Saturday, October 23, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Flying High: Transitioning from the Corporate World to Baby in Coach by David Couper

One moment you are being a leader, leading meetings and leading the herd onto the plane as the privileged frequent flier and the next you are bring up a baby, meeting with no-one and you are leading your toddler – no dragging your toddler - down into the back of the plane and into coach as your career morphs into motherhood.

What happened?

Motherhood and your executive career collided! So how can you transition from a high-powered job, or actually any job, and to a role as mom?

1. Accept it’s going to be different
Any change is going to be different. If you were an executive, manager or working in a team, it will be different now you have a child. You can’t just work late, go on a business trip, or plan to work over the weekend even if you have great childcare, great family and great organization at home. You’re going to need to check if that’s OK and not being able to make an immediate decision will probably be different. But this change doesn’t need to be good or bad unless you choose to see it that way. Yes you may not be able to do that European trip or worse you may not even be asked now you have junior around. But in exchange you get time to spend with your family, avoid those security lines and the meetings with your boring counterparts that you never liked anyway! It’s different and you get to choose how you feel about it.

2. Work out your long-term strategy
Obviously you are planning what your work and home life looks like. Obviously? Well for some people it’s obvious. For others it may not be. But it’s good to work out how much time you want to spend at home once you have a child, or whether you want to or need to work fulltime, or if you intend to change direction or careers with the new family. Work out how to balance your new life and how you are going to finance it. Will you get a nanny or will grandma help out? Will you be at home 24/7 or will baby be at daycare during work hours? Plan out your first five years at least. The first five years takes you to kindergarten. The next ten to fifteen takes you through education and out of college. It’s worth thinking about those too and making some decisions.

3. Decide what you are going to give up and what you are going to take on
One of the hardest things to do is to accept that you can’t do everything. OK superstars give the impression they can be career woman, mother of ten, Nobel peace prize winner and able to make perfect brownies at the drop of a hat. But usually it’s with a team of hire-priced helpers. You can try and do 110% for your job and 110% for you family and you will probably find yourself going 110% crazy. For example, immaculate clothes are the sign of a high-powered executive. Ones with a throw-up stain are the sign of someone who is caring for a little one. You can make a pact that you will always be turned out perfectly and go ballistic the one time you aren’t or decide to never pick up your child in your business attire and let the au pair do it instead or just accept that your Prada may get poop on it. Life is not always going to be perfect and you decide to be OK with it.

4. Partner on the plan
As you work out your strategy and what is going to change you need to partner. Partner with your partner or spouse, your family or childcare providers and your co-workers and boss. It is better to be open and discuss possibilities rather than keep it to yourself. Your boss will not like surprises and if you don’t discuss your future he or she will make up something, which could be worse than the truth. Ensure your boss and co-workers that you can make the job work but also discuss any changes you will need to make to your schedule or on work expectations. Also do the same with your family and friends. Be honest; ask for help and set expectations. For example, you will still want to see your friends but the expensive lunches you used to have won’t work with junior around but a potluck at your home will.

5. Monitor and check in
As you go through this great adventure you need to check and see how the plan is going and what is working and what is not. The important part of this monitoring is to see if you need to do any course corrections. You may find that your mom loves looking after your baby for a couple of hours and is willing to do it twice a week instead of the once she does now. Or you may find that staying at home full time is driving you nuts and you need more adult company! Either way it’s OK to revise and change your plan.

Becoming a mother is a huge step made even bigger if you are trying to balance work. But it can be done. Just be realistic and don’t try to be superwoman (or mom).

At age 46, David Couper and his partner adopted a baby boy. Their son, Teddy, is now four years old. David is an author and career coach with many professional women and mothers as clients. His latest book: “Outsiders On The Inside: Creating a Winning Career…Even When You Don’t Fit In!” came out in August 2010.  Visit

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