Lean into What?

As I write this, I'm sitting on an airplane, heading home from a fast-paced, work-filled three days in New York City, where we helped a $100 million enterprise launch a new company name and brand, announce a high-profile new hire and host a 100+ person celebratory event.

The trip to New York City, the execution of our strategy, and the positive response to our client's news was amazing. The expectations -- both the client's and my own -- were incredibly high; yet, we delivered (if I do say so myself), in spite of some unforeseen challenges. I founded my PR agency barely three-and-a-half years ago and employ six people. That we've come so far, so fast is a true testament to the team we've assembled, all of whom share my desire to disrupt the status quo and willingness to "embrace the crazy."

In 2012, we grew 150% year-over-year, for the second year in a row. This year, I expect we'll be in that same ballpark. Yet, people frequently ask when I'm slowing down. And by asking, it really feels more like they're strongly "suggesting" that I ease up.

You see, I'm six months pregnant. Society expects pregnant women to nest... to prepare for the impending major life change... to lean back. That's a non-starter in my world. Though in the minority, I'm not alone. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg contends that "the time to scale back is when a break is needed or when a child arrives -- not before, and certainly not years in advance. The months and years leading up to having children are not the time to lean back, but the critical time to lean in."

So, I'm leaning in. And, I'm nesting -- just not in the traditional sense. To borrow a phrase from Sarah Lacy, I'm nesting my business, fueled by sheer adrenaline and a ticking clock.
All that said, I'm not naive. Of course, I understand that things will shift -- drastically in many cases -- upon the baby's arrival. But, I also believe that as an entrepreneur, I'm empowered to determine where I spend my time. Think about Tim Ferris's 80-20 rule. We all spend a significant chunk of time every day on things that are nothing more than time-wasters and tasks that can be automated or outsourced. The problem is most people don't think about the value of their time from this perspective. I can only imagine that a child forces you to think even more strategically about the value of your time and how it's best utilized.

Though, I'm learning first-hand that women face competing pressures to be a good mom and an ambitious career person in ways that men don't. As you can guess, not one single person has asked my husband, who also owns his own rapidly growing business, when he'll slow down. Or, how much paternity leave he'll take after the baby's birth. Or, how the baby will force him to adjust his travel or work habits.

As I embark on this new journey -- as a business owner and mom-to-be -- I've become hyper-aware of the pressure to conform to societal norms. We grow up being told what it means to be a good daughter, mother, wife, friend, employee or boss. It's impossible to excel at everything, which, I think, is why women often feel like they can't have it all. But, what if we tested a different approach? My new mantra is "Define your all. Don't let others define it for you."
Now, that's something I can lean into.

Heather Whaling (aka @prTini) is president of Geben Communication, a boutique PR and social media firm that helps companies -- ranging from startups to $100 million enterprises -- excel in today's social world. An avid Twitter user, Heather can trace 75% of Geben's business back to relationships that began online. This ability to turn social networking into business outcomes has helped Geben evolve into a highly respected, sought-after, award-winning PR firm. Heather blogs about PR and social media trends at prTini.com and recently launched DefineYourAll.com to share musings and experiences as an entrepreneur and mom-to-be.