I am an Architect

who happens to be female

brought to you by HKS

Architects have a greater ability to improve public health than medical professionals.

~ Dr. Claudia Miller, an assistant dean at the University of Texas School of Medicine

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Attempt #: 003

I’ve been somewhat of an athlete all my life. I played competitive soccer since I was in 4th grade and even had a stint on a NCAA I team in undergrad. Before I was pregnant I was playing at least once a week on the weekends on what I would consider a semi-competitive team and would hit the gym on a regular basis. Ironically I found that one of the best motivators to get a good cardio workout in was the fact that I would only allow myself the opportunity to watch some of my favorite shows while on the elliptical or treadmill. Since becoming a mother I have found it much harder to get back into it. This is attempt #3 and I am publishing it here so that others may put me on notice. Besides, “third time’s a charm” - right?

I'm at Arc Interiors Thursday through Saturday to give a presentation on Building a Strategic Practice: Using Data. Lee was playing today during our dinner. Amazing cover on Adele - Rolling in The Deep.

If he were around when I was growing-up I probably would have stuck to the violin more…

This is the my story, my thoughts, and my experiences of what it is like to be a woman building a career in the architecture profession. I am a practitioner, a wife, and mom who is searching (and finding) her own voice as an architect. I realize that this blog may not be for everyone, which is why I consider it my personal journey. Hopefully some lessons learned can be shared along the way and assist other professionals in the decisions they make.

FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH A SICK INFANT

Last weekend my husband started coming down with a cold. By the middle of the week I joined in on the nose blowing, and unfortunately our little infant (newly 100 days old) ended-up being the last one in our family to fall victim. A strong believer in the powers of Ziacam – especially their RapidMelts – I am first to admit that I am all for drugging up to power through, which in the end makes me feel completely helpless when it comes to my son.

Last night I got little sleep making sure his congestion didn’t overwhelm him so much he couldn’t breathe. Tonight his symptoms are worse and I can already feel the uneasy anxiousness that kept me awake last night building in the pit of my stomach. We’ve irrigated his nostrils with a Nose Frida, gave him a bath, and put in down with his nightly routine with a baby massage, change of clothes, and final feeding. We put books under one side of the crib mattress to elevate his head and I am sitting here just wishing I could take any sick feeling away and turn his more labored breathing back to those cute baby sleeping noises.

I have always had my anxious moments but I feel as though they have quadrupled within the last three months. Unfortunately I think this is going to be my new normal state now that mommyhood is a part of my life. I just pray that he’s on the up and up tomorrow. Please, please, please… *sigh*

MATERNITY LEAVE, BEST LAID PLANS

It goes without saying that architects are “Type A” individuals. We like to have a plan and we like it when things go to plan. When I laid out my plan for maternity leave, with all good intentions, I knew full well it would change. I just didn’t know how much or how little I would ultimately have to deviate from it.

Keeping in mind the fact that I have never seen myself as a stay at home mom (SAHM), I had no idea how much my new little bundle of joy was going to shake me (and my husband’s) work-a-holic personas. I only knew, from what others told me, that it was going to be “life changing.” That being said, my husband and I made the decision early on in the pregnancy that Happy Parents = Happy Family. We figured that the best way to keep the family unit together was to ensure that we, as parents, maintain a certain level of happiness.

So the original plan was laid out given the above notion and other considerations including maternity and paternity leave at our respective offices (virtually none), what is mandated by the state of California (thankfully more than most states), and the basic need to be able to afford to pay the bills. I would stay at home with our little one for 6 weeks and then begin transitioning back to work part to full-time starting by working at home. The hope was that at the end of 2 months I would be back spending days in the office. Meanwhile my husband would take paternity leave after I was on maternity leave for 6 weeks, supporting my transition back to the office, but ensuring our newborn would be 3 months old before we hand him over to a nanny or daycare.

So what happened? My husband started taking time off once my due date passed, mostly because he wanted to be there to support me and he knew I was incredibly uncomfortable and barely sleeping at all. He ended-up taking a full three months off from the first day he spent home with me pre-birth. I ended-up taking a full 8 weeks off before returning to work part-time, and the week after next will mark my first full work week (although I will still not transition back into the office full-time).

Several factors that were unaccounted for in the planning phase included:

  • our inability to get our little one to take a bottle on a regular basis until he was over 2 months old and thus… his ongoing reliance on being literally attached to me up to 8 hours a day
  • the incredible thought of leaving him with a complete stranger (i.e. life changing event full of feelings that I didn’t know I would have) that ultimately made me a bit reluctant to hunt for child care
  • the resulting daunting search for a nanny

Now that everything’s taken care of and we have all of our ducks lined-up – I have to say that I have mixed feelings about returning to work. Somedays I am really excited to get back at it, and them my little one smiles at me and I completely melt and think about all the smiles I am going to be missing. Two weeks ago, during my husband’s first week back in the office, he noted how our guy seemed to get so much bigger in just one day. Apparently, research shows that he can be growing as much as a centimeter a day so it’s totally plausible that he is significantly bigger within a 9 hour span.

However, the work-a-holic drive never fully went away, and the past three months just affirmed that I do not have the wherewithal to be a SAHM. I know there will be easy days to go into work, but there may be just as many hard days where I don’t want to leave my little man behind. The only way to truly see how I feel about it all is to jump back in – feet first. I’ll let you know how it goes.

GETTING OFFERED A SEAT ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Today, not even though my first trimester nor at a point where I have begun wearing maternity clothes, a woman asked if I would like to have a seat on BART. I politely declined, but was surprised. I don’t know if I would be able to tell whether or not someone else at my stage in pregnancy – that was barely showing – is actually pregnant. Perhaps this new form of radar is one that comes with experience.

I have to admit that I really struggled over the last year, regarding the thoughts of starting a family. My husband and I at the young age of 40 and 35 respectively decided to “start trying” in April of last year on our 1 year anniversary. In an effort to get multiple perspectives I started scheduling lunches with all the female architects that I know that have families, and was a bit disappointed in the discussion.