Maybe You Don’t Have To Work Harder Right Now
You might not have to do things differently for things to change.
Maybe someone needs to hear this today.
The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who is the parent to two young girls. They’re two and a quarter, and brand-new; she’s got a 5 month old at home. Fresh new babies! Demanding attention! Always!
Her spouse is the majority income creator and has been pulled heavily into his job right now, and doesn’t have a ton of flexibility. She was on maternity leave when this started, so her freelance clients are on pause, or slowly coming back online. Now they don’t have a nanny and she’s doing full-time child care coverage while also still with a tiny baby at home.
We talked about her dreams—of working, of writing, of freelance projects, of side projects—and she was honest: she’s completely exhausted.
“Every time I start to add a work task to my plate, I end up completely exhausted and angry at all the parenting work I have to do,” she said. “But when work’s not on the table, I actually don’t hate parenting as much. If all I had to do was parent, it would be hard, but I’m not sure I’d be so angry about all of it.”
“If all I had to do was parent, it would be hard, but I’m not sure I’d be so angry about all of it.”
We talked about how much of her life is so temporary right now. What came up for me was this: she doesn’t have to work harder or make anything happen for things to change.
“For you,” I said, “Your life will change over the next 12 months, somewhat dramatically. Your little one will sleep through the night. You yourself will get more sleep. She will drain less and less milk (and energy) from you as she gets older. Your older one will turn three, and begin to have more autonomy. They might even begin to play together at two and four.”
“The important thing, the thing I want you to hear, is that you don’t have to DO ANYTHING but let time pass.”
Pushing harder and doing more might not change anything faster.
For many of you, there isn’t anything we can control, push, or organize to change the world around us. It’s maddening, but it also has an upside: we can release the pent-up energy of wanting things to change and trust that things will change, eventually, at some point.
Sometimes, releasing the pressure of having to do something can release us to find tiny moments of joy—or at least contentment—inside of the space we’re in.
I know this isn’t true for everyone, and I know that this might be maddening to hear for people across different situations.
But if you’re pregnant right now, or you’re with a tiny baby at home, and you’re panicked about the long term, I hope this message gives you a tiny note of peace. You don’t have to push harder or do more. One day, your house might be clean again. One day, you might wear pants again. One day, you will work again.
But right now? Maybe, just maybe, you don’t have to do as much as you think you should.
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY
You’re not insane, you’re not wrong, you’re not broken, and you’re not a terrible parent or a terrible worker if you’re having a hard time getting work done while also sustaining the full-time job of caring for a baby. Taking care of a baby is a huge job, one that requires the work of multiple adults. But instead, we ask women to do it all, without help or support, and then to work additional jobs on top of the round-the-clock work of childcare. It’s impossible.
Growing up, James Breakwell never had to think about what jobs he wasn’t allowed to pursue. That changed when he had kids. As the father of four girls — one of whom recently said she wants to be a construction worker, and another who asked if she could be the Pope — he’s had to put himself in the shoes of the females surrounding him at home. As an author and internet personality behind the popular Twitter account @XplodingUnicorn, James is best known for his viral tweets depicting hilarious snippets of conversations with his daughters. In this interview with our first startup dad, he gets real about how he navigates building a public persona based on his family life — including how much to share and what to withhold.
We need your leadership from where you are—as you are. We’ve known for a long time that we need much more diverse leadership, that we need women’s leadership, and that we need new models of power. As Elizabeth Lesser says, we need to embrace “power to,” not just “power over.” We need truth telling, and we need new visions. We need you, your work, and your brave new thinking. We need you to show up. We need you to be who you really are, not what an archaic model of power and “leadership” tells you to be. Take care, take the rest you need, take action, and show up. Even and especially as you are.
School is back in session, and parents everywhere are fatigued, overwhelmed, and still in the lurch. Workplaces are less and less forgiving, and yet the problems created by the pandemic are still here. What’s a working parent to do? Last week, Lions + Tigers gathered a panel to talk about specific steps parents can take to strategically plan ahead for the coming year. I hosted a conversation with Brea Starmer, founder of Lions+Tigers, Shauna Causey of Weekdays, and Blessing Adesiyan of Mother Honestly.
Sarah K Peck
Founder, Startup Parent
Sarah Peck is a writer, startup advisor, and yoga teacher based in New York City. She’s the founder and executive director of Startup Parent, a media company documenting the stories of women’s leadership across work and family. She hosts the weekly Startup Parent Podcast and Let's Talk, her second podcast. Previously, she worked at Y Combinator backed One Month, Inc, a company that teaches people to code in 30 days, and before that she was a writing and communications consultant.
She’s a 20-time All-American swimmer who successfully swam the Escape from Alcatraz nine separate times, once wearing only a swim cap and goggles to raise $33k for charity: water. She’s written for more than 75 different web publications and and has delivered speeches and workshops at Penn, UVA, Berkeley, Harvard, Craft & Commerce, WDS, and more.