So it's official. I'm somebody's mother.
My journey began nine months ago and stepped up in intensity when I went into labor three and a half weeks early in the wee morning hours of March 2. My water broke at 4:30AM and my son, Jonah Vincent Shankman, was in the world via emergency c-section by 7:30AM. It seems that he, like his mom, likes to be efficient.
More so than graduating college, getting married, making VP at a communications consulting firm, or publishing a book, having a child is a defining rite of passage into adulthood. On Babycenter.com, the social network where I've met dozens of moms also expecting in March 2008, I'm amazed by the women in their early to mid twenties who already feel empowered to take this step. I wasn't remotely ready until I was 30, and even now some days I question that readiness.
For me, it was important to establish myself in not one but two careers before I became a mother. In the communications world, I wanted to climb to middle management - with a desirable and highly marketable skill set and in a position to command a strong salary - even if I needed to take a few years off. At the same time, I wanted to create a uniquely twenty-first century career path as a business author and speaker that would allow me to do work I enjoy on a flexible schedule that gelled with raising a child.
By the time March 2, 2008 rolled around, I was almost 32 years old and had managed to achieve both. But - and call it new mother doubts or baby blues or whatever - two weeks later I feel career insecurity bubbling up inside. I've always been a person most comfortable working myself to the bone. My performance expectations are very high, and generally the busier I am, the happier I am. And as long as it was just my husband and me, it was easy to tightly control both careers. If I wanted to do an extra day of communications consulting one week, I just went. I had the freedom to work on my books at all hours of the day and night. I could fly off to Connecticut to do a speaking engagement at a Fortune 500 insurance firm at a moment's notice. I was never uncomfortable. I never felt torn.
Now, however, my son moves into the position of top priority, and I simply won't be able to conduct my affairs in the same way. I worry that all of the career momentum I've worked so hard to build will stall and disappear. I know that I will see other people in my field(s) who don't have children keeping up with the trends, taking advantage of more opportunities, and getting more attention, and I fear that I will envy them.
I suppose only time will tell how I will handle the situation, and how I will balance being a mom with being a successful author and consultant. At least I know I'm not alone. Women have been doing this for years, and as the ones on Babycenter prove, they're starting younger and younger. I look to them, as well as all of you, for advice and encouragement as I embark on this new phase of life.