We need a place to talk about all the things.
Here at Startup Pregnant, this week is the start of school for everyone in my family—our kiddos went off to a new daycare on Monday, my accountability program is now in full swing, B-School started, and, nearest and dearest to my heart—The Wise Women’s Council kicked off this week. We have 28 women joining us for the journey of a lifetime, and I’m so impressed and inspired by every single one of them.
The Wise Women’s Council is a place for us to talk about all of the things—from the challenges of being a working parent, to the overwhelmed feelings we all experience, to the ways our children drive us mad, to the heartbreak that happens at various stages of the journey. What happens is an unleashing—we all start to pour out our stories and our hearts, and talk freely about things we didn’t even know we needed to let out.
Every single one of us needs a place—multiple places, in fact—to talk about the challenges of being a working parent.
If you’re new to this website, The Wise Women’s Council is our annual community mastermind to gather together and speak freely and openly about the intersections of business and life. It opens at the start of the year for applications and then we tuck away together from March through November to have a virtual retreat-like-conference-community experience. If you want to hear more about what the program is like from past participants, we did two roundtable events on the podcast in Episode 133 and Episode 134 all about what it’s like to be a part of the community.
[If you need a community of working parents, come join our Facebook Group—a place to talk openly and honestly about everything from work to pregnancy to what’s next with other female founders, business leaders, and working parents.]
Some people joined because they have full-time jobs but they’re curious about the question “What’s next for me?” Other people joined because they’ve had a lot of success in the first segment of their career, but now they’re trying to figure out the intersection of parenting and work.
Several people joined because now that they have kids, they realize how much there is to be done to make their workplaces more family friendly, and they want to set up better work environments for them and the people coming after them. And many people joined because they simply aren’t around enough working parents and they want to be in the room with other women who are navigating the intersections of work and family.
This week, we had our first all-group call, and our Slack room is buzzing with everyone’s heartfelt introductions. One of the things I love about the first few weeks is how open and honest everyone is. Since we all know why we’re joining, and we trust that it’s a space for us to be vulnerable and share openly, what’s been pent up for ages starts pouring out.
One woman wrote in our group (she told me it was okay to share)—
”I feel a shift coming on after entering motherhood but am not sure what it will be yet or how to start to unpack what I truly want to figure ‘it’ out. I’m also interested in starting something on the side and want to figure out how to have more flexibility in my life.”
Another woman wrote to me that she feels completely uncertain about what’s next, but wants to be in a room with other smart people to help figure it out.
The thing about bringing people together is that yes, everyone has these super impressive profiles—if you read their resumes and bios, you’d see people who have accomplished a lot and done a lot. But you don’t have to have the answer before you start asking the questions. In fact, sometimes you need that year of asking questions and wondering out loud, in the presence of other people, what you’re doing.
Underneath our fancy LinkedIn bios or our polished websites is the fact that we are all messy, imperfect, struggling, and figuring it out.
No one has it figured out. Certainly not me! I am also a working parent figuring out motherhood, startups, and businesses all at the same time.
The adventure that is parenting and working all at the same time can pull each of us into new areas of our personality, call us to re-think and re-examine what we know to be true, and drive us mad with how much we wish we want to do but can’t always find time to do. It’s constraining, it’s infuriating, it’s provoking, it’s overwhelming.
The most important thing you should know is that you’re not alone, and you’re not crazy.
Another woman in our group wrote that she’s in the early days postpartum after her second kid. “I’m trying really hard to honor this time of change and to grant myself some space and grace to maybe not get as much done as I’m accustomed to and also to let some of these bigger dreams incubate instead of trying to act on everything at once.”
Adjusting and shifting to the new realities of pregnancy, postpartum, and early parenting is not easy.
In the group, we take time to talk about all of the things that come up. These are some of the conversations we’ll be having, and I wanted to share them with all of you because I hope that you get to have these conversations this year, too.
If you can, bring a group of women or parents together for a dinner or a virtual hangout and use these as conversations starters. Have everyone share what comes up for them. Sometimes sharing your story is the shift you need to make the next month a whole lot better.
Gather a group of women together and use these as conversation starters in your own life:
CONVERSATION STARTERS FOR WORKING PARENTS
1: The loss we feel at losing parts of our past self, and the ways our lives change in ways we didn’t expect.
2: The challenges we face navigating the endless piles of work we want to do and the new pace of work and parenting.
3: Our relationships and how they change, who supports us (or doesn’t), the solo-parenting moments we face, and how it can make us feel alone or overwhelmed. How we have wins in our partnerships and where we still are figuring it out.
4: When to go after the big things and really push, even though it might seem insane (one woman’s second book was published just a few short months after her second baby).
5: How to create enough space and time to be with your littles in the way that’s right for you—whether you want more time with them, or less, and how to honor what’s calling you and find the support and pace you need.
6: The buried sadness, the muddled markers of this transition time, and how we can better honor this passage and share our experiences as we live through them.
7: Why it feels so hard to take a break, or to treat yourself with compassion and kindness when things feel harder than you expected.
8: The way that parenting can take us by surprise and the things that are unexpected and unusual about each of our journeys.
9: Why it feels so scary to let go of control, especially for Type A professionals, and how to navigate the newness and uncertainty that arises in this phase of life.
10: What it looks like to launch something new amidst all of this—so many women are starting blogs, podcasts, notes, or projects because of parenting and motherhood, in spite of all the busy-ness.
Telling our stories is healing. When we take the time to share our stories, voice our lives out loud, and be vulnerable in the presence of others, we have a chance to move through our stories and let our lives and stories catch up to each other.
I hope you’re finding the community support you need. We need hundreds of thousands of women building these villages and interconnected networks together, and I know I’m not alone in working on this effort. Thanks for all you do!
Go forth, and have nourishing conversations.