My Superpower at Work is ‘Motherhood’
As a new mom who breastfeeds and works from home, I thought I would be at a disadvantage in the workforce. It turns out, motherhood has actually made me a better employee.
As my maternity leave ended, I dreaded the idea of having fewer hours in the day to dedicate to my daughter. After months of rocking, feeding, and diaper-changing our beloved little burrito, she was finally developing more of her personality—blowing raspberries, giggling at our goofy noises—just in time for me to go back to work full-time. Despite my fears of missing out on precious milestones, my body (and my brain) were ready to get back to work.
For those unfamiliar with the responsibilities that come with parenting, I was vehemently warned that life would forever change once my daughter arrived. I never imagined I’d be capable of functioning on so little sleep. Or that I could identify so many shades and textures of, ahem, poo. Or that I could memorize a running log of exact feeding times, nap schedules, wet diapers, and report all of them to our pediatrician.
Parenting is thrilling and exhausting. But as a first-time mom, I felt a piece of myself missing when I wasn’t solving hard problems at work. I was excited to get back into the swing of things.
A week before coming back to work, the fears started flooding in. Would my colleagues view me differently? Would turning off my camera to breastfeed make them uncomfortable? Would I be able to contribute meaningfully with so little sleep? Would I be able to balance quality work with quality family time?
After being back to work for 5 months, some of those fears still exist. The bigger and more important theme that has emerged though, is the way motherhood has allowed me to alter my behaviors at work, for the better. Three behavioral changes come to mind as a result of becoming a working mom:
10 minutes of reflection is worth 2 hours of work
How often do you find yourself working on a solution to a problem, then reworking it, and reworking it again, only to realize that you weren’t even solving the right problem to begin with. It’s easy to feel productive when the majority of your time is literally spent producing. Many times I’ve found myself lost in the details, and missing the big picture.
When I decided to continue breastfeeding after maternity leave, I had to adapt, and not by choice. Today, I hear a soft knock on the door from our caretaker—it’s time to eat now. My baby decides her feeding schedule, not me. I’m forced to walk away from the screen, oftentimes mid-thought. After 5 months of this routine, I’m shocked to say it’s been much more of a blessing than a curse.
When I leave my computer, walk over to the reading nook, and sit down with my daughter in an oversized lounge chair, it’s just the two of us. No screens, no incoming slack messages, no browser tabs to organize and flip though, no email alerts. And while she eats, I think.
It’s in these quiet moments of solitude that I have discovered more clarity in 10 minutes than in 2 hours of iteration. Sometimes referred to as “shower thoughts”, or “aha moments”, these special mental escapes are profoundly powerful.
I realize not all mothers (or parents) can breastfeed, or choose to do so. There are other opportunities. Time spent rocking, bottle feeding, or playing with the same ABC block—which your baby finds fascinating but leaves you less than stimulated—allows ample opportunity for these “shower moments”.
Parents have a secret weapon; being forced to unplug and intermittently detach from the hustle. Becoming a mother has given me invaluable “aha moments”.
Getting to the point
There are so many different philosophies on ways to parent. My Amazon shopping cart is filled with books I hope to read—or at the very least, skim. Although I’m no expert on child psychology, I recently read an interesting approach to reasoning with a toddler. Instead of asking an open-ended question, like “what do you want for lunch?”, you can point them toward two options; “do you want salad with your sandwich, or fruit?”. Offering a choice allows your child to assert their voice and independence, but you (the parent) can provide healthy food without a fight. Win win.
Effective communication is key for teamwork. When juggling projects, deadlines, and cross-functional collaboration, my Minnesota native instincts often take over. Passive aggression is a dominant trait in my family. My husband can attest.
Motherhood for me has meant there are tighter schedules to manage, which leaves little room for ambiguity. My manager recently pointed out that I seem more direct since becoming a mother. There is certainly a balance between being direct, and being bossy. It’s an art, and I’m no Picasso. My hope is that by being more clear, direct, and honest, I help my team be more empowered and effective.
It’s okay (and healthy) to set boundaries
Gone are the days when my husband and I would work until 8pm, come home, and catch up over a late night dinner and glass of wine. More recently, our “happy hour” starts at 4:30pm, and consists of playtime, and evening walks. This gives us about two hours to spend as a family before our daughter goes to bed. It’s not the schedule I’ve always dreamed of, but it’s the schedule that works for us.
At MetaCX, one of our company’s core values is “Success starts at home.” MetaCX believes that happy and successful customers start with happy and successful employees. For my family, this means having quality time to spend together.
I feel incredibly fortunate to work for a company that not only supports this kind of balance, but truly believes it‘s good for business. As a result, I am able to bring my best self to work, and not feel guilty about pursuing two careers: mother, and designer.
This article originally appeared on Medium.