Strong PM & Devoted Parent: Bringing our identities together for a full life


Article by Lili Kaneva

What is PMP and what does it do for you?
Every once in a while someone would tell you this - “you’re doing great”. Can you recall the last time? How did that make you feel? Did you jump with joy, feel relieved, proud…? Or did you instead fall into a spiral of self observation focusing on all the moments when you felt like you are not doing a great job, you can’t handle it all, you are failing your own standards… It’s vital you hear this and you internalize it - YOU ARE DOING GREAT! This is not a compliment. It is the differentiator between professional failure and success. If you don’t believe you can make it chances are you are setting yourself up for a lot of anxiety and failure. It is simple and efficient. It’s called self-sabotaging and works like a charm. It turns every little obstacle into a mountain. The trick is now, when you don’t believe in yourself, you have to work double - first to overcome the negative emotions and then to do the actual work. It is a plague for every person’s career but this spring our warm support is directed to mothers. We will zoom in on several situations and how to navigate them so you don’t waste your energy in self-defeating internal fights.



Maybe you still don’t have kids. We’ve got you covered. There is still something to consider. Fly fast and fly high! Don’t be afraid to use your full potential and advance in your career. The risk at this stage is to restrain your own development because deep down you are afraid you are not making room for a family. You will have time to dedicate and surely you should not forget to work on your personal life but even if you have to pause later, it is better to pause at a stage where you have built skills and reputation. Chances are you will have more power to decide.


The first shock for a young woman with a strong career drive may be to face the demands of her partner. We often hear about the “male breadwinner” model that first entrenched the idea that men bring food on the table and thus must be paid more than women. The echo of this model nowadays is a feeling of unworthiness in the male partners of highly paid women. Sometimes it may not even be the money. Prestige and title can also create disbalance in the couple. Addressing the topic openly is surely the first thing to do. There is no room for blame here. On both sides we are fighting the same prejudice. If you talk about it with your partner, chances are that you will uncover emotions developed in unconscious patterns.


Scenario II: Rising star
Another stage in your path to taking up a dual role would be to prepare for the arrival of your kids. Preparation here can have very deep roots as you will face a wave of emotions unrelated to your career. Regardless of the demand, this is the right time to start preparing yourself, your team, your partner and your line manager. If you are going to be a first time mother try discussing this with an experienced coach or a close friend who already has kids. Chances are high that you may experience new feelings after your child is born and you are not yet aware that you have to factor them in. Think about the different parenting models around you but especially the model your own family gave you. This train of thoughts may be long and life altering. Try to write down your thoughts in a journal. Being able to go through them one more time may help you put the right accents and make conclusions. After you have decided on a model for your maternity, discuss it with your line manager. Be open about your needs but do not undermine your professional image. The fact you may need some accommodations does not make you a worse performer! You should neither stop working while you are expecting your child nor should you “tone down” your ambition. Don’t slow down unless it is your choice and follow your own pace!


The line between maternity and re-engagement with work is not thick. Roles race in competition for your attention - the glossy - eyed look of a little one missing her mom and the burning desire to prove you still got it to your team. It’s a tough choice and it’s there around the clock! If you don’t prepare, reevaluate the situation and take timely action, exhaustion, burnout and nagging guilt will gladly enter stage for a loud performance. There are things you can do to cushion your landing:
  • Plan a gradual return - flexible work schedule is not the odd rarity it used to be before the pandemic (Thank you very much!). Agree a plan with your manager that will allow you to spend more time with your family and gradually ease into the new realities of your dual role. Depending on your preference and situation you can opt for a consulting stile contract (where you do not predefine but report retroactively the number of hours worked per week) or a part-time one where you will agree to limit the number of hours per week to a certain percentage of your normal allocation
  • Work remotely - not all employers are the same. “Build your work around your life” is the slogan of a tech company that acknowledges recent trends and shows strong will to respect and adapt. If you are lucky enough to land a job with such a company, make use of the opportunity to combine work and care by fulfilling your responsibilities from home. This is a challenge on a different level because it will test every PM cell you’ve got for its capability to focus, guide your own schedule and combine work and home care activities in the same calendar areas. At the same time the option to hug your little one all the time, take her out for a walk during the day or care for her when she is sick can bring your satisfaction with life on a different level.
  • Set Developing objectives - you will find a different environment. No matter how important and achieved we are, the wheel keeps turning. That thing which you did best is likely now in the hands of a colleague who perfected it. Discuss with your line manager which are the needs that meet your interest and skills. Be open to the new opportunities and brainstorm together how to set you up for success. Try to set up objectives that can serve as a starting point and can be expanded in scope. This will protect you for getting overwhelmed in your first weeks and months. Carefully defined objectives will help you reconnect with key people and activities for your position acting as a compass in a treasure hunt. Preset regular review meetings with your manager. If you are lucky and she is an experienced lead she would realize the importance of regular course adjustment. Your role in these meetings is to be open about your adjustment needs and actively seek opportunities to improve your organizational fit. Ultimately this will be beneficial both for you and for your company.
  • Ask for a coaching partner - even if you are the most self-driven person in the world the chances are high that the novel situation and increased demand will introduce bias in your plans and views. You need a partner. You need someone who can help you bring out the thoughts, realize where your views get distorted, which are the hurdles you cannot overcome. Most respectable organizations today promote coaching practices. This is an excellent opportunity for you - ask your manager to connect you to someone who would be willing to act as your coach. You can establish the practice with your lead as well but having an additional person for the role will help you build up another relationship and avoid the intimidating influence of power lines.
  • Define your Reintegration plan - work on relationships and rapport. You have been away for a long time and this time created distance between you and your colleagues. On top of this there would be some newcomers that already created relationships with everyone else except you. Create some interaction points. Yes, you may have your regular team meetings but you would need more. You can set up a couple of one-on-ones in the first weeks but the most organic way to connect would be through partnerships. Find some small projects where you can cooperate and (re)connect. Your manager can help you with this but there might be no need. Look at your objectives or the “issues of the day” within your team and offer an interaction point. Listen around for the “work rituals” of your team. There you may find good opportunities to meet in person - specific meetings you make face-to-face, some calendar placeholders for office time. Those are good opportunities to take the best of the office without feeling chained to a desk.



Scenario II: Rising star
Often maternity brings about emotional turmoil. Don’t be afraid to “feel the feelings” - they may bring important messages. Becoming a mother is a big shift in purpose and perception of life. It often alters our deep roadmap of purpose - our core values. Jump on the opportunity to redefine your goals. It may be your long forgotten dream to act on your environmental beliefs or a newfound passion for learning a marketable skill. Find a way to explore your new definition of “purpose” and make it click with the new responsibilities in your life.
Our mothers did not have a choice. They had to pick between black and white. You either “went” to work - that physical boundary of the company premises and stayed there for all your “working hours”, or you stayed home to be a full time homemaker. It may be the case that one of those extremities still works for you. We must acknowledge the advantage of clear focus that this brings. If you don’t feel like giving up your career but you can’t bear the thought of seeing your little one briefly in the morning and then just before bed time (and miss all the cool things they say and do along the way), you have to work on the right mix. You must realize that the labor market offers a lot of opportunities but you are the one to define the plan, ask and execute on it. If it sounds scary to be so explicit about your demands, this is because it is. It is never easy to defend your views but it always pays out. Don’t forget that you are not working to pave the path for yourself but you are working for a community with similar needs and dreams.
We hope you can feel the love in our article. Our community is here to share and help. We know that raising a family and being a dedicated PM is no easy combo! What we want to tell you is that it is possible. No matter where you are in this path, there is something you can do to make yourself happier, more successful, closer to your family and closer to your dreams. Never stop re-evaluating the opportunities and working on your own plan! And, please, don’t ever forget you are a good professional and a good parent because you care and you try!