I’m a classic Type A personality. My life is color-coded. I value time given and use it to the minute to ensure all projects are completed early. And I create scenarios in my head to overcome all obstacles you may face that diverts you from the original plan. I create spreadsheets for fun. I even created a color-coded agenda for my sister’s bridal shower (I’m sorry again to all of her bridesmaids). And I pride myself in advancing my career. All of these characteristics have been invaluable when it comes to work – those color coded spreadsheets on event day are no joke – but not so much when it comes to pregnancy, or even parenting. The worst (and best) thing that can happen to a planner is pregnancy because pregnancy and parenthood is filled with unknowns you could never imagine.
Lessons I’ve learned from Pregnancy (and Parenthood) as a Type A personality:
Your time is not your own.
Prior to becoming pregnant with Abby, my life was set on a schedule. Wake up, go to the gym, head home to get ready for work, commute, work, commute, dinner with my husband, me time, bed. It was a perfect balance of life and work. I had time in the evenings to work on projects, writing, or simply unwind with my husband. During the first pregnancy, everything changed. By dinner time, I could barely keep my eyes open, so any post-dinner activities became nonexistent, which meant those precious hours of completing projects or unwinding also disappeared. For a planner, losing those hours creates a cascading effect on your mindset. I actually remember doing the math. Each night, before pregnancy, I had about 3 hours of time after dinner for the aforementioned. That means each week (if you only count weekdays), I lost 15 hours of time a week, which roughly estimates to 63 hours a month – that is a little over 2.5 days. So every month, I was losing 2.5 days. That may not sound like a great deal, but for me it meant I was losing 2.5 days of opportunities. Of course, now I know it was all worth it. I look at that crazy child and I would give up weeks just to hear her laugh. And now, with a toddler, I can make plans months in advance, block my schedule in a way that I know will work around nap time. Ensure that we are packed in advance, so there are few delays getting out of the house. And, just like that, my baby girl will decide she hates naps and will fight me with every ounce of energy she has left. Just this past weekend, we were all set to meet up with people at 2 pm for pumpkin picking, perfect timing following her normal nap routine, and she decided that naps were no longer important, screaming and running around the house until 1:30, two hours past her normal nap start time. And then slept for three hours, which is very unlike her. Needless to say, we didn’t make it to the pumpkin patch.
Planning doesn’t exist
My entire life, I have set a plan – where my career would be by the time I was 30, the years until I owned a home, and the timeline for pregnancy. Of course, this plan has adjusted over the years as the life I thought I wanted at the age of 10 is completely different than where I eventually ended up. Though, I still stand by the fact that I could have been a lawyer who spent her nights and weekends singing on the side, except for my complete lack of musical talent and that I spent that one semester in law class during high school bored beyond belief. But, generally speaking, I followed a plan. Went to college, landed a job, got married, bought a house, adopted a dog, and had baby number one right away. Except that it didn’t work out that way. When you live your life by a plan, and it takes almost a year before you see two lines on a pregnancy test, you spend your days believing you made some sort of unforgivable mistake because the pieces weren’t falling into one-another perfectly. And after I finally conceived, there was no plan or course correction in place to overcome the scare we had at 8 weeks or the spot my doctor saw on my ultrasound at 20 weeks or the fact that my body wouldn’t allow me to push out a 9 lb 3 oz baby girl. However, everything worked out. But each time something diverted from the plan, each time something was out of my control, I would breakdown.
And now, as a parent, the world tells you by that age, your child should be doing this, and by that date, your baby should hit this milestone. And you plan for your child to meet each milestone on time, if not early. And then you discover that your child does not care in the slightest about milestones. I see children around the same age as Abby reciting their colors, numbers, and shapes. Meanwhile, Abby is picking her nose and trying to lick the cat. Everything happens at their own pace and on their own time. If you don’t believe me, try getting an “independent” toddler ready in the morning in under 15 minutes. I bet you all the money in the world, that she will scream that she can put on her own shoes, and even after 30 minutes of trying, will yell at you “I do it!” when you offer to help.
Work will have to come second
I’m ambitious by nature. I made it a point to have a job in place right after graduation and I work very hard to advance. Before Abby, I would come in early, stay late and sacrifice personal time for work. Let me just tell you, that isn’t necessarily a healthy attitude in the first place, but it worked for my lifestyle. I had plenty of time to spend with John and friends after work was complete, so I didn’t think twice about it. Even while I was pregnant with Abby, I didn’t allow myself to slow down. I worked until the very end of my pregnancy. For some reason, I believed if I didn’t, I’d miss out on something important at work, and my years of hard work would be for nothing. And, I convinced myself prior to delivery that I would be back at work no later than 12 weeks, despite having the option of more. And then I met Abby and my life changed. I’m not saying work isn’t important anymore. My career will always be important to me. But, that baby girl flipped a switch in my head to understand that there was more. I took 20 weeks off after my daughter was born, and honestly, if I were given more, I would have taken it. And today, now that we are in a rhythm with daycare, I do need to make sacrifices at work to be the best mom I can be. That doesn’t mean I slack off or I stop working as hard; it just means that I learned to balance my time more constructively. I can’t come in early or stay late because daycare opens at 8 AM and closes at 6 PM. I can’t easily attend an after-work function or late night meeting without notice as I have to schedule child care or, at the very least, coordinate with my husband.
Surviving Pregnancy (and Parenthood) as a Type A Personality:
So how do you survive all of this? How can a Type A accept that time is fleeting, planning is obsolete, and work may need to move down the priority list?
Learn to adjust.
You may not have all the time in the world to finish, because your evenings are cluttered with playtime with your child or exhaustion from the pregnancy, or taking care of your children. I can barely keep my eyes open past 9 pm right now. Between pregnancy and chasing a toddler, I could nap for ages and it wouldn’t be enough. And, even if I find energy, my brain has been going for so long that I can barely think. So, you learn that your brain stops functioning after a certain time and adjust your life to find time for you. Even now, it’s 5 am as I write this because I know I typically have a clear window between 5 am and 6:30 am as my house sleeps. Though, every so often I do look at the monitor as I know while Abby typically sleeps until 6:30 am, she has been known to wake up early and throw off the schedule.
Throw out the schedule and stop apologizing.
This is a hard one but I promise it’s an important one. I only have a few friends with children. Those who do typically understand that it’s important to not deviate from the nap schedule. And I make every effort possible to ensure I can attend gatherings (asking to schedule them before or after naps, ensuring that nothing will keep her out later than 8 pm, and finding childcare if it would be impossible for me to miss it) but, I do preface all meetups with the notion that I have a toddler and she makes the final schedule. I have had to cancel plans at the last minute, which I do hate to do, because Abby decided to throw a tantrum over not being allowed to eat cookies, or she woke up with a fever, or she simply was just not in the mood. In the beginning, I would apologize constantly and I would feel terrible. But, I’m learning to understand that this is life. My baby’s needs have to come first. And generally, the world understands.
Use your work time wisely and set boundaries.
Another hard one but an important one. I have never looked at myself as anything less than a hard worker. As mentioned, I sacrificed my own time to ensure work was completed early. But now, I’m tied to the schedule of daycare. I’m also an even harder worker now, though. While others may have the time to stay past 7 pm at the office to finish a project, I can’t. So I work as hard and efficiently as possible to ensure the work is completed by 5 pm because that is the latest I can stay in order to pick up Abby. But, of course, there are late night meetings or conference calls after hours in my field. I accept that. But, after being back at work post maternity leave, I knew I needed to set some boundaries in order to be successful both at work and at life. I have a personal rule that no work can happen between the hours of 6 pm and 8 pm, because that is the only time I actually have with my daughter, and a portion of that is spent making dinner. I turn my work phone off and refuse to check my email. After her bedtime, I’m open for a conference call or a webinar or late night cram session, but not beforehand. Of course, not everyone will accommodate this timing but, for the most part, my supervisors and colleagues have understood, especially since my work is still being accomplished successfully, just on new terms.
Just remember, this isn’t going to be easy. I still struggle with these life adjustments every day. Just yesterday, I needed to be at an early work event, so I knew I had to leave the house 10 minutes earlier than normal. I work up early and prepped as much as I could, as early as I could. And I alerted John far in advance of this change. And, Abby decided that she wanted to sit on the potty (yes, she now asks to sit on the potty, does ABSOLUTELY nothing but enjoys sitting on the potty). And, of course she needed Mommy to help her, not Daddy (despite the fact that she has been attached at John’s hip for the past few weeks, for this one moment, she needed Mommy). So, I sat with her in the bathroom, as she sat on the potty and exclaimed “Potty!” and “I did it!” over and over again, clapping at herself. Yes, it was very adorable. And no, she didn’t do anything, she just sat there. I’m still proud that she wants to sit on the potty – step one, right? So, I left the house 10 minutes later than I normally would, got lost attempting to get to the event because of an accident on the highway, and ended up arriving a few minutes later than intended. Everything ended up being fine. I alerted the team that I was running late and went straight to work when I arrived. The event went on without a hitch but I was still frustrated in the morning because the schedule was thrown off. And then, as I was about to walk out the door, angry, Abby grabbed my leg and said “Bye Bye Mommy” with a big smile. I melted and took a few more minutes to get a last minute hug from my baby girl. Parenthood is going to throw you curve balls constantly, you just have to learn to course correct and breath when things don’t go as planned.