Becoming Mommygineer: One Engineer’s Perspective on Finding Balance

Written by:

Karla Saludares

Engineer or Mommy? Call me Mommygineer

Change does not come easily for me. Yet, after 16 years in a full-time job as an engineer in the oil and gas industry, I'm making a change. A big one. My new title: mommygineer. I am leaving corporate comfort to work part-time from home and I am terrified.

Engineer vs. SAHM

The competing demands of professional working mothers are not to be taken lightly. I struggled with the decision to make the transition from full-time to part-time and corporate to front porch. How would I feel watching full-time working women climb the ladder and become executives and CEOs? How would my kids' view of me as a role model change? Would I be able to have it all, or just be an imposter professional? And the biggest question: how do I maintain my individuality and professional identity AND strive to be a good stay-at-home-mom?

The struggle to find balance

The fears are real, but I have found ways to silence them.

  • I sought other avenues for my passion for supporting women in executive roles and girls in STEM: I jumped on the Houston council of Girlstart to volunteer my time and expertise.
  • My daughter has witnessed my working mom routine her entire life. Wake up at 4 a.m., workout, commute one hour, work nine-hours, commute one hour, have dinner, take her to practice, return home, bedtime routine, then more work on the laptop. I have led by example for many years, and it's okay for her to see a different example. Maybe she can think, “If my mom worked hard for years and was able to make a change, so can I.”
  • I asked myself this simple question: What thoughts would go through my head on my death bed? I would not say, “I wish I had more money” or “I wish I had worked longer hours”. My thoughts would revolve around my family and the moments that took my breath away - which most likely do not involve a meeting, a project, or the office.
  • I don't have to justify my decision. Even with a flexible employer, momming and engineering inevitably clash sometimes. A break from my full-time work role will help me be a better professional and a better mother in the long run.

Working from home

One of my mentors gave me great advice about this transition. Here are a few strategies for working from home successfully:

  • Be disciplined. Establish a routine/schedule and stick to it, just like you would in a traditional work environment.
  • Dress for work when you're working. No pajamas. It will influence your mindset.
  • Continue to network. Working from home no longer means being cut off from the rest of the working world. There are ample ways to meet and connect with others.

Career transition with no regrets

Since announcing my new job as mommygineer, I have received a gambit of different reactions, mostly positive but I couldn't help but note the negative remarks ("woman of leisure”, “soccer mom”, “won’t you get bored?”) have come from men. Any working mother knows life is never leisurely or boring!

Folks that have experienced this change first hand have encouraged me and provided optimism and hope. Some have returned to work and others have not. Nonetheless, they have all cherished the time with family—there is no regret!

The positives

I see the benefits of becoming a mommygineer. I look forward to allowing my creativity to grow as I work in a new way. I am enjoying a change in pace, watching the sunrise while I drink my coffee and having the flexibility to guiltlessly drop everything to support my kids and witness all their milestones. Not to mention, I love my new commute! It is time to add this chapter of my life to my resume.

What comes next for Mommygineer?

Will I ever be ready to return to the corporate world? Will I be blacklisted from future opportunities? Will anyone ever take me seriously again? Will this change be permanent?

Guess what? I don't need to know the answers! For myself and anyone in transition, let's consider ourselves architects setting forth an unconventional path to build the best life with a balance between health, motherhood, work, and happiness.

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