Both pregnancy and motherhood have enhanced my career and surprisingly, my career in turn enhanced my motherhood.
Mothers have already written about having to prioritise due to the limited free time and lack of sleep. I don't have time for mindless activities/habits/people (except 15 minutes of Kardashians before taking on a day of difficult people and questions.) The columnist Alex Proud beautifully articulated that having young children curates your social circle and has made him happier for the quality of relationships rather than quantity.
The lack of time also has made me efficient in the process. Parkinson's law states that "work expands as to fill the time available for its completion." So you are able to finish to a deadline because your mind works towards it. I found that I was able to put together an urgent regulatory application in one working day so that I could leave for the nursery pick up. This in turn made me motivated to maintain the reduced service standard.
Lack of time has another surprising advantage - it makes me savour every free moment, truly a practice in mindfulness. I now think of the luxury of going to the gym - an hour of endorphins and an uninterrupted shower. My mummy friend even rejoices in the daily commute as her precious 'me-time'.
Motherhood also gave me a truck-load of empathy which I consider a key management skill. I think the best manager a working parent can have is one who is a parent, and preferably one who has been pregnant. I realise how not being in employment is sometimes looked down upon when a young lady asked me what it felt like to "not use my brain" on maternity leave. In fact, being a mother (whether in work or at home) requires two brains, not less!
A mummy friend once confided in me that she beat her disabled child, only to realise that the baby was constipated and crying for that reason. The confession pulled my heart-strings for both mum and baby. I put my arm on her without a word because I would never fully understand what she is going through. As a mother, I know how frustrating, difficult and unpredictable a baby can be even though they really are incarnate angels. I know how hard it is to clean a home and then having a baby mess it so at the end of the day you have no positive results/feedback/reward to show for the work. I experienced first hand how mothers are 'damned if you do and damned if you don't' for pain relief during child birth, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, sending children to private school... and so on. Motherhood seems to be the most judged job so I try not to add any more to a battle that others are fighting.
And how did my career in turn enhance my motherhood? I have had to learn how to assert myself - knowing when to ask for help, when to stand up for myself, and when to stand my ground - the same skills as managing upwards and downwards in a work environment. Dealing with a range of difficult and demanding stakeholders has given me experience in dealing with different personality types and pre-empting when situations can become explosive. I found myself able to identify the examples of poor management skills or lack of self-awareness rather than reacting to them. So here's a chicken and egg scenario: being a working mother has made me more assertive and I have also had to be assertive in order to succeed as a working mother.
My nursery once called me in the middle of a meeting. I first asked for permission from my colleague before picking up the call as I stopped him mid sentence. When I finished the call, he closed the meeting. I asked him to continue his point and then left the office to pick my sick child. I negotiated with my husband that he stays at home if my daughter was unwell the next day. I have had to make judgment calls on how to remain professional whilst still fulfilling my motherly duties and where I choose to be a more present mother because my firm is not going to collapse if I am away.
These experiences and lessons in assertiveness have actually made me more fearless. I call it my mummy rule to take no poo from anyone except cleaning the baby potty or if the baby poos in her pants. Surprisingly, this in turn makes me more effective and respected as both a professional and a mum.
A senior executive (who was notorious for his difficult behaviour) once called me late one evening. My daughter let out a cry as I picked the phone. The executive asked me how old she was. When I said she was almost two, he said, "So, pretty annoying at that age." I replied, "Actually, she's not annoying. She is very sweet." The very next day, the executive sent me all his documents dated and signed.