So Emotional, Baby!

My first year in Motherhood has been super powerful. Not only did I embark in a vast sea of creativity, but also experienced a major shift in the inner force I have been trading on!

I have been following Gary Vaynerchuk on LinkedIn for a while now, and I came across this quote that I found most intriguing. He said:

When you go from being someone who executes tasks to someone who’s managing a team, you go from trading mostly on IQ to trading mostly on EQ.

It’s not that Gary is taking any groundbreaking stand here on contemporary Management: the debate over IQ and EQ is getting older by the minute. Ever since Daniel Goleman published his legendary book on “Emotional Intelligence” back in 1995, he seems to have dragged the globe in a tug war of EQ vs IQ, with the world’s top-notch leadership consultants and executive coaches marching up and down the aisles waving flags. It’s no high philosophy, either. Still, it resonated.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, my idea of Self has been fueled by the magnitude of my accomplishments: my professional status, my academic achievements, and if I managed to fit (bloody) size 10. I’m an Engineer by degree, and at heart. A nerd in all fronts. I (to date) believe in Systems. Inputs. Outputs. Thus, I’m a creature of habit and KPIs.

I love a specific ice-cream flavor, and always choose to have it served in a particular way. I have been logging my food intake daily for more than a decade now. I need to be in places that are neat: I find the view of an untidy room unsettling. I prefer originals than remakes, even if remakes are (hands down) better. You get the picture of how I’m fueled by Law and Order, right?

A big part of my adult life was spent keeping myself accountable for maintaining the habits and practices that would get me to where I wanted go. And I did this consistently. Checked-in with my KPIs, and adjusted course.

The good news is that, by going down such a path, deliverability skyrockets. Such a methodical viewpoint, powered by my naturally high levels of focus and determination, was bound to get me there. The bad news is that, if you keep such a practice up for long, the actual Self goes missing. The spirit. The emotion. The soul. I was slowly yet steadily transforming into (a less cute version of) WALL-E, long forgotten in a personal post-apocalyptic reality, focused on keeping little blocks all lined up. And, then, something magical happened: I met my husband.

My husband is -hands down- the smartest person I know. But that’s hardly his most captivating trait. It all boils down to how he encompasses his whit with his feelings. How he is a whole, and not a sum of parts. He had no need to become “complete” by a relationship: he was already complete in his own existence. Unlike anyone I had met before (friends included) he wasn’t looking for a person to help him fill the gaps. He was looking for good company while he diligently worked on a higher version of himself. And seeing what he was doing with himself was my greatest Aha moment. My epiphany. An inspiration and an invitation to work on my own Self. As a whole.

As Gary would have noticed based on the above, I had been trading on IQ for most of my adult life. Sure, it got me places. But it could never give me chills. Working on my spirituality, revisiting my idea of Self, giving myself permission to exist as a whole, acknowledging my emotions, forgiving myself and practicing gratitude have become integral parts of life as I now know it. And life feels so much richer and fulfilling!

Feels like I had been spending most of my time so far using my IQ to build strong roots on the ground. And I have done well. I got to know myself. To trust in my competences. I’m mentally strong, and I am grateful for all the hard work I put into all the earlier versions of myself. I grew so confident, that I managed to reach a point where I could see through it all, and into an elevated perspective. A sparkly world of emotions. Of spirit. The value and dynamic of the EQ. And what a miracle that was! Got me thinking: do other Moms get to experience such a shift, or is it just me?

A quick internet search got me a bunch of varied and, mostly, contradictory search results. There seem to be two “schools of thought” around this, one advocating how Motherhood changes your mental aptitude for the better, and the other for the worse.

On one hand, there’s the “Mommy Brain” hype, where Moms are said to suddenly more forgetful or have difficulty focusing at work. On the other hand, there’s researchers like Katherine Ellison who wrote a book around the same concept, but taking the opposite direction: how women get smarter after having kids, how Motherhood makes them more perceptive, efficient, resilient, motivated, and emotionally intelligent; all of which adding up to tremendous mental enrichment and effectiveness.

I cannot say about other Moms but, in my case, forgetfulness and lack of focus never manifested. The dynamic of my IQ has by no means diminished. I did, however experience a sudden peak in my emotional aptitude, in the most prominent way possible. Got me wondering if, perhaps, it’s a purely hormonal thing…

Luckily for my curiosity, UCLA psychologist Martie Haselton also pondered on the matter. In her book “Hormonal: The Hidden Intelligence of Hormones — How They Drive Desire, Shape Relationships, Influence Our Choices and Make Us Wiser” she gave me the answer I was looking for:

Although biology plays a role, our social context (and our agency to reflect and make choices) matters just as much.

I don’t think a shift towards EQ (or anything else for that matter) automatically happens when a woman becomes a Mom. What I do think is that a person’s inner transformation is just around the corner waiting for a catalyst to manifest itself. One such possible catalyst (for women) is Motherhood. And I think the same can happen to Dads as well.

Photo: Hoang Loc (Pexels)

So, no, I don’t believe that EQ comes with Motherhood or that EQ is necessarily better than IQ. (Enough with the false dilemma, Daniel!) No path is carved and nobody needs to choose.

What I do believe is that Motherhood is a great excuse for us Moms to work diligently and consistently towards elevating our perspective, embracing our unique whole-selves and upping our games, while allowing both brain and heart into the equation. Because both of them come in super handy, depending on the context. Acknowledging both as our unique competences, being able to switch from one to the other or have them co-exist, can make all the difference in Parenting.

Before Motherhood, I never thought I would be able to have non-verbal interactions. To communicate deeply and effectively, without the need for words. But here I am today, taking an exclusive custom-made experiential crash-course on Empathy, offered by my lovely son. And what a great tutor he is!

From the way he protests I can tell if he is sleepy, or hungry, or annoyed. From the look on his face I understand when he is satisfied, or excited, or preparing for his next big mischief. I can deeply sense him. I know it in my gut when he is feeling ready (or not) for a step forward. Sometimes I can even predict how his emotional response will play out. Pretty sure that WALL-E version of me wouldn’t pull any of this.

Brené gets this. She said:

We can’t give children what we don’t have. We just have to be the adults we hope they grow up to be.

I am glad that I will never need to know what kind of a Parent I would be if I kept trading solely on IQ and didn’t have a clue about what EQ has to offer. I would be missing out from the overall experience if I continued to shut out my emotions and not acknowledge the value of my own heart. As writer Elisabeth Stone once said:

Making the decision to have a child–it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.

Being wholeheartedly present as a Parent is the transformative step forward that Motherhood has brought me! With brain and heart alive and kicking, I have a richer armory towards an elevated version of my Self. I am in no position to know what Motherhood brought to other Moms out there, but I’m confident each and every one of us got to experience equally powerful transformations.

I am trading on both IQ and EQ, now doing the best I can, until I know better. Then, when the time comes to know better, I do better (thanks Maya). And I’m grateful for my nerdy life’s story: I’m standing here today not despite, but because of my past. My geeky habits. My overclocked brain. Feet on the ground, hands towards the stars, growing tall, and enjoying the ride.

Transformed by Motherhood? You got this!

Featured Photo: Pixabay (Pexels)

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