I have now hit the 4 month mark of the most wonderful and challenging time of my life as a first time mother with a beautiful baby girl (and future Milk subscriber!). I honestly didn’t think I would get so much excitement from a little person staring back at me, smiling and cooing, even when it comes after having done a zombie walk to tend to her needs at 2:30 in the morning. What really gets me excited though is the responsibility for teaching this little being about the world. However, I didn’t realize going into this whole motherhood thing that I would need to teach the village that surrounds me some very important lessons, too. That is if I’m going to help people realize how mothers should be treated and realize their untapped value.
My new role as both mother and “teacher” has me working towards helping friends, relatives, colleagues, and perfect strangers realize that motherhood is a badge of honor and a huge asset for those who choose to venture into it. I’m not saying that people don’t honor mothers and what they have done to bring a child into this world. But, since the point I announced I was expecting, I have encountered numerous situations where those around me have made me feel of less value as a person/professional and actively question my choice (and excitement) over having a child at this time (or even altogether). I’m not one to roll over and take this sort of treatment, nor should anyone else.
So, what do I want people to know? Below are a few things things to start with. I’m sure there will be plenty to add to my syllabus as I journey through motherhood.
However, for now, here are some key topics I’m covering in ‘Mom 101’.
1. If you don’t want me to count myself out from work/play/developing, don’t count me out either.
Has my perspective of who I am and what I’m capable of changed by having a child? Definitely not. Sheryl Sandberg touts this mentality of not counting yourself out - essentially “Leaning In” -proudly in her talks and books. However, you can do all the leaning in you can, but if others have already counted you out, it can feel like pushing on rope. When pregnant and since having my child, I actually get e-mails reminding me how I’ve been “counted out”. They typically go along the lines of, “there was this great opportunity for us to engage you in this workshop, but since you have a baby (or are pregnant) I assumed you wouldn’t be up for it.” Thanks for your consideration, but I have options to make things work if I choose to participate.
2. Mothers are multi-dimensional people, even when our days seem consumed by a single thing (baby).
It is hard enough for us to talk about anything more than the baby because we are so focused on our job at hand. Poop. Feeding. Walks. Naps. But this doesn’t mean mothers don’t have a thirst for current affairs, a healthy debate or the life and times of those around them. Please don’t hesitate to engage us on other topics of conversation. I have expertise and interest in current affairs, art, business and much more. Help me!
3. I’ve done things on my own timeline and everyone should do so too.
I completed my graduate program just over a year ago and people have told me flat out that they think I should have waited to have kids until I get more value from my education. Who cares? Why? Whether I do it now or later, I’m not going to forget what I’ve learned and I’m learning skills that are incredibly valuable for when I choose to go back to work. Let’s be honest though. These sort of comments did not surprise me. I have heard MBA students ask alumni and mentors like myself exactly when (I’m talking exact timeline) they should have a family and take on other personal milestones. There is no secret algorithm for a perfect or successful life, so just do you. Have we forgot that our lives aren’t linear?!
4. Moms are some of the most resourceful and creative people I have ever met.
As such, I have been learning and continue to learn new skills that will make me a better person, leader, and worker. If you have a problem and don’t want to bother a new mom, try it out. They won’t help if they can’t. But, more than likely they’ll take on the challenge head on. They know how to do things one-handed, with limited sleep, balancing someone else’s schedule, searching the web for the latest tips or sale, and keeping a human being alive! Making a “big deal” about an Excel model, which previously consumed my life, seems like nothing now. I feel super human when I think about what I have really accomplished in a day!
5. We can learn a lot from how moms build community and get through challenges together.
Instead of feeling like you are alone in becoming the mother you want to be, mothers have immense power and compassion. They bring you in, share information, brainstorm with you, empathize, and lead their fellow moms through this interesting transition. They realize there are diverse approaches to mothering and celebrate that fact. They utilize various mediums in order to find and share information. They give more than they take. And the list goes on. If only we could take these lessons and incorporate them into work and life to tackle projects and the complex problems our world faces.
Well, I’ll return to tending to my future leader now. It may take a village to help raise a child, but it will also take the mindshift of the village to elevate the role of a mother. Help me spread the word and start with these five lessons.
--Sabrina Sullivan is a proud Canadian, boomerang consultant, aspiring futurist, wife and new mother, serial volunteer, sustainability leader, as well as a lover of painting, all things food and Netflix binges.