Drink in hand, I was standing beside a giant portrait of myself dressed as a 19th-century explorer in an unmapped desert. The photo was part of a local magazine’s round up: I’d been selected as one of San Francisco’s “movers and shakers” thanks to the success of my company and the forthcoming publication of my second book (a collection of stories about the first female archaeologists who truly braved it in a man’s world). I’d reached my professional peak. Now at age 33, I was basking in the results of a lot of hard work and calculated risk, and it felt amazing. I took a sip of my virgin cocktail for I was also, now, newly pregnant.
My company LOKI was born in a tiny Sausalito studio by the determination, sweat and certainty that things would work. That I would work. That without a single client or contact in California I could pull this off. I was single then and strapped for cash.
I leaned in strong. I gave myself pep talks over a cup of coffee each morning. I was writing at night. Doing book manuscript revisions on weekends. And eventually I found traction and clients started to call. I was building a nest of personal and professional gain. And now the little egg was finally due.
Touching the glow of hard-earned professional achievement, I was about to leave it. I planned to stay home to raise my baby for at least the first year. By the end of that year, I was pregnant, by design, again. Was this my time of leaning back? I don’t think so.
Today I’m a mom to two boys and I lean in to this role with all my might. LOKI is still humming, though I work sparingly on choice jobs, never more than 20 hours a week and usually much less than that. Yet taking the long view, I believe that while my career may be temporarily sitting on the back burner – maintained at a purposeful simmer – the experience of motherhood is giving me some seriously new skills. I’m diving deep within parts of myself that I never knew existed. And all of this informs who I am, will be, and what comes next.
Choosing to stay at home while my kids are young is a form of professional development. My LOKI work is creative and the challenges and triumphs of mommyhood shape my scope of understanding. When I do return to work full time, I think I’ll be wiser and more able than I was before.
So long as a person is “all in” with their actions and intentions, committed to the chosen experience at hand, however sloppy it may seem in the moment, whether it’s temporary or a tall ladder to climb, it’s going to bear some fruit. I’ve never leaned into any life experience more than the work of motherhood.