I have a confession:
I never thought about being a parent.
Part of me was interested in the idea of raising a family but I was frozen by the thought of what becoming a parent would do to my career.
I was a successful geologist rising through the ranks in the very male-dominated South African mining industry. I worked at De Beers and I fought tooth and nail to earn my place at the table. It felt like having children would be career suicide.
On top of all that, I wasn’t even sure I would be a good parent.
For some people, parenting just comes naturally – they know just what to do, sail through all the ups and downs and have happy, well-balanced children. That wasn’t me. I didn’t feel like I had a playbook I could turn to and I didn’t have any role models who were successful parents and had successful careers.
Then my husband, David, told me how badly he wanted children. I knew that I didn’t have it in me to prevent him from doing something he cared so deeply about.
So, Darrell Farrow, the die hard professional and underequipped parent, set out to become a Mom.
It was not easy!
As you can probably guess by now, I was not a graceful parent, nor did I feel like a natural for the first few months of my son’s life.
I constantly second guessed myself about working and being a parent. Was going back to work the right thing for myself and my son? Would he even survive 24 hours a day with a mother like me if I didn’t go back?
My son cried all the time. He never slept (and neither did we), and we had no routine to speak of other than pure, constant chaos. He was always sick, too. When I talked to doctors, they blamed me for working and said that if I was at home he’d be healthy.
Things at work weren’t peachy either. After fighting for the first 7 years of my career to convince my industry that women can be geologists, I had to prove myself all over again. Except, now I was a mother too. They told me, “Now you’re a mother, you can’t be a geologist”. Another uphill battle.
My heart was broken, and I was exhausted.
When I was pregnant, I had so many hopes and dreams that my baby would have everything; a phenomenally wonderful childhood and a great life. I also had great ambitions to keep working on an amazing career.
Six months in, I was standing in my kitchen, covered in baby sick, rocking an inconsolable little boy, pondering my newfound irrelevance at work and wondering how the heck I got here.
Something had to change!
So I took a stand.
I finally found a doctor who listened to me and learned that my son was dangerously anemic, which no amount of stay-at-home-Mommy attention was going to fix. The doctor prescribed an iron supplement and strongly suggested we add a lot more structure to our son’s routine.
Routine? What routine? Even though we didn’t believe it would really help, David and I resolved to apply the simple feeding and caring routine the doctor gave us.
Within 36 hours, our son was sleeping through the night, which any new parent knows is like winning the lottery! More importantly, he did a complete 180, turning into a happy, smiling little baby. The iron supplement solved the anemia, and the consistency and stability of the routine gave our son the security he needed to thrive.
I was floored.
Throughout my whole life I had rebelled against routine. I was best known for being consistently inconsistent! I felt like routine would be so restrictive that I couldn’t imagine how adding ‘restriction’ could possibly improve my life.
What I learned was that structure and routine free you up. Not only will your children feel happier and safer for it, they create the predictability and space for you to have a life and have fun with your children.
Once our new, structured, routine was in place, life was 400% less chaotic, with lots of good sleep happening all around. I finally had the bandwidth to enjoy my son, hone my parenting skills and apply my energy to regaining respect and my confidence at work.
To my great surprise, building my career was not at odds with being a great parent.
I continued excelling at work again once I had the tools and skills I needed to get my home life under control. I started being included on teams to solve strategic operational problems in the field. I got promoted to a high impact role within the management team.
I even had the energy to successfully fix our mine’s biggest technical challenge, which had been threatening to close the mine and lay people off.
I finally felt like myself again.
If you identify with my struggle, I want you to know one thing above all else:
All of this is possible for you.
With the right parenting and career strategies you can:
- Ditch the guilt
- Stop second guessing yourself
- Build strong family bonds
- Have fun with and enjoy your children
- Create an ambitious and successful career
For me, these parenting and career strategies made all the difference. And I know you can learn them too, no matter how complicated your situation is.
Find out more about my upcoming parenting course for professional women, or keep reading to find out what happened next.
So, let me tell you about the second part of my story.
When three became four.
Two years later, David and I decided it was time our first son became a big brother. OK, we’ve got this. Here we go again!
My second son was diagnosed with Apraxia of Speech, a neurological speech sound disorder, severe enough that he couldn’t make different sounds let alone say any words.
Parenting a child with special needs requires even more skill and care. The need for routine and stability in my family was more acute than ever. I was able to create that for both of my children in the face of massive upheaval, all thanks to the techniques I had learned.
To get the specialized therapy my son needed to learn to speak, I had to leave the small town where David and I had been working. Taking a stand again, we decided I would move countries, leaving David behind where he had a stable job, while I parented the two boys on my own. It was four years until we could re-unite, but we made sure my son was given the therapy he needed.
To make the move work, I took the only job I could talk my way into, a management position with 300 people under me that I felt wholly unqualified for. I was terrified.
I got on with it and we made it work. The reality is, the professional career I fought so hard for helped pay for my son’s speech, occupational and physical therapy. The parenting strategies I’d developed gave him a strong platform to support him in mastering his challenges.
20-odd years later, my youngest son is living a fantastic life as an engineer. And his brother? He’s living a happy life and doing well in his chosen career, too.
I’m so proud of them both.
The moral of the story is, if I didn’t have both of those pieces, the parenting and the career, my family’s story would be totally different than it is today. And if I can do this successfully, with two young boys, a husband in another country, specialized treatment programs, and a high-pressure professional job, then I know there’s hope for you.
If you want a high-flying career, and the best parenting relationship of your life, I’m here to help. And I’m beyond excited about it.
In my parenting course and coaching programs, I bring all my expertise from both areas: professional and personal.
You’ve heard my story, and maybe your’e wondering what approach I take as a career consultant and parenting coach?
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© 2020 Darrell Farrow