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
The other day, I was reading an article on Time Magazine that I couldn’t stop reading. Dr. Kyl Myers, an author, had written a long-form piece about gender, sex and parenting. Dr. Kyl Myers holds a PhD in sociology and studies and speaks about gender. Kyl is an award-winning educator and a globally recognized advocate for gender creative parenting. Since 2016, Kyl has been speaking and writing about gender creative parenting and using their own parenting story to help the world learn about and embrace a new type of childhood. Kyl Myers goes by “she” and “her” pronouns, as well as “they” and “them.” Dr. Myers is the author of Raising Them: Our Adventure In Gender Creative Parenting. This is a fascinating conversation about parenting, gender, and what we can do as parents to help reduce gender violence, oppression against women and men, and create a more playful world.
In America, the word “mother” is nearly always describing white motherhood. That’s what Nefertiti, a single African American woman and the author of “Motherhood So White,” discovered when she decided she wanted to adopt a Black baby boy out of the foster care system. Eager to finally join the motherhood ranks, Nefertiti was shocked by the assumptions people had about what adoption, motherhood, and Black motherhood should look like. She realized that American society saw motherhood through a white lens, and that there would be no easy understanding or acceptance of the kind of family she hoped to build.
My friend has an almost-two-year old and she asked me “So when do I need to think about potty training?” Yeah, as though you needed anything else to consider in the pandemic. Well, I took a few minutes to brain dump everything I remembered about potty training in a quick dash Voxer message to her, all while doing dishes and cleaning up the boys’ room in our house. We both thought that these might be useful memos for you, especially if you happen to be in a similar situation. Consider this an unofficial, scrappy overview of Potty Training that will help you do a good enough job … for now.
Begin writing a post that says “Working parents are not okay.”‘ Delete sentences because no one is okay. There isn’t really a comparison game to be played here. Call your friend and realize that you’re having trouble stringing words together. Hang up the telephone because both of your children and pushing buttons on the phone and you can’t actually have a real conversation while children and buttons are in close proximity. What was it that they said? “Opening my computer is like a pavlovian response for my child.” Yeah, that.
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.