BY NAURA HEIMAN GODAR | Architect, RDG Planning & Design

Back in January, my boss stopped over at my desk. He said, "Naura, I appreciate that your evenings are busy right now since you have a baby at home, but tomorrow night..."


I stopped him right there.  


I was incredibly aware of what the following night brought and what he was asking me. There was a seat open at our company's table at the Greater Des Moines Partnership's annual dinner. It's the one evening where Des Moines' most prominent business people are all in the same room.  It's mingling, it's supporting Des Moines, it's representing your company, and it's a big deal.


I interrupted him with an enthusiastic "I'm in." My husband agreed to help out with our sons for the night. The Partnership dinner went swimmingly, and I was home in time for my baby's 10 p.m. nursing.


That's what a mom does when offered the opportunity to be part of a big event.


But on the other hand, I also was offered a seat at the table for the West Des Moines Chamber's annual dinner. I have been involved with the West Des Moines Leadership Academy and am the Rotary Club of West Des Moines' incoming president.


Attending this event would be the perfect occasion to represent both my firm and Rotary.


Yet this time, when the invite crossed my desk I knew I had a conflict.


A big one.


Our second-grader had a science fair presentation about friction at the exact same time. I hemmed. I hawed. I weighed the pros and cons and finally landed on the right decision for me.


This time, parenthood couldn't be paused. Luckily, when I sent my regrets, my (male) boss didn't flinch. "You can't miss the science fair, Naura," he said. "Those are the things you'll remember when your kids are grown."


I want to be a good mom, and I was thrilled to attend the science fair, but a part of me was frustrated thinking of the missed business opportunity.


That's what a businesswoman does when offered an opportunity she must turn down.


It is a difficult line we walk as women climbing the corporate ladder. I'm frank in sharing my personal decisions with my boss and co-workers in hopes to "normalize" parenthood in a profession notorious for late nights, long hours and missed children's baseball games.


However, when others, including clients and consultants, are involved in life/work decisions, the ability to say yes or no to opportunities becomes more complicated. I had a client contact me at the last minute, asking me to attend an emergency meeting, an hour away, at my children's bedtime. I decided not to attend the meeting.


Whenever I find myself in a situation where my decision is affected by my desire for greater life/work balance or to be a better wife and mother, I follow a set of rules.


I decide what is best for me and my family. I don't offer excuses or explanations; it seldom matters why I am not attending, just that I am not attending. That said, the reason why I can't attend is mine, not theirs. I've learned what is sacred to me may very well seem frivolous to someone else. It is important that no one else be allowed to determine if my "excuse" is valid.


Holding firm to my self-imposed rules is a work in progress, but I believe doing so makes me both a better employee and a better mother.


Naura Heiman Godar is an architect at RDG Planning & Design, a wife and mother of two boys. She serves on the City of Des Moines Urban Design Review Board, is the president-elect of the West Des Moines Rotary Club, and was a member of the Business Record's Forty Under 40 2012 class. Naura is in the overwhelmingly male profession of architecture. Nationally, just 18 percent of AIA members are women. As a contributing author, Naura will offer stories about gaining leadership opportunities at work, communicating with all men, and will provide real-time encounters of straddling parenthood and business life.



Connect with Naura on LinkedIn or by email.