present is more important than being perfect.

I’ve also learned that trying new things and having a #PinterestFail is better than doing nothing – and can make for an entertaining story.

This mantra carries into work as well. I’ve seen too many occasions where talented individuals held back because they were scared of not achieving perfection.

At Microsoft, we’re encouraged to fail fast and learn from our mistakes. This motivates us to try new things and drives business growth.

Presence over perfection doesn’t mean settling or accepting mediocrity. It does mean learning to pursue what’s important and having the courage to embrace the less-than-perfect.

Let go of perfection. Take time to participate in what matters and be willing to fail sometimes.


I believe the lessons I’ve learned from parenting have made me a more effective professional.

I’ve learned to balance priorities, focus on what’s important, and be present.

It’s important to take time to acknowledge the overlap between work and life.

Rather than drawing lines in the sand, I choose to embrace this crossover and apply those lessons that add value to my life and the lives of those around me.

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Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita

Category Friday Focus
VIP CONTRIBUTOR Christi Olson Head of Evangelism at Bing Ads @Microsoft

Christi is the Head of Evangelism for Bing at Microsoft and is a member of the board of SEMPO. For ...

A Working Mom’s 3 Top Tips for Success & Survival

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