I did all the rituals common to soon-to-be parents: showers, shopping, organizing, planning. But while I was flooded with the urge to prepare for my young one, I was equally filled with the urge to nurture something else: my career.
Perhaps it’s because my generation has been inundated on whether women can, in fact, have it all (or if we even want to). Or because the most famous examples to LEAN IN have since retracted some of that advice. Or because as a small business owner, I don’t ever fully separate work and home. Whatever the reason, I was struck by a profound desire to double down on my career during pregnancy.
I engaged in what I’m calling “professional nesting” — a period where I tended to aspects of my career with the same thought and care in preparing for the arrival of my daughter. Of course I don’t love my career like my daughter, but I do care about it deeply. And in this process, I found some things that really worked for me.
Circling the wagons
Surrounding myself with other career-focused women in a series of informal small-group meetups was incredibly empowering. Some had children, some didn’t, but this outlet to strategize about our futures—mine now plus one—helped me to feel like I had a team to encourage and support me while I wade through these uncharted waters. It served as a critical sounding board and emotional safety net.
Holding onto ambition
During traditional nesting, there’s a (understandable) tendency to shy away from ‘new’ as we focus inward. This was scary for me. I worried about losing touch with colleagues and missing out on opportunities, and so I decided instead to up my efforts in networking, outreach and new work. I also happened upon an article where ambitious pregnant women were described this way: “if they’re fearless when they’re pregnant, imagine what they’re like when they’re not.”
Controlling — and letting go of— time
In our office, I’m known for my time management magic. I make lists. I set timers. I get things DONE. But I also knew that this grasp on time would evaporate once I had a newborn in the house. So I started practicing being looser in my scheduling. Three months into motherhood, I would say that the tactics I used before are even more invaluable in those hours that I have to myself to work, but that I leave them on the shelf when I’m spending time with my little one.
Pregnancy almost forces you to focus exclusively on the future. The questions about what will be are endless, but in them is an important lesson: there’s no way of knowing. While we can and should prepare, we can’t foresee the future. So while I excitedly anticipated her arrival, I stayed engaged with my work all the way up to the end, and while I took note of “what ifs,” I did not let them overtake my days.
Passing on your passion
A lot of my energy was spent thinking about how I would handle work and baby, as separate entities. I have since realized there can and should be some overlap; I love what I do and am excited to share it with her. There doesn’t have to be a firewall between what I do at work and who I am at home.
Embracing the chaos
I’m still very early into motherhood and there’s so much more to experience, but that’s the whole point, the real insight. Life, career, child —all of it will be in a constant state of flux— and much of it out of my control. You can’t get your arms around a river, but you can learn how to swim!