We don’t talk enough about how we will be different on the other side of welcoming a child (even when it is not our first). Yes, most of us can imagine that our schedule and daily commitments will be different. We know having a child will be a big emotional experience. Too often, however, there isn’t recognition of the need to pause our busy lives and take notice of what we are experiencing and how we are evolving in response. This fourth touchpoint is not only about how you want others to acknowledge your leaving work and welcoming a child but also about how you want to do so internally, for yourself.
Maybe you want to throw a big party such as a baby shower (or any of the catchy names they’re sometimes called for dads) in addition to a quieter form of acknowledgment, like a blessing circle or other ceremony, with those you are very close to. This touchpoint is about your own recognition of the transformation that is unfolding. Who do you want to be as a parent? What are your hopes and dreams? What are your fears? Capturing your feelings in a baby book or journal or creating a box of heirlooms and special items for your child can help everything feel real and will give your future self a nostalgic window to this time. If you have a spouse or partner, what do they want parenthood to be like? By scheduling time to reflect and dream on this monumental shift, you create the space to lead the process rather than be consumed by it.
Let me be clear. Leading is not the same as controlling. If parenting has taught me one thing, it is that you really don’t control anything. And you don’t need to. What parenting requires is presence; it is about being able to clear your mind to be able to be fully present for all you are experiencing. Becoming a working parent is about presence on a whole other level. If that’s hard to envision, that’s OK. It is impossible for you to really know what I mean until you become a parent yourself and have that experience to draw on. As important as it is to envision who you want to be as a parent to this child, you must also recognize that this vision will evolve as you adjust to new information and experiences.
In leaving work and entering leave, you will move from spending your days predominantly focused on work to giving your attention to your new child and your home life. Your priorities may change during this time and with that shift, you might question who you are and what you want and value. Give yourself space and time to have those thoughts and mull over whatever questions arise. Pushing them aside will not make them go away; rather, it may lead to more conflicted questioning later on.
My coaching experience has shown me that this lead-up before the child comes is anything but calm. Dozens of other concerns may come up at any given time. You may find, when you pause to take time for reflection, that you have a lot of things going through your head—a busy brain with a lot of inner chatter. One expectant mom, Tally, described it this way: “All I want to do is stop and have a moment to think and be with myself, but when I finally do, it is like a tornado in my brain and I don’t even know where to begin.” If you relate, try moving all that thinking out of your head and onto paper (or into a digital document) for safekeeping. You may need to get your mental to-do list out of your head before you can dig deeper to reflect on your feelings and values behind that list. Maybe you start your reflection process with 10 minutes to write down everything on your mind (later you can translate this stuff into tasks for your leave plan). Or maybe you make a voice memo or ask a friend to take notes while you do a brain dump. Either way, externalizing your mental chatter will free up inner space for room to be present and grounded while you reflect on what you are experiencing right now.
- What parts of your transition to parenthood do you feel most strongly about? Maybe breastfeeding is important to you or incorporating traditions from your culture or family.
- Are there parts of your transition to parenthood that you know you are avoiding? Is there a big talk you need to have with your partner or boss, or medical or dental work you haven’t attended to?
- Is there something—or many things—that you want to accomplish or finish before this child arrives? Pay attention to what is possible and realistic and which things may need to be set aside, or even let go of. Deciding which are essential (either for practical or emotional reasons) can be hard work and some may even require a bit of mourning as you say goodbye to a path you will need to leave untraveled.
- What are your dreams and goals in becoming a parent to this child? What kind of parent do you want to be?
If you have a partner, The Parental Leave Playbook offers additional reflection questions to consider so you can plan to strengthen your relationship as you become parents together and features a sidebar about the work of the Gottmans, including advice from their book And Baby Makes Three: The Six-Step Plan for Preserving Marital Intimacy and Rekindling Romance After Baby Arrives by John M. Gottman PhD, Julie Schwartz Gottman PhD.
Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from The Parental Leave Playbook: 10 Touchpoints to Transition, Strengthen Your Family, Smoothly, and Continue Building Your Career by Amy Beacom, EdD., and Sue Campbell. Copyright (c) 2021 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.
Taking parental leave soon? Managing someone who is? Get your plans in order with a free workshop from the Center for Parental Leave Leadership!
We’re excited to let you know that we’ve made special arrangements with the Center for Parental Leave Leadership and authors of the upcoming book The Parental Leave Playbook (Wiley, 2021), for all Gottman subscribers to attend this online parental leave planning workshop for FREE. (Leaders and managers, this would be valuable insight into the employee experience. You are welcome to attend too!).
As a companion to the workshop, we recommend you buy a copy of The Parental Leave Playbook, the first book to offer an evidence-based and human-centered approach to the parental leave transition.
In this free workshop, you’ll:
– Learn the ten touchpoints of the parental leave transition
– Learn how to plan for all three phases of parental leave
– Preparing for leave
– During leave
– Returning from leave
– Get a free Next Steps Action Plan template for planning your leave
– Have the chance to ask the parental leave experts all your most pressing questions!
When: September 20 at 11:00am Pacific (other dates available)
Use our unique code when you sign up: GOTTMAN