Working + motherhood: 10 important lessons ambitious women need to know

One thing we learned is that ambition is not contained in a neatly packaged box labeled career, but bleeds into all aspects of our friends' lives, including marriage and, of course, parenting.

Working + motherhood: 10 important lessons ambitious women need to know

When we, two ambitious friends from college (class of '93––rock on), set out to answer some burning existential questions about how motherhood and other factors had affected our career trajectories, we decided to survey a few other college friends. Those initial conversations sparked others, and ultimately we interviewed 43 women we'd graduated from college with. More than two-thirds of us had become mothers, and the effect motherhood had on our ambition was a recurring topic in our interviews.

Many of our friends wanted to be "present" parents, but also wanted to continue to develop their professional lives, and nearly all of them talked about that difficult, often exhausting juggle. One thing we learned is that ambition is not contained in a neatly packaged box labeled career, but bleeds into all aspects of our friends' lives, including marriage and, of course, parenting.

Read on for 10 more truths we gleaned about ambition, and remember that however you're doing this, you're not alone.

1. Marrying or partnering with someone who is equally invested in the job of parenting is integral to your career success.

For our friends, Sheryl Sandberg's advice held up: the most important career decision you make is whom to marry. Our friends whose spouses prioritized our friends' careers equal to or higher than their own, achieved more traditionally successful careers. And these women didn't end up in equitable relationships by accident. They took their own career ambitions seriously, and demanded their spouses do so too. That meant when it came to balancing parental duties, things like staying home to take care of a sick kid or packing lunches didn't automatically fall to them.

2. Talk about the division of labor with your spouse.

If you don't talk about it, it's not going to happen. Our friends who have ongoing, open discussions with their spouses about who will do what, who revisit that conversation frequently, and who are willing to speak up when they feel the burden is unfair or derailing their careers or health, typically end up with more egalitarian household divides, and with time left to devote to building their careers. On the flip side, women who shy away from these conversations end up doing the majority of childcare and domestic labor.

3. Delegate, delegate, delegate.

Figure out the pieces of child-raising, household-running, and life-organizing that you can assign to someone else, pay someone else to take care of, or simply let go. That may mean you stop buying houseplants because that is one more thing you don't want to do, that you hire someone to help clean your house once a month, or that you ask your spouse to take on all parent-teacher conferences at school.

4. There will be some things that you simply cannot, will not, want to delegate.

They may be large things (researching all the summer camps, forever!) or small (cutting fingernails), but they will feel so essential to motherhood that you won't be able to give them up. These are your non-negotiables. Figure out what those things are, be okay with owning them, and delegate the other stuff.

5. These non-negotiables around parenting may change over the course of your parenthood.

One year you may feel that meeting the school bus is integral to your day. Other years you may find that need slipping away, replaced by other things that suddenly feel important, like semi-weekly breakfasts with your tween, or regular attendance at swim meets. So prepare for change, frequently re-evaluate the way you spend your time, your children's needs and your own.

6. If you are ambitious at work, you are also likely to be ambitious in parenting.

That juggle will be a challenge long-term, but know that the way you choose to balance the two today isn't the way you will balance them for the rest of your life. Some years you may want to direct more of your ambition into hands-on, very-present parenting, and other years you'll be able to pull back the helicopter and truly kill it at work. The choice is yours, and the way you decide to divide your time will fluctuate over the years.

7. You will be tapped by your children’s school for more volunteer opportunities than you can possibly take on.

It is okay to scale back work to take these on, or to pass on them entirely. Think about what's important to you, what feels right, and don't let anyone guilt you into doing more than you can realistically fit into your life while still being the kind of mother and worker you want to be.

8. Ambition is not a straight line from point A to point B for every person.

Your ambition trajectory may take detours, and may ebb and flow in the years you are also busy being a hands-on mother. So don't worry if your ambition recedes during particularly intense periods of child raising. It can and may resurface later, fiercely so.

9. Having children may radically alter your ambition, or do nothing to change it at all.

Most of our friends, once they had children, felt an innate need to be present with and for them, which meant they couldn't be as hard driving in their careers as they'd been pre-kids. But we also saw women whose ambitions stayed the course after they became mothers. They just kept on keeping on. It wasn't always easy to predict the directions our friends' ambition would flow, so just know having children changes your ambitions in unexpected ways.

10. Women will usually be making the pediatrician appointments. All of them. Forever.

One-hundred-percent of our friends with children make the pediatrician appointments, whether they are Opt Outers, Flex Lifers who share domestic duties somewhat equally with their spouses, or High Achievers partnered with stay at home parents.

You can be ambitious in your career and also be a mother—plenty of women are able to do both––but it does require some compromises. Remember that there's no one right way to be an ambitious woman and mother, and that however you're doing this, you're not alone.

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Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

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Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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