My new venture

I’ve been excited to be a parent for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, if I wasn’t playing backyard cricket with my brothers, I loved playing with dolls and imagining my future life. In fact I was so attached, I went through a stage where I wouldn’t leave the house unless I had my bright pink toy pram in tow. I was always tall for my age and when I grew too tall to push the pram, I started to hunch over. My grandfather took pity on me and added some black PVC pipe to extend the pram’s handles and save me from looking like Quasimodo. It wasn’t the most attractive setup but it did the trick #tallgirlproblems. Fortunately real prams have extendable handles these days! I couldn’t find a photo of my Frankenstein pram, but you can see how excited I was to get this baby doll present at my 5th birthday and you get the idea.

As soon as I was old enough, I was volunteering to change my young cousins’ nappies, feed them and help with bath time. I know many wonderful parents who never felt the desire to do any of this until they had their own kids, but for me the parental gene was always in my blood. My Mum was a midwife and at any extended family gathering growing up, there were numerous “baby hogs” who would have their elbows out ready to battle over who got to nurse the baby next. Below are a few photos from when I won the battle.

I’ve also been a nerd for as long as I can remember. The photo to the left is circa 1995. I’ve always thrown myself into my studies/work and applied myself completely. Some embarrassing examples are I recorded myself reciting my year 12 english essays and would listen to the recordings during my early morning walks. I also glued my physics, chemistry and maths HSC study notes all over my bedroom wall. See the embarrassing photo evidence below. When I started university, my friends nicknamed me “burger”, a shortened version of “nerd burger” for obvious reasons. I ended up marrying the guy who came up with the name so I’m hoping it was used as a term of endearment! My ambition has continued into my career and I’m so fortunate to have a job I love at AirTree Ventures. There is so much I’m excited about in my career and so many things I want to achieve. I’m just getting started.

Up until this point of my life, my desire to be a parent and my nerdiness/career ambitions have never come into conflict. I’ve happily been an aunt for the past 5 years and I’ve been able to take the past 9 years to throw myself into my career and find what I’m really passionate about. 2018 is going to be a little different. Late last year my husband and I found out that we are expecting our first child in June. We couldn’t be happier or more excited. I know there are many people who would love to be parents but can’t make it a reality and I don’t take for granted how fortunate we are. I am also conscious how common miscarriage is and although I don’t think the fear of something going wrong with my pregnancy will ever go away, I’m very thankful that despite some scares along the way, our baby is healthy at 37 weeks.

It’s a strange feeling to be so excited about something in my personal life, something that I feel is one of the most significant things I will likely ever do, but at the same time, scared of the unknown and what it means for my career. Fortunately everyone at AirTree is really supportive of having full lives outside of work and we have a parental leave policy and a culture that enables parents to balance their work and family commitments. In the media and in movies, working parents (and sadly, mostly working Mums) are portrayed as running around like crazy trying to balance it all and never really having a grasp on work or family. This isn’t helpful. There is also way too much judgement, often from other parents. Let’s stop judging others for making different decisions to ourselves. Most people are just trying to do the best thing for their family and surely there isn’t only one right way to raise a child.

As I’ve prepared for this new chapter of my life, I’ve been eager to absorb as much information as possible to prepare myself as best I can. Over the past 8 months I’ve had a number of resources recommended to me that I wanted to share in case they’re helpful to others in a similar situation. If you have any other great resources or experiences you’d like to share, please comment below!

  • Lean In — I read this book very early in my career. When it comes to motherhood, Sheryl’s advice is to find what you’re passionate about before you have kids because you’ll never be able to leave your children in someone else’s care for anything less than a job you love. Don’t pull back in your career before that point, small decisions to not ‘lean in’ ad up overtime and women end up holding themselves back. She also talks about the trade off parents often consider between the costs of child care and their salary. You need to account for your potential earning power in the future when making these assessments and how it will be impacted by a significant period of time out of the workforce.
  • Expecting Better — I read this at the start of my third trimester and I really wish I had found it earlier. If you’re pregnant or thinking about starting a family, read this book! During pregnancy you are inundated with advice regarding what you should/shouldn’t be doing. Early on I frequently found myself googling “can you……when pregnant” as I questioned the safety of everything from exercise to eating certain foods. There are so many rules and as a first time Mum it’s scary to think you could slip up and harm your baby. This book summarises the academic research behind everything related to pregnancy. As someone who is data-driven, reading this book was the perfect way to help me feel informed and empowered to make my own decisions about what was really worth worrying about during my pregnancy.
  • A uterus is a feature not a bug podcast — it’s scary embarking on the new world of parenthood as an employee, but it’s even scarier as a Founder. This podcast profiles successful female entrepreneurs who balance being a mother with growing their tech startup.
  • Starting Blocks — research child care options with centres rated against 7 quality areas of the Australian National Quality Standard. It may sound crazy to be thinking about this when I’m still pregnant but waiting lists are long!

I’ll be using my 10 keeping in touch days to continue to perform my board responsibilities while on parental leave and to attend AirTree planning days and industry conferences. This is a great initiative and I’m sure it will help to make my transition back to work much smoother. If you don’t know about keeping in touch days, read more here. I plan to be back to kick off 2019 with the AirTree team. In the meantime, I’m going to be enjoying quality time with my daughter and pushing around a real pram with fully extendable handles!