Balancing work and personal life can be tricky. Whatever stage of your career you may be in, navigating the corporate world can sometimes feel overwhelming. For single parents, balancing multiple personal and professional responsibilities at once can present a unique set of challenges.
I remember the day I unexpectedly became a single parent. I was on maternity leave, learning how to be a mother as my body was still healing from an emergency c-section, when my daughter’s father and I went our separate ways. Outside of the common (yes, extremely common) post-partum lows of emotions: sadness, anger, depression and insecurity that I was battling daily, I also had a looming feeling of anxiety over my upcoming return to work at L3Harris. I wasn’t afraid of going back to the office, rather the thought of how my co-workers would perceive me. How would I be able to explain to them that I was now raising a tiny human alone, without feeling the shame that comes along with the stigma of being a single, working parent? How would I manage all my work, while still getting up every two hours to breastfeed? Would they support me or view me as a burden to the team?
I come from a family of strong, driven women, who helped me find courage as I transitioned back to work. My mother raised my three brothers and me, all while working full-time as a teacher and attending night classes to receive her master’s degree. The matriarch of my family, my grandmother, a.k.a ‘Baba,’ has always been the family caregiver. I have been blessed to watch her help raise my cousins and me so our parents could work without incurring the high cost of childcare. Neither my mom nor Baba would stand to watch self-doubt lead my decision making. Instead, they encouraged me to find my strength and make a plan. I talked to my manager and was completely open and honest about my plans for returning to work. I also set up counseling and woke up each day with the drive and purpose to provide for my daughter, Piper. I refused to give up.
Returning to work after maternity leave was a blur, but looking back on it now, one thing I can be certain of is that my manager and co-workers did anything but doubt or judge me. Was explaining my situation to my manager easy, or comfortable? No. But my mind was put at ease when my manager reassured me that he would help me succeed in all ways possible. He encouraged me to use an employee assistance program, which I still use to this day for therapy sessions. My human resources partner set up a seclusion room for me to breast pump and store my milk. I’m grateful to have a flexible work schedule and have never had to miss important moments with my daughter. Since Pipers birth, every time I accept a new role, I make sure I am transparent about my flexibility needs with my manager.
My journey hasn’t always been easy, but by leaning into L3Harris resources, a culture of understanding and a flexible work schedule, I have been able to crush the stigma of single parenthood. I’m a proud, confident single parent, and I feel grateful to be Piper’s mom. My beautiful, spunky daughter brings me joy every day. She is almost five years old and will be heading to kindergarten this fall. I’ve received multiple promotions in five years and have been recognized for my contributions to L3Harris. Becoming a single parent wasn’t an end to my career and it didn’t make me less worthy of opportunities or meaningful relationships. In fact, it gave me newfound strength and bravery. These conversations aren’t comfortable. Advocating for yourself isn’t always easy and digging deep to find your self-worth is hard, but let me tell you something: it’s so worth it. And I, Courtney Thomas, am living, breathing proof of that.