My family and friends tell me I have a tendency to overthink things. With that in mind, when I got pregnant, I started trying to research information on how to work while pregnant. Interestingly enough, other than one semi-helpful book (The Fifth Trimester) and countless resources telling me that I should claim disability, reduce my hours, or essentially slack off and take it easy, there wasn’t a whole lot of advice out there for a Type-A pregnant entrepreneur.
That said, I was seriously about taking some time post-birth and writing my own guide. Although, according to the masses, there will be no time for that. So, without further ado, is what I’ve learned thus far, in case it helps someone who is serious about her career and her family out there:
1.) Understand: Your body works in cycles. Your workplace works in blocks. Rectify the two.
I was a physics major in college, and the body has a remarkable way of resembling a sin curve in so many ways: Sleep-wake cycle, energy, motivation, hunger — you name it. When you’re pregnant, these curves feel like they have even higher highs and lower lows.
But when you’re running your own business, it doesn’t work that way. It works in terms of blocks — time scheduled for meetings, trainings, commuting, etc.
The key is to sync the two as much as possible. To do this, I’ve been scheduling “waves” between blocks. As in, if I have meetings from 9-11 AM, but then nothing else scheduled until 2 PM, I might spend 11 AM – 2 PM oscillating between periods of activity and rest, rather than just trying to power through task after task like before. My favorite way to do this is to get a crucial task done — say, writing a blog post, or doing five sales calls — and then taking a break of 15-20 minutes. I set an alarm, and then, once the break period is over, I get back to accomplishing other crucial tasks.
Yes, this does make my work day longer, but it also makes it a lot more enjoyable, and keeps the workload doable.
2.) Ignore 99% of people who give you advice.
I love this quote: “if you want to achieve what others don’t, you have to do what others won’t.”
If you’re Type A, you’re probably in the top 1% to 5% of people in terms of productivity. Unfortunately, when you’re pregnant, that doesn’t stop people who are in the bottom 95% of productivity from giving you what feels like constant streams of unsolicited advice. I myself have been told everything from “You need to take time off now” to “You’re crazy for not scheduling your maternity leave yet” to “You’ll never get that time with your child back.”
Interestingly enough, some of the most productive people I’ve known in the professional realm have chosen to quit their jobs altogether once they had children, so you have to get creative about finding solutions.
Listening to your own gut instincts is crucial. One thing that has helped me tremendously is to ignore the amount of time I spend on a task, but to focus instead on getting tasks accomplished. After all, results are based on accomplished activities, not the amount of time it takes to do something. (That’s despite what many parenting magazines will tell you.) Keeping that in mind when I’m carrying around a giant belly and am 30% slower is hugely important — yes, it might take me 1.5 hours to do work that used to take me 1 hour, but I don’t give myself a gold star for the 1 hour of work anymore. I give myself credit only when the task is done — no matter how long it takes me.
Remembering that the business world doesn’t give a hoot about anything other than deliverables and results — that’s hugely important if you want to maintain your edge while pregnant.
3.) Balance self-indulgence and self-discipline.
Self-indulgent tendencies have emerged tenfold since becoming pregnant (at least for me). I mean, I wish female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) made you more warm and loving and sweet, like they inspired you to go and bake cookies or buy amazing presents or dress up all cute or something. You know, that stereotypically feminine stuff. Instead, I feel like raging amounts of female hormones make you all nuts, like angry and sad and overly reactive, and inspire you to go watch Netflix all night or sit and cry for no reason or call your best friend and vent her ear off. (I may or may not have done all of the above since getting pregnant).
At the same time, the ultra disciplined part of me that likes to run half-marathons and do digital marketing for fun still exists. But, just like how the self-indulgent side of me is more pronounced, the self-disciplined part is also, well, a bit more out there. That inner voice is now like, oh hey, on top of your full-time job, why don’t we read fifty books on motherhood, take prenatal Pilates, and figure out the child’s first five years?
And it’s like, uhhh…no. On both counts.
The middle road is usually the right one. Like, maybe not five cookies, but one is fine. Like, maybe not exercise seven days a week while seven months pregnant, but four or five is fine. Balance. Figuring out that place between self-discipline and self-indulgence — that’s called self-compassion, and it’s where I try to live these days.
Bottom line: You can do just about anything while you’re pregnant. Really. It just might take longer, and require more patience. But don’t let well-meaning yet somewhat lame advice from others get you down. You don’t have to take these nine months as a victim of your own body. You can get things done, you can live a normal life, and you can still be you. I promise. (But keep a friend or two you can vent to when it gets hard on speed-dial…just in case.)
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