4 Lessons from Motherhood

I still remember that beautiful day.

The day I got to hold the sweetest being in my arms, having my first picture with her and being all smiley even after a long labour, which ended unexpectedly in an emergency caesarean section.

Stepping into the identity of a mum and going on this motherhood journey has been nothing short of impactful. Because it all starts from a place of love for this human being who means the world to me.

#1 Learning to Let Go of Control

I am the kind of person who loves to have a good, solid plan for things like a holiday trip, a
wedding party or a new project at work. The anxious side of me yearned for things to be “under control” as much as possible.

Giving birth is uncharted territory and definitely a big thing. Of course, I did a tonne of research and attended a prenatal course to get myself prepared. I wrote out my birth plan, and was all set on delivering my baby without epidural (caveat: as far as possible, until I can’t take the pain lol). I told my friends about my plans and was all excited (although a little scared) about experiencing that true natural birth process for myself.

But my labour journey was nothing like what I had planned for. My cervix didn’t dilate beyond 3 centimetres even after 10+ hours of labour. And yes, I did give up and called for the epidural sometime after the 8th hour seeing how slow the progress was.

Later on, my baby’s heartbeat came under distress and that’s when my doctor suggested that we go for a caesarean section right away. I willingly obliged, because by then, ALL I wanted was to get this thing over already! And of course, nothing’s more important than the safety of my baby.

Thankfully, everything went well and I was relieved and overjoyed to meet my little sweetheart.

This very first lesson in motherhood shook the “planner” in me to the bones. “Yup go ahead to research and plan all you want, but be prepared that plans can and will fall through”.

Motherhood made me acknowledge that there are just so many things in life that are outside of my control, no matter how great my plans are – I’d just need to surf along and go with the flow. I have also adapted this lesson to my career which has helped me to better manage challenges and curveballs at the workplace with less stress and anxieties!

#2 Leaning In to My Intuition

I considered myself to be mostly left brained so it’s been interesting to notice how motherhood taught me to lean in to my intuition.

I still remembered my mother in law reminding me NOT to carry my baby “just because she’s crying” so that she can learn to self soothe. (Otherwise we’ll all be doomed because she’ll be so used to being carried etc)

I’m pleased to report that I did not heed this advice and instead, followed my intuition and picked up my daughter as and when I felt the urge to. I was blessed to have 5 months of maternity leave and remembered telling myself – “I’m going to carry her as much as she needed or wanted for that first 5 months of life!”

Refraining from picking up my little baby when she’s crying so hard would be so heartbreaking for me – so why not lean in to my intuition and do what my heart tells me to?

Over the course of motherhood, I realised that I always defaulted back to my intuition whenever I wanted to know whether my child is okay in terms of her wellbeing and development.

Things like…. is she just having an ordinary flu or if this is something more serious that needs
more medical attention? Is she developing fine and on her own timeline?

What I observed over the years is that as long as my mummy intuition tells me that she’s
developing fine, chances are she’s indeed fine! No need for comparisons, fretting over the
difference of weeks or months or trying hard to make her to grow faster than what her natural development timeline is.

Motherhood has surely helped me to get deeper in touch with my intuition, which has also led to spillover effects in other areas of my life too.

Just recently, as I was having one of those “career progression” talks with my bosses, I find myself being comfortable with just leaning into my intuition, and declaring that I’d love to remain as an individual contributor (as opposed to being a people manager) and to continue honing my craft as a specialist. While that came as a surprise to my superiors, I am secretly proud to be able to stay true to what my heart wants, as I define “career success” on my own terms.

Sometimes, all I need is to get quiet, and listen to what my intuition is telling me. The answer is already within.

#3 Leadership and Role-Modelling

As a working mum, it’s been interesting to notice the parallels between parenting at home and leadership at work, and see how well these complement each other!

My ideal leader is one who is empathetic, able to listen actively, leads by example, gives me timely feedback, takes a genuine interest in my growth and wellbeing, and also give me the space to express my creativity and ideas. No micromanagement please!

In the context of parenting, this can look like:

  • Acknowledging my child’s emotions and teaching her to recognise and verbalise them
  • Actively listening to what my child has to say, without interrupting and without distractions
  • Role modelling the behaviours I would love to see in my child, such as saying thank you/sorry, greeting others, speaking kindly and politely, no hitting/shouting
  • Letting her know that she did something well (positive reinforcement), not just pointing out what she has not done as well
  • Giving her the space and opportunity to explore and play and refrain from micromanaging her every step (except for when there’s a real danger of course)
  • Exposing her to different activities and supporting her in HER areas of interest

Being clear about who my ideal leader is has been really clarifying in regards to the kind of parent I aspire to be for my child. On the flip side, motherhood has contributed towards my leadership and people management capabilities at work, too!

#4 Boundaries

Motherhood has taught me to set boundaries to protect my precious time and energy and to prioritise what truly matters the most.

I wasn’t always that intentional with my time and energy, and definitely wasn’t one who found it easy to set boundaries. To some extent, I was a people pleaser at work and I found it hard to say “no” for fear of being disliked, and grudgingly took on tasks that shouldn’t even be on my plate.

Once I became a mum, it became super clear to me that my family would always come first – no matter what. And to be able to be there for my family, I need to take good care of myself first!

Coming from a place of love for my child (and not from a place of fear of being disliked) has transformed me to become more “fearless” at protecting my boundaries. Because I want to have quality time with my child, be as fully present as I can when I’m with her and also ensure that I would have good amounts of energy left after work to be an effective role model for her, and to parent her the way I wish to.

Being intentional about boundaries, time and energy has been key to creating my version of a balanced working mum life.

Are you a fellow working mum too who would love to bring more balance and calm into your life, without having to give up what success looks like to you? If so, do grab the free ebook that I have created specially for YOU (it wouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to read it), and then connect with me on IG for more tips, motivation and a peek into my day to day life.

Published by Geraldine Mok

Geraldine Mok is a working mum in the tech space and a personal development enthusiast. Based in Singapore, she has a lovely daughter who is turning 5 this year. Using the phone in a mindful and productive way has been a big part of her identity. She's passionate about helping people break unwanted phone habits and to take back precious time and attention from the phone. In her free time, she enjoys reading while having a cup of flat white or chai latte. Exercising and meditating are also a big part of her weekly routine.

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