(MoneyWatch) As an executive leadership coach, Shannon Cassidy has advised dozens of executives -- who are also mothers -- at companies like Deloitte, Heineken and Comcast. Over the course of her career (and as a mother of two), she's learned some interesting truths and uncovered damaging myths about working motherhood. Here is some of what she's witnessed:
Truth: Many new moms miss their child more than they think they will.
Cassidy says she often sees a shift in priorities postpartum. "I think when women become pregnant for the first time they think: How long before I can get back to work after maternity leave? How can I make my absence so minor no one really notices (read: I don't lose my status). Once the baby is born and they fall in love with that child, the question becomes: How long can I stay with this child and still keep my job?" says Cassidy.
Myth: Working moms have less well-adjusted kids.
"The old belief was that kids of working moms will suffer emotionally because their mom works," says Cassidy. In fact, research has shown lower rates of depression and anxiety and higher academic achievement in kids whose moms went back to work before they were three years old.
Truth: Small goals can lead to big success.
Striving to meet small goals can be more helpful than trying to do, well, "it all" (whatever that is), says Cassidy: "Although doing it all has the so-called payoff of 'super mom' status, spreading yourself so thin can cost you your well-being and relationships." She instead suggests channeling your energy fully into three goals, one from each aspect of your life. "Choose a work goal (deliver presentation about accountability to the team), a relationship goal (plan a date night this month) and a personal goal (work out on Tuesday and Thursday for an hour)," says Cassidy. You can read more about this approach in her new book, "The 5 Degree Principle: How Small Changes Lead to Big Results."
Myth: All working moms have the same definition of success.
What defines success for one mom will be different for another -- and may change for the same woman over time. "Successful working moms are flexible and adapt to changes at work, childcare, kids demands, partner/ spouse needs and they make sure there's time for themselves to exercise, read, recharge -- whatever that looks like for them. Successful working moms, in my opinion, have fewer rules and restrictions on happiness," says Cassidy.