Kinia Romanowska is the founder of Pros and Babes. As a strategic advisor to moms in competitive, corporate, high-stress, and STEM careers, Kinia helps people navigate the pressures of growing successful careers and families.
She was one of the first thought leaders in Canada to bring national awareness to the gap in resources for managing maternity leave transitions and leveraging this period of life for career growth.
What is Matrescence?
Mothers face unique challenges in leadership. Kenia describes matrescence as the emotional, psychological, and physical changes when you become a mom. Values and priorities change, directly affecting leadership potential and how people show up in the world.
The challenge is that moms don’t go through a thoughtful reflection on who they are and what is important to them. They try to use their pre-baby mindset to navigate the world even though they do not feel the same, and their values and priorities have changed.
Dual-career couples need to consider and create support systems for the daily logistics of highly demanding careers and children.
- What systems are in place at home?
- How many layers does the childcare support plan have?
- How do couples regularly strengthen mental health?
Family finances take a hit during leave, depending on your leave and financial situation. Once the child joins the family, financial conditions change.
New expenses and new worries take strategic planning. Employers do not make these kinds of preparations. Prepare by tackling insurance policies, taxes, and wage gaps. Returning to work brings a whole new level of complexity.
Stop to take stock of these challenges and bring a new mindset as a new mother for your relationships, finances, and support systems.
Think Long Term
There is a lot of support for baby care but not so much for the mother. Discussion is often around the first year, and folks do not consider the bigger picture.
Kinia leads people through a soulful process to create a 25-year vision. While it might seem daunting, it doesn’t take much time.
Visualize your life goals for 25 years from now.
- What do we want our kids to say about us?
- What legacy are we building?
- What are the significant milestones will you want to celebrate?
- What are the memories you want to create?
It’s important to have a family vision about beliefs, relationships, money, health, and leadership.
People develop financial plans, but what about a strategy for your family life and your professional career? Isn’t this the most important project of your life?
It’s worth asking questions about what matters most. Find the values that drive decisions and what children and partners will remember about time together. So as a woman working in construction – know why you are doing it.
- What kind of professional do want to be?
- What kind of impact do you want to make?
- What do you want your colleagues to say about you in 25 years?
When your child looks back and says, “My mom was an amazing professional in the construction industry. I’m so proud of her!” that can give you a sense of purpose.
Imagine the retirement party, and think about the legacy that you’re creating in your career as a leader.
Notice Guilt but Showcase Values
When long-term vision drives our choices, guilt merely highlights when our values are out of alignment.
People often get trapped in the guilt, but they don’t think about the opposite state they want to be in. They want to quash the guilt without taking the information that comes from the guilt.
Guilt is information about what matters.
Knowing that what you’re building matters gives space to create a different future.
If you want to be present for your kids, what will you do in six, nine, and 12 months? What support systems, financial planning, and negotiations with your partner will you find?
Moving from guilt and anxiety to determining what we want is the way to make progress. Naming support systems we’ll put in place helps build the beautiful professional and personal moments we desire.
It is possible. It takes time, patience, and willingness to accept rejection – but it is doable.
Ask for Help
The first challenge is in the mindset.
Convince yourself you’re worthy of hiring the help. It’s an investment in your family, happiness, and career.
Then get your partner on board. Vision becomes powerful when you’re on the same page as to what you value in this season of life.
Look out for Judgement
Ask yourself if self-judgment or others’ opinions serve the family.
Do you want to be anchored in external validation of what it means to be a good mother and professional, or do you want to be creative and trust your vision? What is good for you and your family takes reflection and thinking about what you want.
People often define success through the eyes of their parents or society, but deep work reveals so much more, so take the necessary time to reflect.
Transition from seeking external validation to trusting your ability to create your vision.
We feel proud when we honor our values because it fits with how we want to feel and build in a lifetime. When actions are in alignment with intentionality, guilt does not appear.
Do Financial Planning
Before children join the family, sit down with a financial planner and optimize tax, housing, childcare, and insurance strategies to build the right assets. Sometimes tweaking one item opens many more doors long-term.
Organizations haven’t caught up structurally and culturally to the double working family.
So in the short term, put stopgaps in place to get through to achieve the 25-year vision. Evaluate the actual cost of making or not making those investments in support systems – whether a nanny, somebody who comes to clean your house, or a virtual assistant. Step back to notice where we have the power of choice and decisions.
Parental leave can be a massive hurdle for people in their career progression.
When someone goes on parental leave and somebody else steps in, the replacement often continues for the length of the project.
When people return to work, they sometimes have to start from scratch to rebuild their reputation, find their place, and continue their momentum.
Don’t wait until you’re about to give birth to think about the impact you want to make as a professional.
Communication Drives Success
Dialogue with your managers and colleagues so that they keep you top of mind during parental leave. Choose how long your parental leave will last, whether you’re going to split it with your partner, and what kind of opportunities you want.
Successful women decide their impact and how they want to be known.
They document and communicate before, during, and after their leave so their career progression doesn’t stall. Work on personal branding and a long-term career plan, and get beyond external validation to make the world a better place.
Companies’ Role in Supporting Women
People sometimes fear asking about parental leave for both parents.
Strong companies develop proactive policies to support fathers by documenting available policies and structures.
Managers should position themselves as an ally for parents – factor caregiving duties into career development plans.
Proactivity is key.
Managers should not wait until employees ask for help. Offer childcare or eldercare resources as company policy.
Unfortunately, it is the role of the person taking leave to reach out to managers to be in the loop for promotions or restructuring activities. The assumption that whoever’s taking the leave is not interested in their work does not apply to everyone. So the well-meaning policy of shutting off email is actually often a hindrance because the employee feels completely disconnected and uninformed.
Many managers do not have parental leave training.
Broaden the scope of the conversation and responsibility to all the stakeholders, not just the women. Start with improving communication.
Engineering Success #Likeamother
Take half an hour to do a self-assessment.
Write “This Is How I Feel About Being a Working Mom” on the top of a piece of paper.
Draw three columns on the paper. Title each column, “How I Feel Today,” “How I Want to Feel in Three Months,” and “What I’m Going to Do About It.”
Answer how you feel about your mindset, relationship with your partner, finances, and support systems in each category. Create a deadline to take an action item in each.
For example, assess your values, and write those values on a piece of paper.
Book a time with your partner to talk about domestic labor and the mental load on your relationships. For finances, decide to find a financial planner.
And for support systems, ask yourself if there is a support system you could use to thrive better as a mother?
Many people find it transformational.
Have an informal lunch and learn about caregiving duties.
Ask employees how caregiving duties impact their reality as a professional.
Ask how caregiving duties make them better professionals.
Lunch dialogues are quick-but-powerful trust-building activities. With minimal resources, employers can easily demonstrate that they care.
Kinia has spoken on CBC, CTV, and Global News about her work and consulted with APEGA, Enbridge, the Women in Engineering Summit, and Foreign Affairs Canada. Reach out to her on LinkedIn or Pros&Babes.