Mentally preparing oneself to become a Mom is only one aspect of the motherhood journey. Getting ready for it on a practical level, is a whole different animal!
The moment I realized what giving birth and raising a kid meant from a logistics viewpoint, I got the creeps. It was one of those “oh no” moments that made me kinda lose some of my initial excitement. The more I got down to contemplating what needed to be done, the more needs popped out of my mental corners to stress me up.
For instance, I needed to arrange my maternity leave details with my employer. Then we needed to decide and book a birth clinic. And, since we were short on free rooms, we would have to convert an existing one into a nursery. We were missing core baby stuff as well, like baby wear, a car seat and a stroller – only to name a few. Oh, and all those extra boring state-related paperwork would be waiting around the corner to be taken care of as soon as the baby was born. I am just scratching the surface here. The list was, in effect, endless!
All those open issues wouldn’t just require (what seemed to be) an infinite amount of money. Sure we could look for ways to cut some corners. But they undoubtedly needed our dedicated time and effort. And that’s when it hit me: it’s bloody Project Management all over again, isn’t it?
If you are hearing the term Project Management for the first time, please allow for a brief parenthesis to provide with some context on the matter. First things first: what is a Project?
My distinguished colleagues from the Project Management Institute (it’s the leading not-for-profit professional membership association for the project management profession; in short, PMI) provide us with the following definition for a Project:
A Project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.
There’s two key terms included in that definition: temporary and unique. Let’s see what they mean to say:
- Temporary implies that a project cannot last for ever; it is expected to end. Therefore, when it gets to start, and when it gets to end should be set.
- Unique comes to discern projects from things that get to be repeated, like an established process or a routine that goes on indefinitely. Projects happen once. Therefore, what happens in Projects stays in Projects and, once all work is done, so is the Project.
The application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.
In other words, use what you have, what you can do, and what you know, in the best possible way, in order to make something new happen for the first time. If you ask me, it’s more of an art than a practice.
Every single one of those examples I mentioned earlier, the ones that populated my terrifying “to do” list were, in effect, Projects waiting to be initiated. From setting up the nursery to arranging the state paperwork, however big or small, complex or simple, their core identity was the same. Projects.
Still skeptical? Think a little deeper about each of them using the following checklist:
- They had never happened before
- They would happen once
- They wouldn’t last for ever (hopefully!)
- They consisted of specific things that needed to be achieved
- Me and the hubby would have to use what we know (i.e. knowledge, skills, techniques) and what we have (i.e. tools) to see them through
The good thing about realizing that I had a bunch of new Projects on my hands was that, being a certified Project Manager with more than a decade of experience in the field, I knew exactly how to deal with them. The tools and techniques remain the same regardless of the nature of the Projects, so I knew exactly where to start.
I don’t mean to imply, however, that you need to be a certified Project Manager to be able to set up a nursery. That would be plain silly. But knowing about the tools of the Project Management trade brings so much more to the table. There is tons (and tons) of transferable knowledge and tips that can make all this task frenzy a lot more manageable, especially if you got plenty to go with. And vice versa.
While you handle the practicalities of motherhood and succeed in completing the tasks required to (say) set up a new nursery, you are unconsciously practicing Project Management techniques and tools! So, Momma, I bet my hat you know more about Project Management than you may think you do! Need an example? Here’s one, by the power of the Project Triangle.
Even though it may sound like the name for some undercover military project, Project Triangle is, actually, a simplistic model depicting the constraints you come to face whenever you need to manage a Project.
Let’s say you wanna set up that nursery. Sure you could go ahead and start doing whatever pops in your head with no particular order. Chaos theorists would be proud. But I bet some principles would apply even to the most chaotic minds, regardless of your views:
- Some tasks you would rather perform before others (like removing the old furniture to make room for the new ones). So you need to schedule some activities due to time constraints.
- Some of the nursery furniture you see at your local baby store, however lovely, you simply cannot afford. Your budget probably has some kind of limit.
- And I bet equipping the nursery with a wooden rocking horse is not the first priority on your gear list designed to help you manage those hard first days with the new baby. The functionality it provides is simply not useful on day one.
- Lastly, you will balance out the time, money and functionality parameters in the best possible way, so that you meet your personal quality standards. Perhaps you want a solution that focuses on the best quality items to serve you with all your future babies. Perhaps you are cost sensitive and need to buy as much as possible regardless of how long they will last. Or you are a last-minute shopper and price is irrelevant: you just need a quick solution to the nursery problem.
All the elements mentioned above comprise the Project Triangle, a simplistic tool thought to Project Managers around the globe, that shows the dynamic of the trade-offs you are faced with when you manage a Project. And, simple as it may be, it’s powerful enough to find itself in the least expected place: a Mom’s list of practical issues to take care of, before and during motherhood.
Hopefully, dear Momma, I have managed to convince you that, at some point, you got acquainted with the concept of a Project and, knowingly or not, you used what you had and what you knew in the best possible way in order to see your Projects through. There are plenty of tools and techniques in Project Management, and throughout this space I plan to gradually reacquaint you with them. You will see for yourself how much your role as a Mother resembles that of a Project Manager, and how much you already know without realizing. That’s where I got the inspiration and named this space Project Mamager!
As for you, dear Recruiter or Hiring Manager, when you are interviewing for a position that requires Project Management skills, don’t be afraid to ask the Moms in your candidate pool to narrate their experiences from home. When you don’t see the Project Management role listed in their Résumés, don’t automatically assume that they cannot relate. Examples of how Moms manage the practicalities of their new role may prove to count as much as (and in some cases even more that) any legit business Project Portfolio out there.
Need to become a Project Mamager? You got this!