Sarah Peck is a writer, startup advisor, and yoga teacher based in New York City. She’s the founder and executive director of Startup Pregnant, a media company documenting the stories of women’s leadership across work and family. She hosts the weekly Startup Pregnant podcast, and she and her partner in life and work are the instigators behind More Women’s Voices, a website that promotes women speakers and entrepreneurs. In this juicy interview, Sarah shares why she started her podcast and how she’s learning more and more that there isn’t one path to motherhood. She also challenges the myth of being a perfect mother-“Fuck the myth of effortless beauty and easeful grace. I’m in it, elbows up, laugh lines growing, calluses forming, because I want to be using my mind, my body, and my soul. I want to be a woman with wisdom lines and wrinkles and gray hair, because it will mean that I’ve lived.” We hear you Sarah!
What makes you a Beyond Mom?
I have been fascinated by the number of stories there are of becoming parents, what parenthood looks like, and how people navigate the motherhood journey—so much so that I started a podcast to interview moms all about their journeys! What I’m learning loud and clear—and what I love about Beyond Mom is that there isn’t one path to motherhood, or one way to be a parent. I found this simple, reductive nature of our cultural expectations around motherhood to be troubling. It was either that motherhood was the hardest and worst thing ever, or that it was this beautiful calling and every woman’s manifest destiny to become a mother.
It turns out, people are far more complex than this. For every person, there’s a unique motherhood journey, as well as a cacophony of similarities with other women and parents making this work happen in the world. This richness and diversity—of how people become parents, of whether or not people choose to become parents, of the transformative power of parenting—is something that fascinates me.
In my work and life, I’m a writer, researcher, yoga teacher, and business owner. I run a company, Startup Pregnant, that delves into the lives of working parents and how pregnancy, parenting, and community can inspire us to rethink how we show up at work in the first place. I love my life as a parent and as a creative being: my writing and work are part of my soul, just as much as my kiddos and my family are.
What are the parts of you that have grown and expanded since becoming a mom?
Pregnancy and parenthood have pushed me in ways that I haven’t expected—they’ve asked me to yield more, to slow down (this, from someone who loves working), and to experience what it’s like to “be,” moment-by-moment.
They’ve also called me to push further into my creativity, and to make work that matters. My business is bigger than it’s ever been, my calling clearer, and I’m currently working on a book about how parenting can transform people and make them more creative, efficient, and even better leaders.
Do you have a Beyond dream that you are pursing?
Publishing my first book. It’s been a labor of love, truly: I’ve written five different versions of the proposal, and written and re-written chapters. I feel like it’s writing me as much as I am writing it. In my heart of hearts, I know I have a lot more writing in me—books, articles, essays, stories. I know there are a lot of books in me, and one of my ongoing practices is making more space for writing.
What relationships and activities help you stay connected to yourself?
Being in nature and in or near water are my loves. The aquamarine color of bright water in the tropics, the deep dark inky blue of Tahoe or of the oceans, and any good, crisp, cold swimming pool is my idea of heaven. When I’m not able to travel as much, or water seems far away, I love being able to work from home and take an Epsom salt bath either at night or even in the middle of the day, in between complicated projects! I’ve been known to take a book with me to the bath for a lunchtime soak before returning to another work session.
In addition, morning pages and journaling help me tremendously, especially when I’m stressed out or can’t sleep. Something about writing, especially by hand, helps me get re-centered. Yoga is a dear friend of mine (I’m a trained yoga teacher), and I have a slow but steady meditation practice that I’m building into.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you live by?
Two of my life philosophies that I carry with me are as follows:
1. You don’t have to do things the way they’ve always been done.
2. Make yourself the best place to be that you can.
The first is a reminder that everything around us is mostly made up, and we can disrupt it, or be different. We don’t have to blindly follow the path ahead of us, or the culture around us. We can do motherhood, work, parenting, life—differently.
The second is reminder that my home is my body and mind; the more care and attention I put to taking care of my human “home,” the more I will enjoy and revel in life and all of the experiences I have.
What causes and topics are you most passionate about right now?
Right now, I’m fascinated by what it looks like to be a working parent. I think that we have a lot to do in disrupting the world of work, and rethinking what it looks like. A forty hour work week no longer makes sense (and is often arbitrary). I want to help break down gender barriers in work and leadership. I want to enabling more women entrepreneurs to create great companies. And I’m passionate about connecting women together in tribes and masterminds to undo some of the loneliness and disconnection that’s happened as a result of isolated workplaces and family lives. This is all part of the mission of Startup Pregnant, the company that I run, and the podcast that I host. Each week I interview women leaders about what they’re doing differently across both work and family, and it’s such a passion and a vision of mine.
How do you think we can change our culture from one in which a woman is expected to be a “perfect mother” to one in which she is encouraged to discover and explore her evolving self?
Perfectionism is a disease of control, I think, and this myth of a “perfect mother” is, if I dare say a bold statement—I think this mythology is perpetuated by the patriarchy to keep women in line, worked to death, and out of the way of bigger and more important things.
There is no perfect mother. Let’s just nix that right now. There’s imperfect, fallible, sweaty, messy, working, effortful, loving, kind, messy—did I say messy already?—people who are learning and growing in real time.
To me, this means two things.
First, it means we stop trying to do it all or have it all, and own that we can’t. We cannot have everything or do everything. This realization forces us to make choices, choices that are hard. We have to pick one or two things that we truly care about, and drop the rest. Pick a project, and let go of trying to go to all the other events. Pick one or two things you care about as a parent, and don’t give a damn about the rest of it. Seriously. We have to stop trying to be “A Students” with perfect report cards, and start owning the places where we can get C’s and D’s in subject areas that just don’t matter to us. We can’t care about everything.
Second, it means living out loud, owning my mistakes, making my mistakes, and crying in front of my girlfriends. It means I’m no longer wearing antiperspirant because the truth is that I sweat. And I enjoy working out. It means showing people the effort that goes on behind-the-scenes, because one of the myths of motherhood (and womanhood) is that you should “look good” and not show that you’ve tried at all. Fuck the myth of effortless beauty and easeful grace. I’m in it, elbows up, laugh lines growing, calluses forming, because I want to be using my mind, my body, and my soul. I want to be a woman with wisdom lines and wrinkles and gray hair, because it will mean that I’ve lived.
Favorite go-to’s for:
Beyond Food (what do you cook & where do you go locally?)
Right now I’m loving the farmer’s market, CSA boxes, and slow-cooked soups and stews. I’m learning new frozen/cold soup recipes from Daily Harvest, actually, and finding a way to use the Vitamix to make delicious, cold, summery soups that are also full of green things for my growing body and babies.
Beyond Content (Books & Podcasts)
I am a big learning geek (and proud of it) and record every book I read on my website, and the act of recording what books I’m reading has changed the quality and number of books I read, so I keep doing it. My favorite books so far of 2018 are:
· Family Business, the Patagonia book on integrating child care into their work headquarters, and why it’s the future of work.
· You Squared, about changing how you think about taking quantum leaps in your life and business.
· Amateur Hour, which grew on me slowly, but had me laughing like crazy at the end.
· This Will Be My Undoing, by Morgan Jerkins, a gripping, well-researched memoir, fluid in its writing.
· Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes. I listened to this read out loud by the author, and it delivered. Such a great book.
I’ve started using Aaptive and other at-home apps to get a workout in while in between work and parenting demands. I also swim three times a week, walk about 10,000 steps most days, and try to get up and move every couple of hours or at least switch positions at my desk so I’m not in a creaky, grumpy body by the end of the day. Sometimes I do yoga while I do audio interviews for my podcast!