Learning how to be both a business owner and a mom was not easy for Allyson Downey. Prior to motherhood she had worked in the wealth management department of Credit Suisse in New York City. Her clients were billionaires.
Once she had her first child however, Downey did not return to Wall Street. Instead, she launched her own business, weeSpring, a platform where new parents can find reviews of products from friends, peers and other trusted voices in their networks.
The experience of building a business and becoming a mother at the same time was exciting, challenging and often overwhelming, so much so that Downey has now written a book entitled Here’s The Plan. Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenting.
For the book, Downey interviewed nearly 75 professional moms and used survey data. It’s a comprehensive, straight-shooting guide to all of the questions that new moms are too afraid or naive to ask.
1. Communicate what you want clearly
Whether you want to work from home part-time or you want to be sure your boss knows that you still want that promotion even though you have just had a baby, Downey says that women need to be ready to communicate often and clearly.
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“We tend to assume that people know what we are thinking but they very rarely do,” she says.
“The onus is on the woman to be crystal clear and vocal.” She recommends women set quarterly reminders for themselves to proactively communicate with managers both what they want to do and how they will accomplish their goals.
2. Build up your network
It’s especially important to keep the networking going when a woman is pregnant, on maternity leave or taking care of young children.
“It’s often one of the first things to go when they are having children because they think that they don’t have time anymore to go out and go to networking cocktail events or show up for an industry breakfast,” says Downey.
Don’t forget to lean on partners and caregivers so that you can attend those professional mixers, advises Downey. Also, there are ways to network from your computer, too, she says. Proactively make email connections that don’t necessarily have an immediate impact. You get the benefits of networking without having to put in the face-to-face time.
3. Arbitrage your time
You can’t be everywhere at once. Pay people to do things for you. Take your annual salary and reverse engineer your hourly rate and when you can afford it, pay people to have tasks done that are less than what you make per hour.
“I know that people don’t have endless resources, but people also don’t have endless time,” she says.
4. Create a paper trail of your achievements
This isn’t just in case you find yourself the victim of pregnancy discrimination, either. Women need to keep a “dossier of their successes,” says Downey.
Every Friday afternoon, take 15 minutes to document your successes. Put in writing conversations that commend your work. That way, when it’s time for you to meet with your manager for a review, you have a detailed list of everything that you have done well.
5. Change the way you think about having kids and a career
You can’t be leading a meeting in the board room and changing your baby’s nappy in the nursery at the same time. So switch how you feel about that reality.
“Everyone feels torn all the time. I do not know anyone who doesn’t suffer from working mom guilt. That is an absolute truism,” says Downey.
But there is a way to reframe how you feel about being pulled in two directions. “If you are someone who enjoys work and loves work and you are home with a baby all day long for two years of your life,” she says, “it is not going to be good for you and it is not going to be good for your relationship with your kid.”