AFWA Member, Jill Mitchell, CIA, is an Associate Professor of Accounting at Northern Virginia Community College, and mom to an 11 year old son. We recently asked Jill a few questions about how she manages career and family.
AFWA: Does your son know what you do for a living?
JM: My son knows that I teach, and recently he asked if he could “sit in” on one of my classes.
AFWA: Does he understand why it’s important for you to work?
JM: Yes, my mother worked to pay for my education when I was a child. I saw how hard she worked just so that I could have the best possible experience. My son knows that I am doing the same for him. He knows that the reason he attends a school that meets his learning needs and is able to participate in sports and go to sports camps is because I work.
AFWA: How did becoming a mom affect your career path?
JM: I became a mother at the time my husband’s job transferred us to a new area. This provided me the opportunity to leave EY and stay home with our son. I didn’t stay home long before I looked into teaching at night at a community college as an adjunct. A full time opportunity was available, and a dean encouraged me to apply, as he had a similar Big 4 background and young children. I’m forever grateful for the change in my career path which provides me with the opportunity to inspire introductory accounting students to consider careers in accounting and help them achieve their academic and career goals.
AFWA: Have you ever felt resistance in the workplace as a mom?
JM: I have been fortunate to work for organizations that support working mothers. Although, I will say that maternity leave policies have influenced our decision not to grow our family.
AFWA: What professional advice would you give new moms today?
JM: I recommend that new mothers talk with their employers early on about their needs, and re-assure the employer that they will always meet their expectations as well.
AFWA: Sometimes motherhood and work collide – what’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you?
JM: One time when my son was three years old, I had an informal meeting with a colleague at the college and due to scheduling, I had to bring him along. As I was talking to my colleague, I look over and I see that my son (who had brought a book about trains) was sitting on the floor of the lobby with one of the college students and they were having a very serious conversation about steam engines. It was pretty cute.
AFWA: What’s your greatest challenge as a working mom?
JM: The greatest challenge is scheduling. As children get older the scheduling issues change. You no longer need daycare or a babysitter, but there are more activities that require parents to have flexibility to get the children where they need to be. With the flexibility comes the necessity to check email and do work at home, in the car, while the child is at sports practice, etc. Children have to understand why their mother has to do those things.
AFWA: What do you know now that you wish you had known when your son was first born?
JM: As accountants, we are usually planners. I had a spreadsheet with my career mapped out, along with what school my son would attend as that would drive our home search. Life can’t always be planned! You are better off understanding the needs of your child and letting those needs dictate your plans.
AFWA: As a working mom, how do you do it all? Share your secret!
JM: The ability to share calendars! I used to be “old school” and kept a paper calendar. In a new role at work, I was responsible for knowing my supervisor’s calendar at all times, so I switched to the online calendar. Now, I share every appointment, meeting, sports class, drop off/pick up times, with my husband and even parents. Since I don’t’ have a typical 8-5 job, my schedule is not always consistent. Staying organized helps me do it all (and I don’t do it all alone… my husband is extremely supportive and I couldn’t do it without him).
AFWA: What’s one thing you want others to know about your feelings toward working while raising a family?
JM: Do what’s important to you. I love my job which makes it easy for me to spend time away from my family. Also, I only volunteer for initiatives that I believe will help further my students’ careers or help my son grow and develop. When you’re working, you have to be selective on how you spend your time so that you can integrate work into your family life, so be sure you’re spending that “free” time doing what is important to you.
AFWA: Finally and just for fun, what’s your least favorite household chore – or maybe your favorite?
JM: I would always rather clean than cook!