When I had my first kid, I was responsible for employee safety for a division of a manufacturing company. On the eve of the arrival of kid #2, I accepted a promotion to be the global safety director for the parent organization. I was leaning hard into the idea that I could do it all. When I returned after maternity leave, I had very few role models to look to on how to balance my professional life and motherhood. Most executives at that level were older with older or grown children. Most were men and a large majority had wives who were not working in executive roles or outside of the home. Everyone was super supportive. Everyone said to take time when I needed it. Everyone said they understood when I needed to leave to pick up my kids from childcare. Everyone said don't worry about it when kids were crying or interrupting an evening business call. Everyone said the right things, but no one seemed to be actually doing them. No one was leading by example. So, you guessed it, each time I needed the time or had to put down the phone to tell the kids that "mom was on a work call" my inner critic chimed in questioning whether I was committed, whether I was doing the job as good as others.
I knew I couldn't change my leaders or my peer group, but I could change it for my team. So I started being very clear about why I was away from work. I made it visible on my calendar. Rather than hide it, I shared it. I was explicit about where I was going to be and why. I wanted to accurately portray how hard the work-life balance was and what it looked like when you made decisions to put family first, the trade-offs and yes lots of FOMO in both directions. I wanted to try lead by example not by lip service.