39 days before I give birth to baby girl. Thirty. Nine. Days. It didn’t really hit me until 3 days ago when it was 42 days. My husband was downstairs in the garage and I was upstairs in our bedroom when I received one of those baby app notifications — 6 more weeks! 6 more weeks? 6 more weeks?! Wait, that length of time, I can actually wrap my head around. I immediately pinged my husband, because who wants to walk alllll the way downstairs?
Me: I just saw that we have 42 days before baby girl arrives. Shit.
Him: Ha, I know.
Me: I’m freaking out. I need to just pause on my career and be ok with it but I think I’m having a hard time with the pausing part. I’m torn between actively growing my business and just keeping it running at this stage. I feel so scattered and pulled.
Does this conversation resonate at all? Probably not the exact wording but that struggle of feeling pulled into one identity — being a kickass professional career woman and another — being a present, hands-on mom. I’ve been feeling like it has to be one or the other, I know that’s a fallacy, but that’s how it feels! My biggest struggle at the moment has been — do I continue to build professional momentum now, while I’m about to have a huge change in my life (in, that’s right, 39 days!) or “pause” and wait until after I have the baby? But pausing doesn’t feel right to me, it feels constricting, I don’t have immediate feedback and satisfaction in my day-to-day when it comes to career. I’m feeling torn and resentful that I even have to make this decision! What the hell! Men don’t have to make this decision. This is such bullshit!
But then I calm down and go back to what I know — the basics of coaching. I often tell my clients that PERSPECTIVE is a powerful tool. It’s the difference between being “stuck” in the mud, miserable and trying like hell to get out, and being next to someone who is having the time of their lives, rolling around in it. In these situations, I do a perspectives exercise with my clients that always gives insight — no matter big or small — on what to do. So I decided to coach myself (I do this ALL the time by the way, in addition to having my own amazing coach).
To help with perspective shifting, METAPHORS are super powerful. If you can reframe how you feel into a metaphor, it usually helps you use not only the creative portion of your brain (that often doesn’t get much air time) but also helps you make connections you normally wouldn’t be able to make.
So I first need to know what I have a perspective on. In this case, my perspective is on the balance between my life and career. That’s the “topic.”
Next, I encapsulate this current perspective and feeling that I have into a Metaphor. I honestly could choose anything. But I’m pregnant. I’m constantly hungry. And I’m craving a cookie. So…I’m choosing a cookie metaphor.
Current Perspective Metaphor: Black and White cookie
I’m either all in with my career or all in with being a “good” mom. I can’t be both. When I think about a black and white cookie, I think about how there’s a harsh distinctive line between the two, there’s no blend. The cookie itself is still damn delicious and pair that with a nice cup of tea…heavenly! But it makes me feel extremely rigid and when I think about it, my shoulders rise up to my ears and my muscles get tight.
What’s possible with this perspective when looking back at the topic “balance between career and parenthood”? Well, from this Black and White Cookie perspective, it feels too rigid. There’s no blending of the two areas. I have to keep them separated, my career is one side and my being a mom is on the other. I’m not a fan of that. I’m ready to try on a different perspective.
Perspective 2 Metaphor: Oreos
Like I mentioned, I’m PREGNANT. I am not usually a cookie person let alone an oreos person but something about this cookie paired with milk is — well let’s just say my house is well-stocked in case of a zombie apocalypse.These oreos will carry me through well-past the 39 days…I think. So when I think about oreos, I think about these 2 hard wafers creating structure around this gooey, soft creme in the middle. I wouldn’t want to eat just the wafers alone because it would be missing the creamy texture and I can’t eat the creme by itself because it’s too sweet for me. I need both. Pair it with a nice glass of cold milk, dip that cookie in and let it soften a bit and oh! the texture, flavor, crunch, creaminess…all come together for a nice mouthful of flavor.
When I look through the lens of my Oreos perspective at the topic “balance between career and parenthood”, what’s possible is seeing how I need one with the other. I can’t just have career, I can’t just have the “good mom” piece either, I need both. The career provides the nice wafer structure for the parenthood creme in between. Without the career ‘wafers’, the creme would be too sweet, inedible for me.
Hmm, I like that. So then, what’s possible with this perspective? I’d want to explore what the milk can be. What other elements are there in my life that will help create this mouthful of flavor — the crunch and creaminess and chocolate and vanilla? What else, in addition to career and parenthood, can help bring everything together in my life at the moment?
How to Make Perspectives Work For You
When I work with clients, we’ll often go through multiple perspectives and try them out for size — like trying on clothes and looking in the mirror or trying on different colored lenses. You really get the feel of a perspective: how it makes you feel, your observations about the metaphor. Then you turn your attention to the topic and ask “What’s possible with Topic X from this perspective?” It often opens up different ideas, creativity, and frees up the “stuckness” that people feel when they’re so laser-focused on one perspective.
If you’re short on inspiration, simply look at the things around you. The trees outside. Great! Tell me more about the trees. They’re swaying back and forth in the wind. Makes me feel peaceful, the tree isn’t fighting the wind, just going along with it. Cool! Looking back at the topic…what’s possible with the trees perspective? With this perspective, I wouldn’t fight the flow of events, I’d go along with it. That would look like…etc.
In my case, I’m really happy with the Oreos perspective, so I’m going to keep it.
[Note: Perspectives is extremely personal and that Oreos perspective may not work for you but it works for me! Whatever perspective you choose, as long as it works for you, then as my 3 year old son would say “it’s all okay!”.]
So what do I want to do with my Oreos perspective?
There’s a couple of things that I see can be possible if I use this Oreos perspective when looking at my topic: balance between career and parenthood. It doesn’t feel like an either/or situation anymore. It feels more like a I-need-both situation. In fact, having both makes each one even better! When I did this exercise for myself yesterday, these possibilities arose:
- Start doing something now that provides me tangible, immediate fulfillment beyond coaching my current clients (whom I love, each and every single one of them!). I don’t have to “pause” my business — just be out there and create content (hence this blogpost).
- Find my accompanying “milk” that will go with the Oreos. This could be building community with other professional moms, reaching out to my existing community of friends, loved ones, colleagues, etc.
- Scratch the itch of making forward movement with my career by building momentum for when I am ready after baby girl arrives: let people know about my 14-Day Crush Your Inner Critic email course now instead of holding onto it for after having the baby (hint, hint — you can sign up, it’s free and takes 5 seconds). Why not??
- Plan for the Fall: return as a speaker for the MomWarrior conference in September, set up a workshop on Discovering Your Life Purpose with General Assembly, and apply to become a facilitator for the Stanford School of Business Women In Leadership program.
- Focus on relaxing and self-care leading up to baby girl’s birth by scheduling a massage (it’s on the calendar for this Friday!) and making sure I get daily exercise.
Phew! Thanks for being on this mini journey with me as I’ve done some perspective switching. It’s helped a lot from yesterday to today and I hope you’ve gotten something out of it too! Feeling stuck yourself? Wanting a little balance in your life? Try out different perspectives on for size and let me know how it goes for you.
About Bea Kim
Bea helps people find their life purpose. She serves primarily young professionals and working parents, but also helps larger clients like Google and PG&E. Along with coaching, Bea co-founded Awaken, a leading diversity and inclusion company. She is also a facilitator for Stanford Graduate School of Business. Previously, she sold an education startup in 2012.
Are you a mom who needs a break? Check out 4th Trimester Refresh.