Andrea Galligan shares her experience of working her 'dream job' during her first pregnancy and learning a different approach the second-time round during pregnancy and maternity leave
Having landed what I thought was my dream job working for Web Summit, while six months pregnant with my first child, I committed to the cult of leaning in.
Taking things slow was not part of my new job description. And the opportunity to work with high performers, like Micheal Dell and Eva Longoria, was enough to distract me from niggling pregnancy symptoms like sciatica, no matter how debilitating.
Determined to prove I was physically capable despite my developing condition, I worked right through to full-term pregnancy in a busy, physical role. Cycling around the RDS at the event to oversee my responsibilities, when walking became too troublesome, seemed perfectly practical at the time.
A former advertising agency account director, I’d recently set up my own freelance communications consultancy to free myself from the grind of delivering ‘always-on’ projects. In the previous few years, I’d campaigned for improved rights for homeless families, sought to decrease the number of people diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and promoted the rewards of girls learning to code.
“Committing to a role in an organisation with few other mothers on the pay-roll out of the hundred or so staff meant I’d no comparison to what was ‘normal’”
Having redesigned my career to focus on projects I felt were benefiting the world, my role working for a start-up like Web Summit was everything I’d previously worked towards.
But looking back, committing to a role in an organisation with few other mothers on the pay-roll out of the hundred or so staff meant I’d no comparison to what was ‘normal’. And my career-focused approach to work hadn’t set me up with any flexibility in preparing for life after the arrival of my baby.
"Gone were the days where I binged on endless Netflix series. Instead I was experimenting with other forms of content"
Years of focusing exclusively on progression at the office had left me inadequately prepared for the trajectory of motherhood and all the parental project deliverables this entailed. Being highly skilled in my job didn’t mean all these skills were easily transferable.
Finding a new normal
What was radically different this time around with my second baby was my acceptance of the physical reality of pregnancy. No, I didn’t need to go on maternity leave any earlier, but by ensuring that I was mindful of the demands of the latter stages of pregnancy, I wasn’t physically exhausted for the beginning of my time off.
A change in employer meant I could rely upon an established culture of awareness about what pregnancy and maternity leave should be about.
Recovering sooner after the second birth meant I was better placed to make choices in many areas of my life. One such choice was around my digital consumption, something that I hadn’t questioned before. Gone were the days where I binged on endless Netflix series. Instead I was experimenting with other forms of content like Edx classes offered by UC Berkeley in the Science of Happiness.
Not only was I reappraising what was getting into my news feed, I was curating it with a new ‘what can I learn from this?’ editorial approach. The knowledge I was building could therefore benefit life, both in and out of the office. Books like Kate Northrup’s Do Less provided me with the reassurance I wasn’t alone.
3 hacks for experimenting with digital reappraisal
1. Social media reappraisal: After watching Casey Neistat question his own social media consumption and reading new research from Cal Newport, I confronted my own distractions and what purpose they served. Setting boundaries on the quantity and quality of social media meant I could utilise my free time more appropriately.
2. Female entrepreneurship: Personal transformation and entrepreneurship are two of my favourite topics. Marie Forleo and Lisa Bilyeu’s ‘Women of Impact’ podcast address how women can pave successful paths for themselves in the business world, while juggling all that adulthood can throw at them.
3. Personal transformation: MindValley kept me inspired with free masterclasses from world-renowned speakers and gave me the confidence boost I needed before returning to work. Favourites included John & Missy Butcher’s Lifebook and Jim Kwik’s Superbrain class.
Andrea Galligan is a content creator and communications professional. She lives with her husband and two children in Dublin 3. She promotes the benefits of healthy outdoor play on her Instagram account @numu_dublin
Photograph: Getty Images