It’s a topic that’s been long discussed, debated and avoided. Many career-minded women prepare themselves for the inevitability of having to choose between the job they put hard work and long hours into or giving it all up to raise a family.

It begs the question – Do we really have to choose between career and kids?

Most recently, AdWeek and She Runs It have partnered to bring us the 2017 Working Mothers of the Year. The initiative honors women who have achieved outstanding business results while also serving as strong role models or mentors at work, at home or within their communities.

“Being a working parent means you have two demanding jobs. The 26 winners of the She Runs It 2017 Working Mothers of the Year Awards know what it means to be caught in the crossfire between the office and home. But they also know what it takes to get it all done. There’s sacrifice, commitment, accomplishment and rewards.”

We wanted to properly recognize working mothers at emagine and to share their individual sacrifice, commitment, accomplishment and rewards. To start, Alicia Hale, VP of Digital Marketing, and her husband, Brennan, recently welcomed a baby boy into the world.

Managing it all and working at emagine is making it all possible.

L: When you found out you were pregnant, in relation to your job, was there any anxiety?

A: From the beginning, I had quite a bit of anxiety. I had anxiety to tell both my boss, and my Department. I wanted to have a plan and especially wanted to be a good role model for my team. I’m an active manager and I spend a lot of time talking and interacting with my team. So, I thought my team might be nervous that I wouldn’t be around as much for a bit. I was wrong though – they were all so excited for me and really supportive. All of the women actually came to my family baby shower and emagine also threw me a work shower as well, which Hannah, from my team, organized.

L: You mentioned there was some anxiety. What was that anxiety related to specifically? How your boss would take it? How your team would take it?

A: I knew everyone would be looking to me to see how I would handle the entire process. From taking maternity leave to coming back to work. There’s quite a few women here moving their way up the ranks that either just got married or have weddings coming up. The “next step” is usually starting a family, if that’s what they choose. I wanted to set a good example of how it might go for them when they choose to have children.

L: So, you made it through telling your boss and your team. How was it working during your pregnancy? Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen you putting in long hours, always being available for your current clients and for any big pitches.

A: Thankfully, I was extremely lucky. I was waiting for the hormone changes and exhaustion. But, I didn’t get any of that and I didn’t have to take any time off. I made sure to keep the same exercise and sleep routine and went into work the same hours every day. I think that helped because I didn’t have time to fixate on the negative parts of being pregnant. I know it’s not this way for everyone, by I was lucky to have a fairly easy pregnancy.

L: After Cameron was born, how did you handle jumping back into your groove?

A: This was a surprising part for me. My pregnancy was smooth so I thought I was going to be able to rebound. I was on a call the day after having Cameron, and that’s when I started to feel it. I decided to take a 2-week leave, while still staying plugged in with my team but giving myself time to properly recover. Then, I rolled right back into working full time- from home, at first.

L: What would you say are the benefits of emagine as a Working Mommy?

A: The most beneficial thing is the flexibility I’m able to have after having Cameron. I’ve been able to work from home since I came back from my leave, and have been working up to doing two full days in the office every week. Without the work from home time, I don’t know that I would have been able to pull all of this off. Huge credit goes to this company for giving me that. People who know me know this isn’t just a job for me. The work I do is a huge part of who I am. I couldn’t imagine not doing what I do and I was lucky enough to not have to choose between doing work that I love, starting a family and spending as much precious time with my son as I can.

At another company, I would have had to go back or lose my job. I would have missed out on the little things with Cameron. At this young age, he’s growing a little more every day, he’s learning new things every day and changing right before my eyes. I’m lucky enough to be with him and experience those growth spurts, laughter, and new discoveries. He just started being able to grasp things and roll over! Knowing what I know now, I can’t imagine missing out on those things. It’s just too important.

It’s especially a benefit for the baby and our relationship. This is the most important time for us to strengthen our bond.

L: We can’t deny the stigma of working moms. How do you think that stigma has affected the workforce?

A: The truth is that women tend to be the primary caregiver. To maintain female talent, it’s a must for companies to try and give flexibility to women. If they don’t, female employees are going to be less loyal. Who could blame them for having the drive to look for another position at another company if they feel that their job is causing them to miss out on so much of their life? Being an active participant in the company and an active parent in their child’s life is a very appealing benefit.

L: You have great, long-standing relationships with your clients so it’s safe to say they know you very well after years of working together. What has the reaction been on that front? 

A: My clients are very understanding. Most of my clients have worked with my department for anywhere from 2 – 5 years. They just get it. Sometimes they’ll hear Cameron giggling or squealing (trying to get his 2 cents in on their keyword strategy). If they don’t hear him, they’ll even ask about him and ask (or tell) me to go pick him up so they can hear him. I think it’s so cool that my giggling 6-week old baby can cheer up my clients too.

L: Now that you’re a mom, has your outlook on working moms changed?

A: It’s crazy! I’m still not used to the “mom” title. That might take some time. But, now that I’m a mom – a working mom at that! – I have this responsibility to be a role model for my son. As he grows up I think it’s awesome that I can show him that women can have careers and take care of their families- and be good at doing both. That’s powerful.

Final thoughts on flexibility

Flexibility for working moms to stay in the workforce while raising a family is more than what most people see on the surface – simply keeping my job when I have a baby. For me, it’s about the opportunity to continue doing what I love in a way that’s the best scenario for my son –  without feeling like I have to give up one or the other.