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
I’ve given my three year old my laptop to reply to your incoming emails right now. My one-year old might also be chiming in. I’m having a hard time keeping them away from the keyboard. Don’t worry, I’ve invented a magical device that can also translate their thoughts and actions into words. As of Sunday, they are now responsible for my inbox. You can consider them my new personal assistant.
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.
Making sense of days that make no sense requires new patterns, habits, and routines. For me, trying to muddle through the cacophony of work and children and non-stop days at home is very, very challenging to my brain. So, to help, I’ve been building small rituals into the day to start to cue myself that yes, work is happening now, and yes, it’s a new day.
Sarah K Peck
Founder, Startup Pregnant
Sarah Peck is a writer, startup advisor, and yoga teacher based in New York City. She’s the founder and executive director of Startup Pregnant, a media company documenting the stories of women’s leadership across work and family. She hosts the weekly Startup Pregnant 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.