I was about to hit the big Three-O when I had to stop, assess my life and ask myself: “Is there life beyond corporate?”. I’ve had it with the pointless running inside the hamster wheel in a job I was great at but didn’t fully love, the long hours, the shitty shift schedule, the over the top expectations, the daily grind for the monthly salary (most of which would be spent on bills and mortgage payments) and the poor quality work-life balance. But I also lacked the courage to make a career change or any kind of job shift, always talking myself down, overestimating the work to get there or simply favoring habit and comfort over challenge. The answer to that question for me was “Yes! Motherhood”.
It might seem that I have chosen the easy way out… Two years later from that decision and one year actually into it, i can honestly say than motherhood trumps corporate management in more ways than one.
I’ve lead a 10-15 members team, one tiny human should be a piece of cake. Only it isn’t, especially when you are a first-time mother.
You analyse every breath he takes, every poop, you have a panic attack every time he cries, your heart stops when he starts to climb the stairs on his own,
you would give your right arm to make the teething or any other pain stop, you wrack your brains to prepare all sorts of fun developmental activities that he utterly refuses because he is happier to bang the kitchen pots with a wooden spoon.
On the bright side, I learned a lot: how to stand by him patiently letting him explore the world, how to support him in his development rather than push him towards certain skills, how to adapt my expectations to his own pace and his personal rhythm.
Time management and prioritising
Naps, play, cooking, doctor appointments, shopping, meeting a friend, cleaning, washing and the list goes on. They all need to be done and eventually they all get done but definitely not when you want them, and this can be so frustrating at times. But then I stop, refocus my priorities and again I adjust my expectations. Little man is my first priority: his naps, his food, his playtime moments, all of him.
So, I realistically schedule everything else around him. Buying groceries or running some errands – in the morning before his first nap with him in the stroller or carrier and this also counts as an outing, especially if we can stop at a playground on our way home; cooking – mostly with him next to me making a mess on the counter top from his learning tower or banging some pots and pans together and giggling at the horrible ear piercing sounds he makes; washing/ironing – during his naps if it’s one of the good days when I can get out of bed without him waking up in the next split second; ME time – in the evening when daddy gets home and takes him out for a couple of hours.
As a mother, this is all you do 24/7/365. As my baby grew, he had a number of mental leaps, growing spurts, food preferences, mood swings, sleep regressions and all that jazz. Right next to him, I had a number of depressive moments, anxious moments, angry moments, exhaustion moments, name the feeling I am certain I felt it at one point.
That is, until I realised that “change starts at the top”, “leading by example” and all the other corporate saying could and should be successfully applied in motherhood. This tiny human is just forming so he is modelling my behaviour, mirroring my moods and basically looking at me for guidance. I started to work on myself first (I am still a work in progress) in order to put the best of me forward, I talk with him constantly explaining what I would like our day to look like, what we are doing next, where we are going, I adapt and adjust when something doesn’t go as planned and I work it into our schedule later, I engage him and let him have control over things and decisions.
But out of all the challenges the hardest one by far was the loss of identity. I think all new mothers experience it and maybe it is not discussed enough but it is there. The first few months after having the baby are a complete blur of diapers, naps, tiredness, 2 minute showers, unwashed hair and stinky pajamas. You don’t feel like you anymore: corporate, slick, funny, capable, fresh, witty (or so it seems). It took some time until I understood how to define myself through this newly acquired dimension of motherhood and most importantly how to be comfortable with it.
I’m 8 months away from having to return to work. I am now at a point where I caught myself wondering “Is there life after motherhood?”. The difference now is that I know who I am and what I can bring to the table. I have a plan, I’m preparing for a professional switch, I am supported and loved, I got this!