Want to be with your baby and grow your career on your own terms?

Here's how

Too often new mothers are told their situation is black and white. Either they can go back to work and leave their baby in full time care of another, or they will have to give up professional pursuits. More and more women are finding a middle way. This article covers the top 3 secrets to walking your own unique path, as a new mother who stays engaged in professional and personal pursuits.

Secret #1: Quirky Community

Find the folks you can really relate to

The number 1 secret is quirky community. Find others who are trying to find harmony and blend between their experience as parents and as professionals. It's easy to join a mother's group. You may find the support you need there. But many of them will be limited to conversations focused on parenting issues or heavily baby-centric. To get the support for your whole self, look for groups that have likeminded moms who are still pursuing professional goals, on their own terms. Here's 3 top places to find them:

  1. Check out hacker/maker spaces. These are a new bread of creative spaces that are particularly well-suited if you do work in technology or with your hands. Some of the most innovative, like HackerMoms in Berkeley, CA are specifically geared towards mothers. They provide space, community and even childcare.
  2. Specialized co-working spaces.There has been a huge recent boom in co-working. Many of these spaces are not particularly focused on parents. There are exceptions though - like Nextspace SF offer a full childcare program onsite where you can check in any time.   Other co-working communities like Impact Hub are a great place to meet and connect like minded moms, even if they don't offer childcare. 
  3. Fitness sub-communities. Look for places like the YMCA that often offer great (and affordable) childcare. Yoga or martial arts centers can also be a source of support. Staying fit in and of itself will help you achieve your goals as a mother and as a Professional.

Great places for new mothers staying professional on her own terms

Bay Area Example

HackerMoms Get Directions
3288 Adeline Street, Berkeley, CA 94703, USA
NextSpace Get Directions
28 2nd Street, San Francisco, CA 94105, USA
Downtown Berkeley YMCA Get Directions
2001 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA 94704, USA
Impact Hub SF Get Directions
901 Mission Street #105, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
Swiss Cheese Childcare Collective Get Directions
Oakland, CA, USA
Bananas support for all things childcare Get Directions
5232 Claremont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94618, USA

Secret #2: Targeted Outsourcing

A whole new way to outsource

Technology now allows you to outsource almost anything to almost anyone.....at a cost. So when and how should you use outsourcing?

The key thing to remember is what your top priorities are. For most new mothers on their own terms, the top priority list looks like this:

  • Baby + Partner
  • Professional Goals

Now ask yourself: What is not on that list?

Getting groceries. Buying clothes. Managing money.

Targeted outsourcing means finding specialized expert services that are an exact fit for the other priorities. I also define it as meaning finding those services where the additional cost is minimal. Go through your day and identify everything you've done that you wish you hadn't.

Remember that everything takes longer when you have to get your baby in the car seat or stroller. You want those trips to be for the playground and the pool, not to run errands.

The next step is to find services that are exactly aligned with those needs. Let's take a look at the three examples above:

  1. Getting groceries. Almost all of the chains have their own delivery service now. In addition, places like Instacart will deliver from a variety of stores for a nominal fee. Love local and organic? Check out Goodeggs and even get that delivered to your door.
  2. Buying clothes. Online sites like Thredup mean you can buy clothes from home (even for your little one) that are like new, often for as little as 30% of the original price. It still takes a little bit of time to find the right thing, but you've essentially outsourced the process of sifting through for the right brands, size, colors. You don't need to spend
  3. Managing money. There's a new breed of online investment services that can reduce the cost and increase the benefit of outsourcing money. Sites like Wealthfront charge nothing for managing less then $10,000 in investments. Mint.com lets you automatically track all of your financial life for free.
Newborn and Mother
Credit: Photo Credit: Pavel P. via Compfight cc

Be a mother on your own terms

Secret #3 3Es and an S Rule for Managing Your Energy, not Your Time

Find a new way to be in your day

Most likely before your baby you had a productive and continuous workday. Start at 9am, lunch at 12, end at 5. 

Now things are different. How to make yourself as -or even more- productive then you were before? 

Manage your energy, not your time. Instead of focusing on how many hours you get to work (there will be less) focus on what will make you most productive in the time you do have. 

There's a lot I could say about how to do this effectively. Here, I'll stick with my basic Rule of 3Es and an S. please let me know in the comments if you'd like to learn more about specific aspects:

1. Energy Maps. Are you an Owl or a Lark? Know your own rhythms. Research shows some of us really are Owls, who like to work late at night. Others are Larks, loving the early morning. Work with your Partner or other support people to free yourself up for the hours when you are most creative. If you are not sure when that is track your energy. Simply write a number from 1 (highest energy) to 5 (lowest energy) every hour for a few days. You'll quickly see your patterns emerge

2. Eating.  A secondary advantage of Targeted Outsourcing of your grocery shopping is that you get to be super intentional about what you put in your cart. Use that to your advantage to focus on whole, fresh foods. Keep it simple and eat often. That way you'll be more likely to stick with it. 

3. Effective check-lists. An effective check-list has items that are immediately actionable and high priority. Don't put "write the proposal" on your checklist. Instead break it down into micro-steps. Add an estimated time for each one. That way even if you only have 15 minutes towards the end of your baby's nap-time, you'll be able to take just one next step. The amazing thing about next steps? They have a way of adding up to incredible accomplishments.

and an S - yes, stands for Sleep. Sleep is often one of the first things to go as a new mother. This is especially true for new parents continuing to pursue their passions and professional goals. The good news is, for most people, 7 hours of sleep will get you working well. A power nap of 10-30 minutes will also renew you. Do whatever you can to get as close to this much sleep as possible, even if it means sleeping at odd hours or trading with other parents. 

Along with these steps, try to find at least 1-2 longer blocks to work. Use the support of your quirky communities and talk to your partner or support people. People work best in sprints of no more then 90 minutes. See if you can get a couple of those blocks, then fit smaller tasks in during in-between times. The more you manage your energy and not your time, the more you'll magically find the space to savor every moment.