One of our favorite contributors on the Mindful Return blog, working mama Arielle Mir, is back! Today, she is here to share her insights on the parenthood skills we can bring to a new job. You know – one of those “advanced degree preferred” sorts of roles. (Also check out Arielle’s insightful post on reclaiming our weekends, at What is a Weekend?)
A few months back, I started a new job. It is a leadership role. A chance to set a strategic direction. To direct investments. And to be an expert. It was hard-won, the result of many months of networking, interviewing, and weighing next steps.
I felt ready. I had big ideas about the organization’s strategy and where we could make an impact. And I spent a lot of time reflecting on how this transition would go for me and my family.
Then I showed up, and I literally felt like I didn’t know how to DO anything.
Even with my nearly two decades of professional experience, stepping into a new organization, a new team, and a new challenge felt like starting from scratch. Sitting in my office, anxiety coursing through my veins, I heard the voice of that nasty inner critic inside saying, “You see? You’re not the leader they wanted. You’re an amateur and pretty soon they will figure it out and expose you as the flunky you really are.”
Then, I looked up at the photos of my two boys on my bookshelf. And I remembered that the skill of solving tough problems when you’ve never solved those problems before is a core competency of being a parent. You are the best person for the job and you have no idea how to do it.
Just sleep when the baby sleeps, they said. Yeah right. Mine slept in the baby carrier and pretty much only when I was walking. Outdoors. And every time we thought we’d hacked their sleep routine (bounce on the yoga ball, sing a song) a sleep regression or developmental milestone rolled through and changed everything. Every time we had to start over, it felt like from scratch.
Just feed them, a variety of foods, they said. Yep, that is until they explode into allergic hives. We’ve had allergic reactions to milk, egg, peanut, treenut, shellfish, pineapple, cantaloupe, and sesame. Establishing a healthy diet is one thing, but doing it with an allergic minefield underneath you is another. We had no idea how to manage. We kept a log of the number of consecutive meals with no hives, and we practiced asking about ingredients, and planning for back-up foods. Every time we made a new allergic discovery, we started over.
Just put them on the potty, they said. Uh huh. For all the conventional wisdom, methods, and incentives out there for potty training, not one of them made any difference – even the one where I offered to get a dog for a 3 year old if he’d only just poop on the potty. Every day, every accident, felt like starting over.
Turns out, what I’m really expert at, where I’m a seasoned leader with success stories to prove it, is in showing up to a new challenge, right for the role, and clumsy and unpracticed. With commitment, creativity, and determination, I take one step at a time.
As a parent, I learn from books, from role models, and from getting peed on for the 5th time while out at a restaurant. At work, I am finding my new teachers, who have the perspective and whose tips (like the books) sometimes work and sometimes don’t. And while I never literally get peed on at the office, a document full of critiques from a colleague who has done the work longer or a great idea that gets trashed sometimes feel that way.
It’s never fun to feel like a newbie, but I’m not going to let that inner critic’s voice prevail. Solving new and hard problems and starting again (and again) is one of my super powers.
(Note to self: Add that one to LinkedIn.)
Arielle Mir is the mama of two wild and sweet man-cubs. By day, she leads a philanthropic team dedicated to improving healthcare and by night, she is a yoga and meditation instructor and convener of Jewish moms.
If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave