How my professional struggles as a new mom transformed my approach to leadership

Sophia Pfister in Science:

It was 3 a.m. I was exhausted from taking care of my 3-month-old baby, but I couldn’t sleep. As I tried to recall the topics of the five conference calls on my calendar for the morning, I again had the haunting thought that I wasn’t good enough for my job—a director position I started shortly before my baby was born. I imagined I would make mistakes in my presentations and my team would lose respect for me. Tormented by these thoughts, I reached for a book from the pile on my bedside table to distract myself. By chance I grabbed the Bible, which I had been too busy to read since my baby was born. As I opened it to a random page and happened on the verse “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” tears filled my eyes, and I could breathe again.

My upbringing gave me an “achiever” personality. From childhood class president to prestigious university degrees to a leadership position in a large company, I was regarded as a “star.” People see me as confident, ambitious, competent, and energetic. But I always feared seeming imperfect in the eyes of others. I worked as hard as I could to make up for my flaws.

But after becoming a new mom and starting a new job, I was unable to excel no matter how hard I worked. The job required me to attend meetings with almost no break between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., pushing my own work tasks late into the night. I used a breast pump under the table during meetings and frequently forgot to eat. Mental and physical exhaustion from back-to-back meetings and lack of sleep made it difficult to think deeply and creatively about science. I wanted to offer useful comments in meetings, but my thoughts often became muddled, at times leaving me tongue-tied midsentence.

More here.