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'Getting Your Confidence Back as a New Mom' from Women's Leadership Author, Speaker and Consultant Selena Rezvani

Getting Your Confidence Back as a New Mom

[ Friday, Apr 18, 2014 ]

One year ago, I stood in front of 175 women at a beautiful, classy affair in New York City and found myself questioning my abilities much more than usual.  While I always have some flutters before getting on a stage for a speech, this time it was different.  Actually…my entire life was completely different.  I was now a mom and this was my first presentation post-maternity leave. 

Following the birth of my twins, I looked around for my old, familiar work identity like it was a business suit—but I couldn’t find it.  Now two little pieces of my heart were independent beings in the world and going on a trip, not to mention being paid to command the room as the keynote speaker felt…bizarre and somehow fraudulent.  I was also experiencing record-breaking sleep deprivation, as in the code-orange, “I may just lose my entire mind" level.  Given that training and public speaking requires every cell of my focus and energy, I was sweating this keynote speech.

As I remember that time, I see that my uneasiness was fueled by my lack of sleep but, even more so, it was about taking off time from my career as my children were born.  I questioned, would the time off somehow hurt my career?  Do I still have what it takes?  Who the heck am I now?  And it turns out, I am not alone in questioning that decision (over 70% of women do so at times of life transition), something I recently spoke about with reporter Harriet Minter at the Guardian.

One reason it took time to come to this realization is that I didn’t want to.  I had just spent 5 months at home learning to care for my babies and had spent a career defending parents’ choices to take solid parenting leaves…so how could I accept this feeling of inadequacy upon my return? 

On one hand as a new mom, I felt incredible invincibility.  I had brought forth life, not just once, but twice.  I was in awe of my body, the accomplishment, and our expanded family.  But I also felt a deep sense of vulnerability: that constant questioning that comes with new parenthood such as, "Am I doing this right?"

I realized a few key pieces of my new work/life needed adjusting.  Here and there I found women that were walking a similar path and slowly, I found I had a network.  These fellow moms normalized my experiences, made important suggestions, and helped me see how life could look a little further down the road.  I felt relief more than anything in hearing their feelings and stories.  And I wish I had engaged them sooner! 

I also found I had to give myself the gift of time, time to adapt to my new life and get acquainted with my new self and family.  After all, overnight, I went from zero to two kids and that was going to take some adjusting.  Time allowed me to see how work and personal realms could co-exist, even if it felt like one was often encroaching on the other.

I also learned the importance of setting clear boundaries.  I wrap up my work every day at 5pm and I don’t waiver.  And now, if I travel for a speaking gig, which I do often, it’s an overnight trip at most.  I am pretty unyielding about this kind of schedule, but I try to compensate by being extremely flexible with everything else. 

Now I stand here 18 months after having twins, and I don’t just believe that having kids and a career can be managed, I think the combination makes you a stronger executive.  I have more empathy for other people, I am more direct and clear in my communication, and I find that I’m more careful now about engaging in things that waste my time.  I enjoy speaking to audiences in a different way.  Oh…and that gig in New York ended up going really well, I think in part because I told the audience about my new status as a mom and put it “out there”.

I don’t have any idea what parenting will bring in the future, but for now, I see that one aspect of maternity leave meant a “confidence setback” for me.  Luckily, it’s a small blip on the radar screen - but it ultimately helped to shore up my resources and get out of isolation.   

How did you get your confidence back after kids?  After another big life transition?