“Work as if you don’t have kids. Raise your kids as if you don’t work.”
What a cliché.
But that unattainable, impossible statement is common among full-time working moms. It makes you feel inadequate, like you’re not doing something right. It hits hard. Harder for someone like me who is a full-time working mom with two young children, one with special needs.
I found empowered female colleagues to help me in my career. I found engaged, helpful moms to ask questions to. I even found helpful moms of special needs kids that I could vent to. But, I struggled to find someone, anyone, who understood all three. Where were the full-time working, married, special-needs mamas – the rare breed that understood it all?
On a random Tuesday, while organizing meetings around my son’s IEP meetings and figuring out when to go grocery shopping (drowning, like usual), an email notification popped up asking if I wanted to attend the conference, Women in Consumer Finance.
I was excited by the great opportunity. Then, anxiety hit me. When is it? Where is it? What flights are available? I opened my color-coordinated calendar to figure out how to make it happen. Like always, I made it work, but only by the skin of my teeth.
I knew at check-in that I made the right choice. I was already surrounded by powerful, amazing women. I immediately felt the energy and the power (with a speck of intimidation, too).
As I sat there and listened to story after story from accomplished women, I thought to myself, this is it! Here are these women who not only work but kick-butt at everything they do, but also several of them have kids. Here is my chance to find that rare breed that I’d been searching for. Surely in this large space there must be at least one other mom who struggles like me.
It took a day for me to think of the way to ask the question that was on my mind. What was I looking for? What did I need exactly? On day two, I watched Stephanie Eidelman, Chair of Women in Consumer Finance, walk around with her head held high and I chose the moment she walked by our table to finally ask my question.
Of course, the moment I said hi my mind went blank. After stumbling through my introduction, I finally reached the point where I admitted I’m a full-time working mom with a special needs kid. I wanted to know if Stephanie knew any other women attending that also had a child with special needs.
I started crying. The emotion of carrying all this weight and asking for help took over. I finally realized I had the power to ask for what I needed. At the time she admitted she didn’t, which wasn’t surprising. But, she didn’t stop there. She lit up and said, “I will ask around.”
Sure enough, a couple days after the conference I got an email introducing me to two other full-time working moms with special needs kids. There was not one, but two other women who I knew at that moment knew exactly what I was going through.
From that moment on, we started a group chat that included funny memes or TikToks, healthy dinner ideas for picky eaters, and more. It’s a place to cry when a therapy session doesn’t go as planned and half of our day is wasted or when we have to stay up half the night finishing our day job.
I found strength I didn’t know I had in these women. I found my people.
This article originally appeared on Women in Consumer Finance’s LinkedIn.