Stuff no-one told me about motherhood: A career girl’s guide.
Disclaimer: inside this post is the real-life version of parenting while trying to have a career you’re crazy-passionate about. If you want the romantic version, this isn’t it! 😂 Proceed with caution.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen some anecdotes of my 'joy' this week trying to juggle being a good, present parent and running a solid, reliable business. I’ve learnt that this ‘joy’ is an ongoing challenge which I’m the furthest from mastering, but I’m determined to get better at it dammit! (Also, any advice welcomed from any seasoned careery-parents out there!) 🙏🏻
I’m guessing you’re reading this because you're super-passionate about your career, and have an interest in motherhood, whether you’re pre-motherhood, post-motherhood, not-sure-about-motherhood – wherever you sit on the spectrum, I’d soooo love to hear your thoughts on this subject in the comments below.
If you are/were anything like me pre-motherhood, you’re the furthest from work-shy, in fact, if you’re not stupid-busy in your work, something feels really wrong! You thrive off the work-hard play-hard mentality. You generally put your work ahead of most things and are happy to do that most of the time, because you love it so much! You love that you can provide for yourself too, and your independence (whether personally or financially) is of huge importance to you. Well that was certainly true for me for the first 35 years of my life.
When I found out I was pregnant, typical-me wanted to savour every second and approach it as I approach everything; to do a damn good job of it. (At least, as good a job as I could personally do). I read up on pregnancy and all its challenges, I read up on the delivery and all its challenges, and I read up on the first few months of baby-life and all its challenges. Essentially, I felt prepared for all this newness and steep learning curves, and I honestly enjoyed the whole experience so so much, as hard as it was. In hindsight, this is what I now like to call ‘the easy bit’! Ha! (Listen, I know it’s not easy, but rose-tinted spectacles are a wondrous accessory to slip on every now and again, right?)
For me, because this 👆🏻 is such a universally challenging time for moms (I’m not negating the partner’s struggles either btw!), a lot of people seem to talk about it, a lot of people offer support and in turn, a lot of people can prepare for it, to an extent.
But unless I’m moving in the wrong circles (fill me in if I’m wrong!), what people don’t seem to be talking about or helping other moms/moms-to-be prepare for, is what I’m discussing today; what a full-on career-girl needs to know about venturing into motherhood, and how the hell does she adjust!?
So buckle in honey, if you want it, I’m gonna give it to you straight.
1. Someone has to be the primary caregiver, and this usually falls on mom
If you have a partner to share this bonkers stage of life with, then one of you needs to step up as the primary caregiver. (If you’re a single parent, it’s all on you anyway of course, and nuf respect to you btw, I’m in awe of your survival skills!). This primary caregiver tends to be the meal-maker, outfit-picker, bag-packer, clothes-washer, bath-giver, night-soother. This person is the first person your childcare provider will call when something’s wrong. This person is the first person who has to cancel their life/career/business when something’s wrong too. It’s an insanely rewarding position to be in, but man is it an adjustment from being all-in on your career. I think the majority of moms feel compelled and obliged to be the primary caregiver, so this article is written on the basis that this is you. But don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some awesome partnerships where the dad/partner has stepped up to the primary caregiver role, and the mom’s career has been able to thrive, benefitting the whole family. So whatever works for you m’luv! This is just my experience.
2. You have to work way harder on way less sleep
It’s no secret that most parents are sleep-deprived, and you can sometimes have a great fecking laugh about it when you’re particularly delirious and/or hallucinating, but when you’re under pressure at work, maybe on a deadline, with way-less hours to play with than before, and peak performance is expected of you, boy is it tough. And not only is the physical/mental endurance part of it tough, but the fact that you can’t really use your exhaustion as an excuse for anything. Especially if your clients/colleagues aren’t parents, because they won’t, and shouldn't have to, ‘get it’ y'know? They're paying you to deliver on a service or product, so that's what they should get.
3. Working late has a whole new meaning
I’ve never personally had a 9-5, so it’s never been a luxury I’ve particularly craved tbh. My employed working days tended to be nearer 8-7, and there were the occasional all-nighters when I started on say a Wednesday morning and worked through to the Thursday lunchtime too. (Not big and not clever btw). But as hard as I worked, outside of those working hours, I always had time to switch off, to recoup, to party, to have some selfish me-time.
As a mom, you just don’t get that recoup time. It’s so so rare. And if you do get some, it almost has to be such a carefully orchestrated event, the prospect is often too exhausting to organise your escape most of the time! Or maybe you need to take some work into the evenings after the little one’s bedtime – if they have other ideas like being awake, teething, running a temperature, vomming (it continues), nothing’s happening with that work my friend. I’ve personally found my most peaceful out-of hours work time is between 5am-6am and 9pm-12am. Those are the only slots I get, so I have to freaking take em! 😴
4. Your life isn’t your own
This is probably THE biggest challenge I’ve faced in motherhood being honest with you. I remember in the first few days of being a mom, I had this overwhelming sensation of a ‘heavy cloak’ wrapping around me, when it truly dawned on me how much this creature actually needs me. People joke about ‘you can’t just pop to the shops anymore ay’ and leave them where they are, but seriously, you can’t! 😂 In the early days, you don’t even feel like you can leave the ROOM without them! 🙄 Thankfully, I was able to take this ‘cloak’ off within a day or two and I settled back into my blissful baby bubble shortly afterwards. But the feeling was very real. And it came back when I started working again 12 weeks later, but in a different guise. I knew this time was more of a long term challenge, and something I was going to need to work through. [Update: still working on it!] 😁
5. Your priority isn’t your career
If you’re a particularly loyal, conscientious employee or you’re used to doing anything and everything for your clients, this one stiiiiiings to accept. Particularly if you have perfectionist tendencies and have been used to striving to be the perfect employee or the perfect supplier. It’s a simple fact that once you’re a mom and the primary caregiver, you simply can’t commit to employers and clients like you were able to before. Your priorities have shifted, quite literally overnight, and this tiny creature has to be at the top of your new to-do list. Some commitments have to get cancelled, some promises have to get broken, and your hard-earned ‘perfect’ status will be inevitably become flawed. You’ll have no choice.
6. You have to accept that people will think you’re a flaky, part-timer
If you’re already a worry-what-people-think-erer, you probably need to do some extra prep-work for this one! The chances are, you’ll only have childcare that covers specific times of the day. And not only is a 7:00/7:30/8:00am drop-off and a 4:30/5:00/5:30pm pick-up a super-long day for your little one, it’s also a super-long day for a non-parent to be caring for them. So basically, if you want to have a happy child and a good, extended-family-type relationship with the person/people who are caring for your child (strongly advised btw!), then you don’t take the p*ss by not holding up to your side of the deal. Which means, you have to finish up work at a non-negotiable time. If this is earlier than your finish up time pre-motherhood, or earlier than most of your colleagues leave, or earlier than your clients leave (likely), it’s almost inevitable that the ‘part-timer’ label will be given to you, even if it is just said in jest. Like I said, if you’re already a worry-what-people-think-erer, this might bring up some crazy-insecurities at some point.
So is there any freaking good news?!
OF COURSE! 🙌🏻
First of all, there is a great strategy to practice which someone advised to me, and that’s the 80/20 rule. This also boils down to letting go of perfectionism too. You cannot be a perfect parent and perfect career-girl at the same time. But if you can get it right just 80% of the time, and allow yourself 20% leeway to make mistakes, inevitably let people down, and not do what you need to do, then that’s a bloody great achievement. And it’s like I always say, 70% is enough to get you a first class degree, so if you’re averaging at 80%, then here’s a cheers-beer for you! 🍻
And I can’t just leave without mentioning at least some of the beautiful pay-offs this lifestyle gives you (there's so many); the reasons why women keep making babies and continue to be willing to sacrifice everything they used to value and hold dear!
You look at the world completely differently/through a child’s eyes
If you’re anything like me, you often look back on your childhood and recall wistfully how freaking awesome that time was. I grew up in the 80s and only remember wonderful, simple, memorable times (those rose-tinted specs again!). Seeing myself in my daughter just takes me right back there, each and every day, and there’s nothing more exciting than to know I’ve been given this chance to make a wonderful, simple, memorable childhood for her now too. What a freaking privilege. That is a true gift ❤️️
You’re forced to be super-economical with your time
The days of faffing are gone, and you’re acutely aware, on the daily, of how much time you have available to get non-motherhood things done. Nap-times become exceptionally productive times of the day for me and I value my time sooooo much more than I ever did. This has empowered me (and given me no choice!) to be ruthless with my time, and say no to things that aren’t important enough to me, or aren’t helping me get where I want to be. That is a true gift ❤️️
You don’t have a choice but to stop and smell the roses
The counter-benefit of being the primary caregiver, and having to drop your life at the drop of a hat, is that you’re blessed with being forced into pressing pause on life/work’s stresses, and remembering what/who you’re doing all this for. For instance, when you have a deadline that you now have no choice in missing because your child is sick, and instead of having your nose in a laptop or a meeting, you’re sitting quietly with your child, reading books and giving hugs and medicine to give them comfort and try and help them feel better – ah, there’s no better feeling. That is a true gift ❤️️
I genuinely hope my frankness hasn’t come across as me trying to put career-girls off motherhood. Believe me, that’s absolutely not my intention. My sole intention is to be open and honest to try and help prepare you, way more than I was ever prepared (read: I wasn’t prepared for this bit at all).
There’s no point in denying that there isn’t a messy, imperfect adventure ahead, but that’s honestly what makes it so truly beautiful. And if you're a career-mama yourself or know an awesome one, I would LOVE to hear your experience of this 'adjustment', and if there was ever any advice given from other career-mamas beforehand. Hit me up in the comments below! 💋
Until next weekend,