Me & My “Why”

Hi! I’m Stella! I am a work in progress. I live and breathe to explore the world and its wonders. I am content with myself when I find ways to outgrow my shortcomings, while helping and learning from others along the way. I am constantly trying to pace myself while taking up life as it comes. And I love to write. A lot. Before I get to the bottom line of this blog, please allow me to brief you on myself.

If there’s three things that sum up who I am, it’s the these three:

  1. I am a bookworm. I solve all of my problems through reading. No, seriously: I have this nerdy ability to find a book solution for every life complication that comes my way. I read, implement, and fight my way through hardships by the power of Bookskull.
  2. I am genuinely passionate about participating in people’s professional development. Planning for a career transition and could use some support? Need a new skill you need to develop and don’t know where to start? Got a cover letter you find hard to compose? An interview to prepare for? I find joy (and myself) in being part of all that Jazz.
  3. I am a very proud wife and mom. Our family currently consists of three humans and a cat. Our firstborn came into our lives a while ago and, along with my amazing partner in life, we are determined to explore parenthood and its colorful dimensions, one diaper at a time.

Now on to starting this blog, and why I felt motivated to see it emerge.

They say motherhood is a transformative experience. That when it happens, things change. That you change. That it takes great effort and that it’s hard. I kept hearing such rumors, but I never really paid attention to any of it. I thought they were just that: opinionated exaggerations meant for me to ignore. I reckoned that, after becoming a mother, nothing about me would really change. That my priorities would remain the same. That I would want the same things, and that my everyday life wouldn’t be that much affected. Please don’t mock me, because I honestly had no clue…

Before motherhood, my life was dedicated to gathering knowledge, obtaining skills and sharpening abilities. And I got a handful of signed papers to back me up. I hold three Master degrees (an M.Eng, an M.Sc, and an MBA), I got myself trained in several professional traits (Project Management, Lean Six Sigma, Executive Coaching, Scrum, Design Thinking, to name a few), I can speak three languages and I spend more time in MOOCs than in cafeterias. To make the long story short, studying is my way of the ninja (something like Uzumaki Naruto‘s jutsu, only with books).

I am determined to constantly develop (what I call) my professional self. Whenever a new work-related topic grasps my attention, I am all in to explore it, combine and contrast it with what I already know, and find ways to incorporate its most relevant aspects into my practice. I know more about what’s going on in the workplace than what’s cooking in my kitchen. Because I don’t cook either. This professional self is a persona I have invested most of my time in, and feel extremely comfortable being. And, for some reason, I always thought I could indulge in that comfort zone alongside having a baby.

When I gave birth to my little one, I was shocked about how little I really knew about stuff like how life is born, how tiny humans evolve, and what it means to be an integral part of someone’s existence. I had been reading so much about so many topics and yet, somehow, motherhood was never on my radar. I genuinely thought that, all I needed to know about becoming a mom would just come to me. Instinctively. That, upon giving birth, I would magically transform into that smooth operator who can take up a baby, a household, postpartum recovery and work like a champ, in a fun and easy way. It only took the first few hours to realize that I was so not a bit ready for it. But again, who is?

When my lovely midwife handed me my tiny human over to nurse for the first time, only minutes after his first couple of breaths, I caught myself thinking: “Holy Cow… All that Management Mambo Jumbo you kept educating yourself about won’t do you any good this time around. You are in for a sour treat. That geeky “professional self” of yours that you have so diligently invested in, holds no practical value here. You are just a mom now…” Not the most supportive self-talk to be honest; no wonder instant desperation kicked in! Not only did I feel I lacked the practical knowledge and skills required to take care of a baby, on top of that, I was mentally unprepared for it and felt like one big mess!

Needless to say that the reality that stroke me was hard, and perfectly matched those nasty rumors that kept coming my way. Nothing remained the same, and nothing came easily. No magical instincts kicked in to salvage those first (very) long days of sleep deprivation and marathon baby feedings. No automatically knowing how to effectively deal with the baby’s first illness. No time to consider who I used to be, who I am now and who I want to become. Only a bunch of twisted hormones that triggered a hot mix of postpartum rage and depression whenever I accidentally caught a glimpse of my new (XXL) body in the mirror, along with a gigantic insecurity about whether I was going to make it outside the safety of my professional self, and into the uncharted territory of having to settle with… just a mom.

It took some heavy duty months and a strong support network of family, friends and fellow moms for my head (and hormones!) to clear enough to put two and two together. I realized that, although I am strolling in uncharted territories with only my business skills in my backpack, not all those who wonder are lost. That I can still be a work in progress, and that I am allowed to continue to grow as a person in ways I can neither control or imagine; and that’s OK. My emotional state balanced and I was breathing lively again. Still, I felt I was losing the game on the practical side of taking care of a baby. I hadn’t done my mommy-work. So I got down to what I know best: reading. Only the topics were now very different.

Baby sleep, developmental milestones, games and activities, smart baby products, medicines and vaccinations, nutrition and weaning, cooking and food safety, household baby-proofing, teething, tantrums, combining work and family schedules… I could go on, but you get the picture. I thought I had done my fair share of studying in my life. Then I realized that, in the first six months of my little one’s life, stealing from my alone time between those exhausting and terrible catnaps, I had come to study more than I ever had in my entire life. Focused and diligent, thirty minutes four times a day are enough when you are on a mission. And boy was I on one!

My mission was to crack all this complex system and provide myself with those much needed knowledge, skills and abilities that I felt was lacking. All those years focused on my professional self, had seemed so distant and irrelevant that I was eager to start learning the real stuff. The good stuff. The stuff I was missing. Guess what? The more I kept reading about the real stuff, I more I saw analogies, bridges and similarities with work. Being a full-time mother felt so blatantly similar to being a knowledge worker, that I am now utterly convinced that motherhood should come with its own job description.

It didn’t take long for me to see how my diverse business skills could support me. That they weren’t irrelevant at all. Instead, they could prove handy and help resolve many of my numerous practical problems. It wasn’t my skills being out of place; It was me who got trapped in a self-limiting belief that blurred my better judgement and made me feel powerless walking down a road where I was, in fact, pretty powerful to begin with!

I wasn’t so ignorant as I thought. All these business-related things I have been investing my whole life on though studying, reading and certifying myself could somehow serve my motherhood quest as well. Are my business skills and knowledge transferable to life at home with a kid? Do I bear more knowledge than I am aware of? Was I an unconsciously competent new mom after all? The answer -for me- to all those funny questions was a clear and profound YES. And throughout this blog I am bound to keep exploring the deep liaisons between home and office work, building an autobiographical and at the same time practical (and hopefully entertaining) narrative.

Writing is the best way for me to experience what’s going on with me and my life. It’s the yin to my yang. When I get down to writing, it’s like I am magically transferred to this special place where notions become clear and transparent, and my thinking gets so loud that I have no choice but to capture it.

Becoming a mother has deeply affected (and will keep affecting) many (if not most) practical aspects of my life. As promised by those rumors, some of those aspects will never be the same anymore. But, to my astonishment, despite the transformative experience, some crucial parts of my core value system remain intact.

I feel my best self when I take part in people’s self-exploration journeys and see them grow. Witnessing people overcoming obstacles and climbing their development ladders to reach their potential is a privilege that fascinates me. Whenever I get to experience that, I feel I have the power to help make the world a better, more livable place.

I still want to become a better version of myself, while helping and learning from others along the way. So this blog is about me, becoming a mother. How I am putting my best self out there to help a soul become a person. But it’s also about how other mothers out there are multi-competent knowledge workers. And how playing to your strengths is the best way to not let your weaknesses put you in the corner.

The more life experience I gather, the more I become convinced that we need to work together in recognizing how powerful Mothers truly are, and get down to forming a job description for them, starting with their knowledge, skills and abilities (aka their KSAs)! Because currently there is no such concept going around, we often view motherhood as a past-time, despite the fact that it consists of serious, full-time (and unpaid!) work. Mothers are multi-competent knowledge workers, and bloody well worth the recognition! This blog serves as a step towards showcasing that.

Featured Photo: Ian Schneider (Unsplash)