Parenthood is all the things, no? It gives. (Snuggles.) It takes. (Sleep.) Life speeds up. (Where did last year go?) It slows down. (How long will this car-ride temper tantrum last?) We reorient. (Our identities and priorities.) Again, and again, and again.
But if there’s one word I’d use to say what it’s done for me, broadly speaking, I’d say it’s made me more brave.
A few weeks ago, I was interviewed for an article in Forbes about how parenthood makes me a better business owner. Here’s what they ended up writing:
“Mihalich-Levin is a firm believer that parenthood is the perfect training ground for leaders and that it makes people better at their jobs. “Parenting has taught me, above all, to be brave. There is nothing quite like growing a human and giving birth to teach you how much in life is out of your own control. All you can do is run in the direction of your dreams. The daily, mountainous demands of parenthood deprived me of my time for worry.
Instead of worrying or ruminating over what to do, Mihalich-Levin learned to just do. Without the time to worry if a presentation would go well or a decision about her business was the right one, Mihalich-Levin says she has gained a courage that has allowed her to accomplish far more than she did before becoming a parent. In fact, becoming a mother is what she said influenced her to become an entrepreneur: “I’m a risk-averse lawyer by nature, and without parenthood, I doubt I would have had the gumption to start my own company. I found a gaping hole in the supports provided to new parents coming back to work after parental leave, and I felt compelled to fill it.”
Do I mean to say that I never worry about anything anymore? That I’m still not scared to do things outside of my comfort zone? Gosh, no.
Fear is one of those things where the onion-peeling metaphor is apt. There are always new layers of fear to uncover. New areas to break through.
Years ago, I was terrified to reveal my first-ever blog-post to the eyes of the internet-gazing world. Now, 217 blog posts and a book later, the written, published word is no longer so scary to me. When I welcomed my first cohort of mamas into the Mindful Return program, a course that takes place on an online portal, I was a bit terrified of coaching the course participants, even remotely. Now, 25 sessions and nearly 1,000 mamas later, it’s my normal.
But step into my actual coming-out-of-my throat voice, and see myself online? “WAIT!! You don’t have to expose yourself that way!!”, screamed the fight-or-flight part of my brain. “What if you say something stupid or ineloquent? It will be recorded forever!! What if you look ridiculous on someone’s computer screen?!”
Sigh. “I’m already “out there” in internet world, I argued to myself.” There are so many reasons not to go further.
And yet, there are so many reasons to try. To be brave. To push myself to new edges, to help more working parents. And to connect with many of you more deeply.
This year, some amazing people have encouraged me to push through fears and just get out there. Here’s where that’s led:
- I took the plunge and created some video content for my website, to be able to connect with all of you in a bit of a more personal way. (And I wouldn’t have done it without the encouragement of Mia Durairaj, my co-creator of Mindful Return’s Balancing Career with a Special Needs Baby program.) Check out this clip about me and why I created Mindful Return. And my intro to the Mindful Return program.
- I braved the terror of hearing my own recorded voice, by starting to co-host a podcast called Parents at Work. (I am so grateful to Tom Spiggle, my co-host, for extending me the invitation.) Check out our most recent episode here, interviewing working moms who are HR professionals.
- I pushed hard to get the parent professional network at my firm to be open to all employees, whether they were lawyers or not. And now, anyone can join.
This is me, saying it doesn’t come naturally to me to make a video of myself and put it up on the internet. To have recorded phone conversations with perfect strangers and post them online in the hopes they help someone. Or to argue to people in positions of power that “the way it’s done” should be changed.
And this is me, throwing caution to the wind. Being a tiny bit more brave today than I was yesterday, in the hopes it will give someone permission to be a tiny more brave in her world today, too.
It’s me wearing hair tinsel (a.k.a. fairy hair) at my law firm. And sometimes causing a ruckus.
Working parenthood helped get me here. And I suspect it will keep pushing me further and further into new realms of bravery. How about you? Any chance becoming a parent has led you to take some risks you otherwise wouldn’t have? I’d love to hear your stories, brave mamas, in comments below.
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