Working mom strait talk

“Worship and Treachery” — 1914 by Nell Brinkley from https://www.flickr.com/photos/pearlmatic/5660713161

When you start to think about having a baby, or tell people you’re having a baby, you get a lot of advice. Most of it unrequested. Some of it insane. All of it well-meaning. Now 13.5 months into parenthood, I thought I’d share the best advice that was given to me, a woman working in tech. A lot of this may sound scary, but it’s all real, from the heart and, at least to me, helpful.

  1. There is never a good time. If you’ve found the partner you want to raise a child with, or haven’t, but know that you deeply want a child and you’re ready to be a single mum, do it. Everyone talks about pregnancy success stories, no one talks about failures. It may not be as easy as you think to get pregnant.
  2. Getting pregnant is really hard until its not. There may be a ton of science (expensive science at that), but baby making is fundamentally magical. Accept that you have no control and enjoy your life as much as possible in the meantime.
  3. Don’t buy into the macho-oneupmanship of women sharing war stories of childbirth. It’s also downright miraculous. Don’t be afraid.
  4. You don’t know how you’ll feel about being a parent until you are one. You may hate not working, or you may never want to work again. How you feel may be the exact inverse of how you thought you’d feel. Don’t be surprised if you, or your partner’s perspectives on life pivot, or not.
  5. There will be career repercussions. No matter where you work and when you get pregnant — at best, you will be out of the office and things happen without your input. At worst, well, you hopefully have the law on your side. Sorry. That’s the world we live in. Be prepared for a potentially different situation when you return.
  6. There are parts of your life where you won’t have the precision or results you’re used to having. Choose where to put your focus. Game the system by doing less with more impact. Don’t over promise and manage expectations. When you have a baby, more than ever before, you only have so many hours in the day.
  7. Working from home or job splitting, depending on your career, may actually *increase* the amount of work you do. If you’re out of the office, it can create the notion that you’re always “on.” Sounds great in theory, in reality may not be the best option for parents. Carefully define what you need to do to do a great job and set boundaries.
  8. As a working mum, you will find a level of focus you didn’t know you had when returning to work. You will get shit done. Twitter? What’s that? Wait, Someone left One Direction? You didn’t know because you were busy being effective so you could go home to your awesome kids.
  9. Just as one thing gets easier, other things get hard. It’s going to continue to be hard, but in different ways.
  10. A woman’s career isn’t a ladder, it’s a tree, branching into areas you may never have expected.
  11. Find a support system of other parents with babies the same age as yours. You may *hate* some of them (hell is other people, right?), but you may also build some of the strongest relationships you’ve ever had.
  12. Be easy on yourself and others. Everyone gets stressed. You may not always be your best self and neither may your partner or your support system. Have empathy for your partner and those around you.
  13. Go with the flow. If you accept that there will be hard, boring and frustrating times, it’s easier to deeply soak in the delightful, fun and exhilarating ones.
  14. It’s worth it.
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