I used to be one of those ill-advised people who truly thought her "life would end" the moment I ever decided to have a kid. I was so afraid I would lose my career if I chose to be someone's mom, so I was pretty adamant about never having a kid. Then, you know, I had a kid. I was 27 and in the middle of what I was hoping to be a growing career as a writer and editor, unaware of the unexpected ways becoming a mom would make me more successful in my career. Now, almost three years later, my family and I live in New York City where I am an editor and writer. Funny how things work out, right?
Of course, at the risk of sounding self-obsessed, that's not all because of my son. Honestly, it's not his job to help me put my life together. My job is to help him put his life together, one milestone and growing year and painful lesson and wonderful success at a time. I nurture him, not the other way around. He wasn't my "saving grace" and he wasn't the "piece of a missing puzzle," he was simply a choice my partner and I made that has fulfilled and enriched my life in every conceivable way.
Still, my son's presence did something to me. He shifted something in me, and changed me in a way that honestly made me a harder worker. It made me realize that it didn't necessarily matter how I got to where I was going, what mattered was that I got there. I worked harder, worked longer, and scratched and clawed my way to the very career spot I have always wanted. While I did all the work (and had so much help and support, because no one does anything by themselves) my son was my silent motivation. So, if you're convinced motherhood is going to ruin your career, stop and think of all the ways it might actually enhance it. I promise you, it's possible.
I Became A Morning Person
I hate mornings. There, I said it.
There's nothing worse than getting out of a nice warm bed and putting on pants. I loathe the morning. However, becoming a mom has given me a new appreciation for the calm and quiet that comes along with an early morning wake up call. After a while (say, a year) I have learned to get up bright and early, pour myself a cup of coffee, do some necessary reading, and get my kid (and myself) together so that I can get to work on time. That, my friends, is a far cry from pre-baby me waking up way too late and rushing to work looking like a damn mess.
I Learned To Delegate
I'm usually the person who wants to do all the things so she knows all the things are done correctly. Annoying, right? I know, but I can't help it. There's a little "control freak" side of me and I have to let that freak flag fly.
At least, I used to. Now I've learned that I absolutely cannot do it all, because doing it all would freakin' kill me. When it comes to motherhood, I have to split those parenting tasks between myself and my partner if they're going to get accomplished. At work, I have to delegate who does what so it can all get done on time (and so that I can enjoy my family and have a social life).
I Started Asking For Help
What used to be damn near impossible is now par for my parenting (and work) course. I used to fear having to reach out and ask for help. Now? Yeah, there ain't no shame in my assistance game. I don't care what anyone says or thinks or assumes when it comes to my parenting: if I need help I will ask for it.
The same goes with work. If I'm being bogged down with assignments and falling behind and simply unable to tackle a task by myself, I reach out to a coworker or a supervisor and ask for help. It truly has made all the difference.
I Learned How To Work On Zero Sleep
For the record, this isn't healthy.
Our workforce is extremely unkind to damn near everyone (Americans work more than anyone else in the world and, what's worse, we all consider that a point of pride instead of an actual problem), but especially mothers and fathers. Since our culture likes to go on and on about the "importance of family" and our politicians seem hell-bent on forcing women into motherhood by stifling reproductive rights, you would think common sense accommodations to workforce policies and working hours would be a normal thing.
Yeah, it's not.
The long, lunch-break-free, work-while-you're-at-home, always-be-reachable, answer-all-the-emails, probably-work-overtime working culture of the United States is still a thing.
So, at least my son's late-night feedings and days without sleep have found a way to be somewhat useful. I'm pretty used to functioning in a haze of sleep deprivation, so long working hours are just no big thing.
I Planned More
I'm not much of a planner. However, I'm getting there, thanks to my son and the need for sleep schedules and nap schedules and eating schedules and all the schedules.
Which, fortunately, has bled over quiet nicely to my work life. I'm pretty damn awesome at scheduling and keeping everything in order and making sure my work day is organized so I can accomplish my tasks as efficiently and effectively as possible. Whoa. I'm, like, a grown-up now or something.
I Procrastinated Less
Now, I said less. I mean, a certain level of procrastination will never be a thing of the past because, well, I'm a writer. That's what we do. We wait until the last minute and when the soul-crushing anxiety of a looming deadline forces us into action. What can I say? We're masochists.
However, I do procrastinate less, as my son has made me acutely aware that sometimes you really and truly only have a specific window of time to accomplish something. I can't push things to the last minute, because the last minute very well be when my son decides to throw a temper tantrum or have a blowout or come down with a fever. So, I accomplish more when I need to, instead of waiting to do everything at the very last minute, and that has definitely made me a more organized and ahead-of-the-curve employee.
I Became More Focused On What I Want
While my pregnancy was unplanned, it also made me realize that I had a plan all along. I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do with my life prior to having my son. I mean, I knew what I wanted (to be a writer) but I wasn't sure how to get there, necessarily, or if I ever would in an official capacity. When I had my son, I realized that knowing exactly how I wanted to accomplish something didn't really matter, what mattered was trying. Like, all the time. Constantly. Consistently. Relentlessly, and until I got what I wanted.
So that's what I did. My son gave me a hyper-focus and this burning need to make it to the very place I wanted to be when it came to my career, and he was definitely one of the reasons why I did. My dream of being a writer and editor in New York City came true two years after he was born, and that's because the birth of my son gave me a new sense of drive and purpose. Those babies are pretty incredible, right?
I Took More Chances...
I mean, what did I have to lose? I would still have my family, so it seemed somewhat safer to put myself out there. Plus, my son was always worth the risk.
...And Was No Longer Afraid Of Rejection
There's nothing I wouldn't do for my son, and that includes sending a very important email to a very scary and highly-successful editor, knowing rejection is a very high probability. So what if someone says they don't like my writing or they don't think that I am the best fit for the position or they don't really agree with my idea, right? I mean, I have been through far worse. I have endured a high-risk pregnancy, the loss of a twin son, the complicated and emotionally taxing birth of a baby that was a live and a baby that wasn't, and a slew of other hardships only parenthood can provide. So, rejection from someone who doesn't know me is really and truly, not that big of a deal.
I know what I'm capable of and if someone doesn't see that, well, they probably need some glasses.
I Had Another Person To Work Hard For
My son is my greatest motivation.
Of course, he is not my only motivation. I love what I do and my career was my baby before I had my baby. I value my worth within my job and find that it has made me who I am today. My happiness and the sense of pride I feel when I work is truly worth accommodating, and worth continuing to work hard for.
Still, when my son was born I realized that I not only wanted to protect him and love him and give him everything I never had, but I wanted him to be proud of me. One day, I want my son to look at me and say, "Wow, mom. I want to be just like you." At that moment, I will know my job is done, especially when I tell him, "Aim higher," and he'll know that's possible.
I Threw Myself Into Work As A Necessary Escape...
Sometimes, going to work is like going on a vacation. Should I feel bad about that? Eh. I'm sure some people think I should, but I certainly don't. When I'm at work my son is with his father and they get to enjoy awesome one-on-one time with one another. I, on the other hand, get to have a part of my life that is separate from my son. It's a win-win, and something that I really treasure.
It's also why I am so dedicated to my job. I couldn't imagine not having the ability to walk out the door and head towards a place that makes me feel fulfilled while simultaneously giving me the opportunity to put food on the table for my family.
...And A Way To Still Feel Like "Me"
Motherhood can do some pretty strange things to your sense of self. I mean, I know it wasn't too long before I had lost myself in the postpartum haze of new mom life, completely unsure as to how I was going to navigate the responsibilities of motherhood while simultaneously holding onto all the things that made me, well, me.
My job gives me that ability, though. I'm still a mom, but I'm also that scrappy, hungry, creative individual who works hard and writes often and continues to strive to be the best. My life didn't change drastically, it just expanded, and I'm so grateful that the extra part of me labeled "mom" has made every other part exponentially better.