By Ashley Pino
Women’s History Month is a time to focus on the progress women have made and the challenges we have overcome. I could easily begin naming the inspirational women who have achieved greatness in politics, sports, science, and so much more. It is easy to look at changemakers like Rosa Parks, Madeline Albright, Florence Nightingale, Billie Jean King, and so many others, and think, “Who am I compared to them?”
I got to thinking about my life and career, and began questioning my own impact. Have I done enough to make a difference in this world? Then it hit me: what if my greatest impact isn’t about what I have done, but what my daughter will do?
The struggle is real
Working moms juggle a lot in our day-to-day lives. Even in a two-parent household, working and raising kids is a 24-hour-a-day gig.
I have always wanted a career. That’s why I went to college and then continued to earn my master’s degree in marketing. My parents always supported my goals and pushed me along the way.
My mother went to college but chose to become a stay-at-home mom after I came along. I watched her give up so many of her dreams to raise me and my brothers. Like many women 38 years ago, staying at home was much more of the norm.
According to the American Association of University Women (AAUA), 71.2% of women in 2020 worked in either a part-time or full-time role, up from 50% half a decade ago. That is a more than 20% increase in working women from the time I was born.
When I decided to jump back into a full-time role many years after having my children, my mother didn’t quite understand. She was worried about how I would handle it all. She saw the packed schedules we currently had in our home, with a 14- and 11-year-old involved in every sport, social outing, and afterschool activity they could find. I knew, however, that I wanted to find my own path and not use up every ounce of my being on my kids.
Again, this is much different than how things were 40 years go. Women were often expected to handle everything at home — taking care of their spouses and kids and possibly losing themselves in the process. That wasn’t for me. (In full disclosure, I have a husband who didn’t want that for me either.)
Convincing my mother that I could be a successful mom and successful at work took some time. In my heart, I knew that finding a job with purpose and the ability to grow would only make me a better person, spouse, and mom in the long run.
Work-life balance does exist
Women struggle to have it all. I think we put so much pressure on ourselves to do everything, and if you are anything like me, you want to please everyone. Being pulled in so many directions can wear you down and leave you feeling like a failure.
For 10 years, I worked in an office and relied on others to get my kids on and off the bus when I couldn’t be there. I was forced to take unpaid time off when a kid was sick or had an event at school. Remote work was not an option in my previous role.
When I landed my job at Connected Nation, I cannot begin to tell you the overwhelming joy I felt. It was as if what I had been working toward for the last 10 years had finally fallen into place.
I realize not every job can be remote — thank you to all the women who serve in those types of roles — but I can’t begin to tell you how much my quality of life has improved since being able to telework from my own home.
Of course, having access to adequate broadband is an absolute necessity for me to do my job, and everyone deserves that opportunity. I work for a company with a mission that resonates across the globe, that supports work-life balance and provides the tools for me to grow and be successful. I have the best co-workers — each and every one of them is respectful, inspirational, and driven for change. I am very happy.
The future is bright for women
This brings me back to my first point. What if my greatest achievement for women wasn’t something I did at all, but what my daughter will do? Addison, 11, is a strong-willed, witty, confident, intelligent, beautiful sixth grader. Like many girls her age, she believes she already runs the world. I tell her often that she is everything I wish I was.
She is the first person to make you laugh, stand up to a bully, volunteer to help a teacher, sit with a kid at lunch who is eating alone, or text a friend, “You are beautiful,” just because. She is afraid of nothing and is looked up to by her peers. Addison excels at math and science, loves lacrosse, animals, her friends and being on student council. I am telling you, there is nobody in this world like her because her fiery personality and determined take-no-prisoners mindset sets her apart.
When I decided to go back to work full time and was feeling some guilt from my own mother, I wanted to make sure Addison knew she could do it all. I sat her down, talked to her about her future goals and asked what she thought about me working more. She told me, “I want you to be happy and use your brain, and I know I can be a good mom and work, too.” (Don’t get me wrong, my mother supports me 100%, she was just worried because it wasn’t a choice she had made.)
I continued asking Addison questions like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She responded, “President of the United States.” When I asked her why, she replied, “I want to be sure homeless people have places to live, and everyone has internet.”
Addison is also a very observant child; she listens when I talk about our work at Connected Nation. I had to follow up and ask her why she felt internet was so important. She said, “So kids can do school at home and people can work from home, too. I would be sad if I didn’t have internet.”
I do not doubt for a second that Miss Addison Grace can become the next POTUS, or a veterinarian, doctor, or teacher (which are her back-up plans). She can absolutely do anything she sets her mind to. She is a confident, smart go-getter who I am certain will change the world.
Maybe I don’t have some amazing story on how I have impacted the world. Maybe I haven’t had laws changed or achieved greatness in sports or science. But maybe, just maybe, Addison will.
She will have many options in her lifetime — many more than me and significantly more than my mother had. She will be able to create a path for herself and have a career and family if she chooses. She won’t have to carry guilt or be forced to choose; she can have it all.
At the end of the day, Women’s History Month is a time to appreciate all women, both the well-known names and those whose names are known only by a few. I am thankful for the women in my life who have worked hard to give me opportunities so that I can give Addison even more.
On a recent school project, Addison was asked about a major life event she is looking forward to. Her response was, “Moving out.” I am certain she is ready to get going and face the world head on, but I’m thankful that she will be with me a while longer.
Cheers to all the women who are creating a world of opportunity for the girls of the future!