Monday, June 27, 2016

Working Mom Edition #2

So now, the kiddo is about 9 months old, and I've been back to work for about 6 months. When I wrote the first Working Mom post, I'd only been back to work for about a month, so let's chat about everything I've learned in the last 6 months. ''s a LOT.

1.  Being a Working-Pumping-Mom is hard, but rewarding.  I wrote a whole post about pumping at work, so I won't delve too far into this, but essentially: if you decide to pump while working, you deserve a medal.  You probably won't get one, and your kid will never understand the sacrifices you made (especially if you have a boy like I do), but you still deserve it.  You are juggling work + new momhood + making food for another human.  You may feel isolated.  You will likely eat your lunch alone in a bathroom/pumping room. Things will go wrong.  Less than 1% of your coworkers will have the first-hand knowledge to understand what you're having to go through in order to make this happen.  It will suck.  You will eat a lot of chocolate, and listen to a lot of podcasts, and hopefully that will make it suck less.  You may want to quit, many times.  You may eventually decide to quit, and feel guilty about it, even if it's entirely out of your control. Or maybe you won't.  I don't want to make generalizations.  But if you do, you're not alone. And you're doing a great job.

2. You are Not the Same Worker You Were Pre-Baby.  Pre-baby, I was a super-star.  I was super-organized, everything was prioritized, I knew what needed to be done when and how much it would cost.  Throw a new project in the mix?  Sure!  I got this.  Emergency pops up and everything changes?  Not a problem.  Need me to work late to get this done?  Of course!  Last minute meeting with clients or trip out of town?  Sounds like fun!  I even led company-wide training events on time management and productivity. I wrote a post about prepping for maternity leave at Week 33.  I was answering work emails mid-contraction at the hospital, folks.

But post-baby and post-12 weeks of maternity leave?  When I first started back to work, I felt so off my game.  I was scrambling to stay focused, to get caught up, trying to figure out what was going on with my projects.  Staying organized was/is a challenge.  Throw something new into the mix?  I'd have to drop everything to focus on that and then forget what I'd been working on 30 minutes ago.  If I didn't write myself a note to do something, it probably wasn't going to get done until I suddenly remembered it 2 weeks later.  I was really questioning whether I would ever get back to my "old' self. 

Short answer?  Nope.  Because you're not your old self anymore.  You're a parent.  And part of your brain will always be thinking about your kid.  You should be focusing on writing that report, but instead you're wondering if you should call the pediatrician about that weird dry cough he has.  Every time your phone buzzes you think for a brief millisecond that it's going to be the daycare letting you know that he's sick or got bit (or bit someone).  I was feeling some imposter syndrome, like I wouldn't be able to cut it at my job anymore.  In retrospect I wonder if it's this phase that causes a lot of moms to decide to give up their jobs and become SAHMs.  I definitely felt the pull.  Maternity leave felt hard when I was in the middle of it, but once I was back at work, I had a few several days where I thought "maybe I should just go home and watch 'Family Feud' with my kid.  Getting him to nap isn't *that* hard."  (Lies. It is.)

3. You Will Eventually Be a Completely Different Type of Super-Star.  You thought you were efficient before...but get ready to kick it to the next level.  When you have a finite amount of time to accomplish your work, knowing that the kid has to be picked up by 5:30, fed by 7:30, and in bed by 8:30, and that you've got other stuff to do before that 5:30 pickup (grocery store, gym, errands, etc), you've now got to crunch the same amount of work into an even more compressed amount of time.

No more dilly-dallying on the interwebs.  No more "oh yeah sure, I'll remember that, I don't need to write it down".  You will (slowly) evolve into an efficiency expert, if you've decided to stick with the working mommy game.  Time to Get Sh*t Done and go home on time.  You will learn what really needs to be done by you, and what can be delegated to someone else.  You may consider dabbling with Amazon Pantry to cut out some of those shopping trips (note: I didn't, but that's because we like to save by doing a lot of price-matching and coupon-using and iBotta rebates.  But I know a lot of moms who LOOOOOOVE AP.).  Can I eat, take a walk, and go get my wedding ring inspected during my lunch hour?  Yes I can.  Can I limit checking Facebook to when I'm also doing something else (like waiting for the microwave or going to the bathroom)?  Yup.  Can I pound out this last minute proposal before I leave for the day? Yes I can.  It's not easy, but yes, yes I can.

For reference--I'm not 100% there YET.  I still get distracted, I still have days where I come home feeling like I didn't get anything done.  But I'm really TRYING, and I know that I will get there eventually.  I will be that Super-Star Ninja Mom who kicks @$$ for 8.5 hours and then goes home to play with her kid and feels absolutely no guilt about leaving work at 4:50pm so she can get to the south side of town before rush hour traffic hits.
Because playtime with this stylish kid is worth it.

4. It's Time for Someone Else to Be the Super-Star.   
We have quarterly meetings to talk about how the company is doing, look over revenue, and give props to people who really rocked it during the previous quarter. It's one of the things I really love about my company.  But after a couple of these meetings post-baby, I was starting to notice a trend:  I'm not one of those rock stars any more. While my bosses still refer to me as "one of their top producers" (which is really comforting),  I'm not the gal who got 15 reports out the door in one week.  I'm not the guy who worked 72 hours straight overseeing a major emergency response. I'm not the gal who brought in a quarter million in revenue in the previous quarter.  And that's okay.  

Because I HAVE been that person.  I've been doing this job for 11 years now, and I've been that rock star.  I've worked my butt off and discovered that it's not sustainable.  Like everything in life, it's a phase.  And right now, I'm transitioning from my Work Rock Star phase to my Mom Rock Star phase. That doesn't mean I'm not still going to work hard and do a good job and bring in revenue.  It just means that it's not my #1 priority.  Those gals who are killing it right now?  They're a reflection of where I was, not where I am.  They don't have a baby at home, and that's totally okay.  It's their time to shine, to be all-stars, and it's my job to encourage them, help them and be a team player.

It took me a while to come to terms with this...well, that and a conversation with my boss, who's been with this company for almost 15 years, and is a dad of five.  When I came to him with my concerns over not being one of those rock stars, he told me he had trouble making that transition too, when he started managing projects less and people more.  And that was sort of my "aha" moment--I'm not the first person to go through this.  It's totally normal.  I'm not going to be the person working 50-60+ hour weeks for a while.  But I can uplift and encourage and funnel work to the people who CAN and WANT to do that. I can sit in the back of the conference room, in the shadows, and cheer for the new rock stars, and not need public recognition for my role in making things happen.  If I know I'm kicking @$$ while I'm here, and my boss knows it, I'm good.

Life is cyclical.  Someday, my kid will be old news and maybe I can ramp back up on the work side again.  Or maybe he'll be involved in five-bajillion extra-curriculars and I'll be pulled all over the place.  And eventually, he'll be grown and out of the house and I'll still be working, so maybe there's another ramp-up 17 years down the road.  Or maybe there's another kid somewhere in that mix and the cycle starts all over.  Who knows?

5. You Are Still You.  Yes, I might now relate more with the chick in accounting who has a toddler boy, but it's still important to maintain friendships I have with my non-parent friend-workers (aka coworkers that are also friends).  You're friends with them for a reason, and it has nothing to do with kids.  Yeah, sometimes it's hard not to just spew out random factoids about your kid in conversation ("OMG, I know what you mean, last night, when the baby was working on his tummy time..."), but it doesn't have to be the ONLY thing you talk about.  

I [try to] take a daily walk with two of my coworkers who are non-moms.  And yeah, I do bring up the kid on occasion.  But most of the time, we talk about the same types of things we talked about before the kid existed:  news stories on NPR.  Podcasts we've been listening to.  Problem clients or tough projects.  Silly things our significant others did.  A new recipe we tried out and loved/hated.  Because I'm not JUST a mom.  I'm still someone who listens to NPR and podcasts and tries new recipes, and deals with annoying people (not referring to my spouse there).  My mom-ness is just another layer in the onion that is me. (Note:  I am a sweet Vidalia onion or a spicy red onion? Or a fancy shallot? Perhaps a wild roadside onion? The world may never know...)  

Sometimes this can be hard to balance with the Ninja Mom thing.  When you're cramming all that work into a shorter day, socializing seems like something you should just cut out to make more room for work.  But according to Charles Duhigg, author of "Smarter Faster Better", making time for one-on-one conversation with your coworkers, in particular your team members, is actually key to being more productive.  That pre-meeting banter that can feel like wasted time actually helps build a better team.  The buzz word for it is "psychological safety", but basically, talking with your coworkers (and bosses) is what makes people feel more like an important part of a greater whole, and less like a cog in a machine.  What you say matters, and people are actually listening. More respect for my teammates and bosses = more motivation to pull my own weight, and vice versa.

Also, while I am incredibly busy, I don't ever want my teammates to see me as unapproachable.  I serve a role here as a senior scientist and as a technical expert.  If people can't come to me for help, or feel like they'd be bothering me, I'm failing in those roles. If anything, being a new parent should probably make me MORE nurturing and a better mentor...but time will tell if that's the case. :)

In the words of Heroes Coffee:
(mmm...German Chocolate latte...)

6. Lower Your Standards. - Not for your quality of work (unless you're a perfectionist, in which case there's a training on productivity I could offer you)...for your appearance.  Maybe pre-baby you were always fashionably chic with  jewelry, hair done, high heels, and a dramatic-yet-work-appropriate smoky eye...  

Give yourself permission to take a break for a while.  Not forever, if you enjoy that side of work life, but for a while.   I'm inherently low maintenance, and even I have scaled back.  So long as you are clothed in something relatively appropriate for your work (preferably something that will hide a last minute baby spew stain), just roll with it.  Develop a "uniform" (or what's trendily called a "capsule wardrobe" these days) so you don't have to think about clothes in the morning.  My office is business casual so I could wear jeans and a logo'd polo shirt every day and no one cares. If I'm feelin' fancy, it's leggings, a light dress, and cardigan.   Ditch the heels--it's easier to manage an infant carrier/chase an newly mobile baby in flats.  Rocket Dogs are my JAM when it comes to super-cute, comfy, and affordable ballet flats.
If I showered that morning, my hair is still going to be damp when I get to work.  Blow drying/flat ironing cuts into valuable sleep/breakfast/baby play time.  Ponytails, a French twist a la hair clip, mom buns, and braids are my go-to for work. Find some quick & easy updo's on Pinterest (because if he hasn't already, your kid is going to learn to grab, and your hair is an easy target).  

Same goes for earrings--he's going to grab them, so save yourself some pain and skip them.  Or just keep a pair in your purse that you can throw on once you've dropped him at day care (and remember to take them back off before pick up). I've also pretty well stopped wearing necklaces for a while.  Most days my only accessories are my wedding ring and my FitBit (which has proven to be relatively slobber-proof).

My makeup routine is the bare minimum: moisturizer (if I remember), blush, eyeliner, ONE COLOR of eyeshadow (no shading/contouring--somebody's got time for that, but it ain't me).  Maybe a touch of mascara if we're going on a date after work or I have a client meeting.  Possibly some concealer if the kid (and I) didn't sleep well the night before.

Shower to dressed and hair/face done takes me on average about 20 minutes.  I save longer, more leisurely showers for the weekends, and more complicated hair/makeup/outfits for dates with my husband sans baby.

It's not forever...eventually I'll get the hang of this whole working mom thing and be an old pro and totally start flat ironing my hair again, and wearing jewelry and attempt to highlight my eyes.  But not right now.  Right now, the first 20 minutes of my morning are spent nursing my son, watching Doctor Who, and thanking God that I didn't have any nightmares about the weeping angels. *shudders*

No comments:

Post a Comment