"But what would happen to my career?"
One of my biggest fears before becoming a mom for the first time was “What would happen to my career?”
I wanted to have kids, but I also felt so fortunate to have found a career I love. I wanted both, but I was struggling to see how they could co-exist.
I know it’s a very common fear among first-time parents.
We often treat parenting and career like a highly delicate fragile matter which we’ve heard has to be handled with great caution. When it comes time to mix them, we’ll do this conscientiously, often deliberately, with a plan, for fear of a massive explosion.
What I’ve learned is that, more often than not, our fears around parenting and work stem from our fears and misc
onceptions about being a parent.
Many of us grew up watching our parents compromising their dreams to support their family, so it makes sense that we grow up believing we can’t have both. That one is a threat to the other and to our ‘freedom’.
This notion is being reinforced in our daily interactions. When it comes to parenting, we tend to hear more complaints than contentment. I think it's easier for us to talk about the moments of overwhelm than the moments of satisfaction.
It’s socially acceptable and even expected for women to talk about how overwhelmed and tired we are or how conflicted we are between our career opportunities and our desire to be there for our kids. It’s quite common to have a conversation around feeling as if we are never enough in either area of our lives, and feel like these are constantly competing against each other.
It is less common, or I would even say rare, to hear a woman talking about not feeling overwhelmed. Or to say she feels like she found her way to be and enjoy BOTH motherhood and work. Let alone, say out loud (or even internally believe it’s true because of our deep conditioning to never feel enough) that she is a wonderful mother and thriving in her career.
Even if there were moments when I felt this way, I was afraid to voice these feelings.
When I was pregnant with Maya, like every new mom, I had no idea how I’m going to feel. I didn’t know how I’d feel about going back to work. But once I got through the first overwhelm as a new mom I was missing my work. I loved being with my daughter, and I missed my coaching and writing.
I found an incomparable joy in nurturing her and watching the world through her eyes, but that didn’t mean I wanted my new mom identity to completely take over my old identity. I realised in those moments how grateful I am to be a woman who loves her work in the world.
When I started to bring back those elements from my ‘old identity’ I inevitably experienced these freak-out moments – a mix of “how can I do this, with the lack of sleep, milk spills and unpredictable naps?” and guilt around dividing my attention between work and my baby. This is what I’ve learned –
Most of it, the panicky moments, was because of my conditioning. There wasn’t actually a conflict between me loving my daughter and being present and intentional with her, and me showing up for my work.
I realised that when you know what truly matters to you, from deep inside, there is somehow enough time for everything. You can (almost) always find, if you want to, little pockets of time to work or to create or to do whatever it is that calls you when you aren't breastfeeding or putting a baby to sleep, during nap times or when there’s support around. I realised that for me, nurturing my passion, purpose and creativity, is part of my wellbeing, it’s part of my self-care.
But our default is to assume we’d fail at something. Unconsciously, most of us believe that you have to choose between either being a good mom or being good at your career, but the two can never be mixed.
Truthfully, when I recently shared publicly about my plans and intentions for becoming a mom for the second time while still honouring and nurturing my work as a coach I was nervous. Even if I stood in the conviction that I can and want to do BOTH, it still felt too transgressive.
Three weeks in (as I'm writing this), I wanted to report back and share that I’m finding parenting much easier the second time around. Sure, there is the challenge of navigating the newborn life with a sibling, and the sleep deprivation, which is inevitable, and other challenges that come up when you raise tiny humans, but it’s not as overwhelming. And mostly, I think, it’s because I’ve changed since becoming a mom for the first time almost three and a half years ago.
I’ve learned to let go of lofty expectations and unrealistic standards. I’m staying away from unsolicited advice. I’m not pressuring myself to be a perfect version of myself as a mom, a coach or a wife. I am just BEING.
I don’t know what the next few weeks and months will bring and how things will unfold, but I wanted to take a moment now to document (and share) a different perspective on motherhood in those early days, and beyond. One that I couldn’t find when I was looking for evidence that things can be different. That alongside the sleepless nights and the lack of predictability over your day, there can also be ease, and we can find (little, imperfect) space for things that matter to us.
Maybe one day it'll be more common, easier, to find messages out there saying, “It can really all work fine together. Deep breaths, you’ve got this.”
And hopefully, perhaps together, we can change the narrative we’ve been told about women, work, and family.