When I had my son 7 years ago, I was deep into my career. I had made great strides in working my way through my company and the thought of juggling a newborn and a career sounded daunting. I loved my baby more than anything, but I didn’t want to lose my identity as a business professional. I cried the entire month before I had to go back to work and then one day, something hit me. If I can manage multiple projects, clients and departments, I could absolutely nail this working mom life.
I started to treat my life like one giant project. I know that sounds a little robotic, but it works for me and I think my family is a little better off as well. I know I can’t bribe my clients with chocolate to get them to agree to a set of scope requirements, but it doesn’t hurt to try right? Maybe a sticker chart is just the thing someone needs to get their tushy in gear…and yes I did just say tushy.
My kids are my “clients”
I began to treat my kids like they were my clients and I mean that in the most loving way possible. Some days, my clients are amazing, loving and melt my heart and other times they are pint sized tyrants demanding that I provide my services now and without pay…sound familiar?
We want to treat our clients with the utmost respect, but when that respect is not reciprocated, we need to find just the right balance of accommodation and push back. It becomes a slippery slope if we give an inch to those who will take a mile.
My kids have given me the practice of patience and negotiating that have carried through to my clients. They have taught me to better communicate with my clients and to know when to give and when to hold.
Project Plans are NOT a 4-letter word
No one likes to create project plans. They take forever, they always change, are never on time and someone always screws with the formatting. As Cher Horowitz would say, project plans are “a full-on Monet, from far away, it’s okay, but up close, it’s a big old mess.” Well, being a parent is no different. Between sports, school, recitals, PTA and some version of adulting, life gets lifey. We do our best to maintain a schedule, but even the best project plans have changes. This is one of the reasons I love daily scrums. Whether with myself or a team, a scrum allows you to understand your role and timeline on a daily basis.
I’ve learned over the years that my oldest is very similar to me. He likes to know what’s happening and when. So, every morning and before bed, we go over the plan for the day. It’s our version of a daily scrum. He’s comforted by a schedule and it makes both of our lives easier. It not only makes the day go smoother, but we also have post mortems at the end of the day or at dinner about what went well, what didn’t go so great and how we can make things better next time. We both find that reflecting on the day and knowing what’s ahead make for great project planning.
While most project plans go through many iterations throughout a project, I’ve been able to seamlessly mesh my personal and professional experiences with project planning to keep a tight ship at home and in the office.
You Think Money Grows on Trees?
How many times have you heard that from your parents? I learned my lessons about money at a younger age than I’d like to admit. I’ve been in the work force (legally) since I was 16 and have never looked back. The only times I ever stopped working were to be on maternity leave with my kids (which let’s be honest is not a vacation). As moms we deal with the fact that we need to try to make every dollar stretch. And as much as I love my Target runs, sometimes I’ve got to rein it in.
As project managers, we have to follow that same ethic when it comes to budget. Our clients give us x amount of dollars and expect to see as much as possible with that money. We have to maintain a level of spending and divide that as equally as possible among our team members. Staying within budget is one of the harder aspects of project management. Often times, projects are over scoped and underfunded and somehow, we have to pull a 4thquarter Hail Mary to make it work. Or we’re scrounging for coins in the couch and between the seats of our cars.
I learned early on that staying within budget was one of the more crucial elements of project management. These skills have made me more aware of my own personal budgets and limits and in turn I’ve been able to maximize my time and money both personally and professionally.
S-U-P-P-O-R-T…Find out what that means to me
Support can be a tricky thing to ask for when you’re a woman who thinks she can do it all. I found this out the hard way. I was naïve (or stupid, you choose) to think that I could clean the house, make dinner, exercise, take care of an infant and still manage to have time to be an adult. But the reality was I was jealous and resentful of my husband, who left the house every day with me crying, vomit all over me from the rough night I had sleeping on the couch with my son. I didn’t want to be that person and I knew that what I needed was support.
Whether you’re a single working mom or a stay at home June Cleaver, we all need support. I realized early on that being a stay at home mom is a tough gig. It’s not 9-5, it’s 5-9. The same is true in project management. Project Managers are the gate keepers to their team. They hear and deal with the good, the bad and the ugly. The same is true for moms as well. Without support, our lives would be much harder. A good team is fundamental in helping move a project along. Each person possesses a skill that both enhances and streamlines your project from start to finish.
Two kids later, I’m not afraid to ask for help. I’m not weaker because of it, I’m actually smarter. As a project manager, I know that I don’t have the answers. I rely on my team to be the experts in their fields and ensure that I can communicate that expertise to the client in an impactful way. A way that will ultimately move the project forward on time and on budget.
The Mom, The Myth, The Manager
I love being a mom, it suits me and to say it’s a challenge is a major understatement. But the life I’ve led as a Project Manager has taught me how to find that balance between work and moming. It’s helped me to organize in a way that works for me and my family.
Even if you don’t have kids, the essential skills of project management can exponentially increase your productivity and organization in your personal life and obviously in your professional career.