THE GREAT UNKNOWN ... LIFE WITH A BABY

By Kate Gerber and Mary Ann Downey.

Remember a time when you and your husband could go to a movie whenever you wanted to, eat a romantic dinner whenever you wanted to, and work at the office until 7 p.m., 8 p.m. or even midnight without negatively affecting the other’s schedule? This is the kind of freedom you don’t realize you have until you lose it. Even during the third trimester of pregnancy, when you want to have the baby so bad you could scream, you still have the ability to be spontaneous (unless you are pregnant with a second or subsequent child).

Before you have a baby, what you don’t know is a lot. Nothing can prepare you for the sleep deprivation, the neediness of your newborn baby, the onslaught of visitors, the financial burden, the stress of working with insurance companies and the stress of trying to figure out how you are going to juggle all of this with your career. Whether it’s your first child, your second or – heaven help you – your sixth child, you will never really know how this child will fit into your life. When making plans for life after baby, it is like the “Pirate Code” (http://piratesonline.wikia.com/wiki/Pirate's_Code), with more guidelines than an agenda. This reality creates challenges for both the employee and the employer.

Preparing for the first three months with your new baby (otherwise known as the fourth trimester) is a daunting task. It is important to identify what you think you will be doing after you have the baby, but be aware that these plans are subject to change once the baby arrives. Many successful women, for whom career was everything, have decided to become stay-at-home moms once they’ve held their precious bundle. And women who thought they wanted to be stay-at-home moms have become so desperate for adult interaction that they’ve gone back to work. The point is, plan for what you think you will want but understand that you won’t really know what you want until you bring that baby home.

This also weighs on the mind of your employer (especially if it is your first child). This is why it’s important to be in constant communication about your plans with your employer. But don’t stress about it too much. You will figure out what is best for you. If you do decide to go back to work, you will be able to do your job just as well – if not better – because you will have learned how to be more efficient with your time. Since “necessity is the mother of invention” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8wuGRlRZqk), parents acquire/hone many skills that help them become more productive in order to meet the competing demands of work and family.

· Time Management: When you are feeding a newborn, your life is ruled unmercifully by the clock and the baby’s tummy – this is especially true if you are breastfeeding your baby. Time management is the art and skill of planning and executing to accomplish goals. While one could read countless books and attend seminars to master “time management,” becoming a parent creates the need to practice these skills more than desire or will power ever could.

· Prioritization: Before you had a baby, any task or idea that had merit was worthy of time and attention. My prioritization scheme was: good ideas (usually mine) deserved top billing, the rote but required stuff was second and everything else was third. A time management technique that renowned coaching expert and i4cp Chairman Emeritus Marshall Goldsmith recommends is to create both a “to do” list and a “stop doing” list. Before baby, a stop doing list might consist of personal habits; now it might contain things that can be delegated, shared with a partner or just let go.

· Delegation: Many “A”-type personalities believe that no one can put as much care or effort into a task as they would. Men lucky enough to marry a type “A” woman like this since they never have to fold laundry again. That is true before baby. Delegation is another key time management skill that increases productivity. It makes no sense for a professional making $50 an hour to spend that hour making and collating copies. This is a task that a staff member can assist with or that can be outsourced to a print shop. Once baby arrives – this math is very clear to see.

· Perfectionism: As mentioned above, “perfectionism” is a common type “A” personality trait. The amount of time spent drafting a simple e-mail or rewriting an agenda for an internal meeting to get it just right can be a huge productivity killer. Before baby, this luxury can be indulged. With increasing time demands, the only solution may be to realize when things are good enough and it’s time to move on.

Look for future blogs about parenthood, career and productivity such as “Letting Go of Superwoman,” “She’s Not (Blank) … She’s Sleep-Deprived,” “1 is 1, 2 is 4” and insights from co-workers and managers.

How has your productivity decreased or improved since you’ve become a parent? We would love to hear what you think.

About the authors:

Kate Gerber is the mother of two children. She has a two-and-a-half-year-old son and a two-month-old daughter. Kate works out of both the i4cp Seattle office and her home office, and she appreciates having the flexibility to do so. She is pleased her son is finally over the fact that his little sister is not a temporary resident, as he had originally thought (or hoped).

Mary Ann Downey is a first-time mom. Her son was born five weeks early in December 2008, so all of her planning for baby went out the window pretty quick. Mary Ann works from a home office, which has benefits but also unique challenges. When asked what the biggest surprise about having a baby was, she said, “How much time I can spend just looking at him – in awe.”