My day job for the last 15 years or so has been working in the digital marketing world, helping companies build websites and software. My job morphed from the early days of selling advertising in the back of trade magazines to being “the one that’s good with computers” in the office by helping various employers and then their clients build and manage websites. I tried to become a designer and developer over the years but ultimately my strength came with bringing people together and leading a team to get the jobs done a.k.a. I project manage and I’m very happy to have been able to make a career out of being an organiser.
Life as Project Manager
I was never formally trained but learned the best practices through a variety of books and on-the-job experience. I love what I do and am very much defined by getting a project done and done well. It’s meant that I have worked some crazy hours and had to upskill up at the drop of a hat to try and solve a problem quickly whilst a client stresses at the other end of a phone because our deadline is looming and it’s 11pm at night and there’s no way to move it for the third of fourth time or maybe I’ve had to interpret something insanely technical from a developer to a client that doesn’t even understand what a browser is (breathe).
Project Management in Real Life
My long-suffering husband Josh has benefitted quite well from having partner that organises stuff for living. We have moved house countless times with military precision with my skills, traveled all over the world and I even project managed our own wedding so that we could save on cost and keep it real. It means everything we do that a bit project-y has a spreadsheet with a budget although I haven’t gone as far as to create a PowerPoint presentation for him yet (even I know that might be the kiss of death for our marriage!)
Getting pregnant proved to be the ultimate project to manage though and I approached that with no less gusto than I would a client website build. Let me take you through the steps as if it were a project I would manage in my day job…
Create Your Timeline. Then Rip Up Your Timeline.
One of the hallmarks of good project management is time management. We had made a decision to have both of our children before getting pregnant which kind of helped with the overall timeline of events. It meant that I would roughly plan how long I would have left to work until the babies arrived and knew when the first would go to nursery and maybe try to have enough of gap to be able to stagger them going to nursery so I wouldn’t be paying for two at a time. I’d started a new job in the year that I conceived the second baby so wanted to make sure that I was eligible for maternity leave pay too. However, with all of my contingency planning for how long I thought it would take to get pregnant, the first pregnancy happened way too soon and we took ages to conceive baby two. There is just no point planning exactly when you want a kid especially when they decide themselves when to arrive so go ahead and plan it but be prepared to rip that plan up and then set it on fire for all it’s worth.
Worry About Budget
As I mentioned above, we never really had enough money to cover maternity leave each time due to conceiving either arriving too quick or not quickly enough and so was never able to save enough before the babies arrived. I even changed job halfway through pregnancy two which ballsed my options up quite a bit. I write about that type of maternity leave guilt right here but I can only say that if this is like project work is in real life, then you’ll never have enough money and you’ll never have enough time to spend with baby in whatever maternity leave you can get.
You have to make do with the budget that you have and realise what you can afford within your means. If you can’t afford what you imagined, then you’ll find a way to afford something – plenty of women find a way even though it’s not ideal. So maybe you won’t have the gold-lined Moses basket hand-stitched by Versace but you’ll be OK with a pre-loved eBay classic and maybe you can’t afford to spend as much time with baby as you want to in maternity but you’ll work that out too as there are so many options out there for the brave. In the meantime, keep supporting movements like pregnantthenscrewed.com to help improve those options.
In the project world we have to make hard decisions all the time about the priority of features vs the time we actually have and I can’t think of a time when I was able to deliver everything that was originally requested for the money originally agreed whilst dealing with the unknown forces of change that naturally happens. Planning how to afford your baby during pregnancy is much like this plus you have heartburn.
Resource Your Project
Know who will be doing what a when. Pretty easy in the beginning – you just need your partner to knock you up but you’ll need to plan the people around you and make sure they know what is expected of them. Your partner will need to be told in no uncertain terms that if you request a Big Mac at 2am and then a box of Rennies to wash them down, he better be getting in that car and going to get them. Your resources (or “people” as I like to call them) are your team and they can’t do this with you unless they know what’s going on.
Initiate and Run Project
…and then realise that you’ll spend each day with a mini-emergency (just like a real project) and all of that planning will go out of the window as soon as someone mentions that they want new features but don’t want to pay more money and your resources all have holiday booked and have gone away at the same time on annual leave just when you have to do Q&A testing on the homepage and templates pages…hang on a sec…I’ve gone back to websites haven’t I?
OK…back to your pregnancy! Remember that with some basic planning of your timeline, budget and resources and with your end goal in site, you’ll make it to the finish line with a small bundle of loveliness handed over to you and you realise that all of that planning meant nothing and I mean NOTHING until this point, You made a bloody human (or more perhaps?) so well done you!