I stared down at the two thick lines on the stick of plastic in disbelief. Positive. Though my symptoms over the past few weeks had already confirmed my suspicions, I couldn’t quite believe I was pregnant — again. A million thoughts raced through my mind, but one blasted through all the others: How on earth was I going to finish school?
In August of 2022, my husband and I completely rearranged our plans to accommodate the surprise pregnancy of our second child, our first being only 8 months old. I frantically spoke with counselors, professors, and trusted friends and family to determine how I could graduate a semester earlier than planned.
On top of that, I knew I had the larger post-graduation problem of starting a career in public relations with two kids under two. And I know I’m not the first woman — or the last — to face similar daunting challenges.
In public relations, over 60% of professionals are women, and more female graduates join their ranks every year. Working women in PR (and many other fields) commonly confront a choice that men don’t have to make: start a family or a career. Even if we attempt both, many of us experience stigma and prejudice in the workplace that forces a choice between job and family either way.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Erin Vogt is the director of public relations at Peritus PR and the mother of two young boys. She knows firsthand the difficulties of balancing work and family, yet she regards motherhood as essential to her career growth. I got the pleasure of interviewing her about how she balances motherhood and her career; from her experience, we can take heart in knowing that both are not only possible, but also empowering. All it takes is going for it, finding the right company, and applying what we learn.
Go for it today.
There will rarely be a perfect time to start a family. In fact, most good things in life come at inopportune times. I started a family far earlier than most, but that’s what worked for me.
That doesn’t mean every woman should graduate with two kids, or even put off a career to start having children. Every woman should feel the freedom to start a family whenever she wants one — be it now, years into her career, or any time in between.
Vogt worked on her career first before deciding to start a family so she could be in a good place to take time for her kids. Once the decision was made, she went for it without looking back.
“If you keep letting it, life will get in the way and you’ll find a reason to delay it or shift the timing,” Vogt advises. “If you want to have your family, go for it and you’ll figure it out. That won’t hinder your career whatsoever.”
Find the right fit.
Not every organization is willing to work with moms. Getting to know the company and its culture is essential when searching for internships or jobs. I was lucky enough to find a fantastic job with an organization that supports me and my situation; however, it required being upfront and vulnerable about my priorities and goals for both work and family.
Vogt stresses the importance of doing good research before accepting any position, which includes talking with current employees about the culture and values of the company to make sure they personally align with your own. If it’s not a good fit, keep looking.
For Vogt, it took moving around from several agencies to find one that understood work-life balance. Vogt explains, “Find the right place and a work environment that understands how your personal life can benefit your work life — if you feel fulfilled in both, they enhance each other.”
Apply what you learn.
Here’s the big secret: motherhood actually benefits a career. Attending school while caring for my young son has taught me how to better manage my time, prioritize what matters most, and make the most of every second — all essential skills for working in the fast-paced industry of public relations. So much of becoming a mother applies directly to becoming a better public relations professional.
“Moms are so underestimated in any profession,” Vogt declares. “What we learn through motherhood is such an asset.”
Vogt has seen tremendous growth in her career since becoming a mother. She has learned how to be highly efficient and “roll with the punches” to get the job done. Her team management, empathy for others, and relationship skills have greatly improved, along with many others.
Aided by her newly honed abilities, she recently received her accreditation in PR (her sons at her side, of course). She didn’t have to sacrifice her family to achieve her career goals. In fact, having her family enabled her to reach and surpass them.
We can do it all.
Graduating and starting a career can be daunting. Add the stress of growing a family — or determining when to have one — can be overwhelming. Vogt’s experience can reassure us it is not only possible to do both, but also to thrive in both. Neither motherhood nor a career have to be delayed; we can go for both today, find the right company fit, and apply the skills we are learning for success in our career and our personal life.
Having a family is not the end to a career, it’s the beginning of a great one.
Sierra Jensen is from Abilene, Texas. She and her husband have an eleven-month-old boy and another boy due in April 2023. Sierra is studying public relations at Brigham Young University and looks forward to graduating in June 2023. She enjoys spending time with family, binging movie marathons, and reading. She hopes to pursue a rewarding career in motherhood and in PR.