Kate Matsudaira (GeekWire Photo: Annie Laurie Malarkey)
Kate Matsudaira (GeekWire Photo: Annie Laurie Malarkey)

When an athlete goes down with injury, the mental frustration and stress that comes with being off the field can sometimes outweigh any physical pain.

It’s similar to how Kate Matsudaira felt after she got pregnant 12 weeks ago. The Pop Forms founder and former GeekWire Geek of the Week who “defines herself by her work,” recently shared how much she’s been affected by being pregnant.

“I seriously feel like someone dropped me on my head and now I am an ordinary person (no more 12 hours of pure productivity, now I am lucky if I get 8),” she wrote. “All of my planning, plotting and strategy fell out the window once symptoms started showing.”

In fact, she almost said goodbye to the startup world.

“The thoughts of throwing in the towel and just getting a ‘real job’ seemed so appealing,” wrote Matsudaira, who’s expecting a baby in May. “Being an entrepreneur and responsible for everything is overwhelming.”

But the former vice president of engineering at Decide.com figured out that she “needed to get rigorous about my priorities, and cut out the things that aren’t adding value.”

So Matsudaira made a list of what was important, and what was not, given her situation.

“The key here is that I am doing things that work for me,” she says. “Instead of fighting against my body and my mind, I am listening to it.”

Here are a few things she tried. Whether you’re pregnant or not, these strategies are probably good to keep in mind anyways:

  • Eliminate anything that doesn’t clearly add value: We took a break on publishing the TLN (since it is questionable on the value it actually adds to popforms – which is my main focus anyway).
  • Slow down on serendipity meetings: I started saying no to coffee meetings. All of them. At least for a few months anyway.
  • Rethink your email: I already used an autoresponder to my email letting people know it would take a while to reply, only now it really does take me a long while to reply. I am slower on email and social media than I used to be, but it allows me to use my work time to focus. Email is someone else’s priorities, not my own – so I started treating it that way.
  • Restructure your day: I work well in the morning when I first get up. I can be super productive the first few hours of the morning. I also tend to get a burst of energy after I work out. However, I am super slow after lunch. I started setting up my schedule and meetings to accommodate my new rhythm. This meant blocking out time on my calendar, and letting the people around me know when I need time to work uninterrupted.
  • Enjoy your down time: When I didn’t feel like working I would sit and feel guilty. I would struggle to write a blog post because I thought I should be writing a blog post. I was suffering from a case of the “shoulds.  Now when I am tired, I curl up with my puppies and take a nap. When the ideas aren’t flowing, I get up from my computer and do something else (which has meant a lot more leisure reading and phone conversations with friends).
  • Fuel your body: When I eat well (fruits and vegetables, not candy) I feel better. My mind works better. And it makes sense. Taking the time to think about what you are eating actually does help a lot. Exercise does too. When I don’t feel like working I search for recipes on Pinterest or go to the grocery store to stock up on some healthy ingredients.

Finally, Matsudaira said she has been trying her best to simply let people know what’s going on in her life.

“We are all people,” she writes. “We aren’t resources, or robots, or simple cogs in a machine. People have hiccups.  People need extra time. If you don’t open up though, no one is going to know why you have slowed down – and that isn’t a good thing.”

Comments

  • http://moniguzman.com Monica Guzman

    I love love love that Kate wrote this. Pregnancy is HARD and hard to talk about when so few do, particularly in a tech sector that is not always used to hearing about women lifestyle issues in everyday conversation. Pregnancy and labor teaches you — whether you like it or not — to let go of the expectation of control. Everyone’s body does it differently, and you just don’t know how it’s going to go for you. You can be zen about that, go totally crazy, or, like everyone, spend time swinging between both poles. Thanks again, Kate. It’s going to be a wild ride. Enjoy it when you can!

    • Ryanisinallofus

      Very well said.

  • susansigl

    Kate, fantastic news and so very cool that you would share this. I hope it’s a catalyst for women technologists and entrepreneurs to share their maternity challenges and make more tech babies:) This one has won the Mommy Lotto.

  • Shauna Causey

    Congrats, Kate! Thanks for sharing this, what an honest post. Sometimes the office environment seems to encourage a stark separation of personal from professional life but I especially like your thoughts that they’re intertwined. “We aren’t resources, or robots….People have hiccups. If you don’t open up though, no one is going to know why you have slowed down – and that isn’t a good thing.”

  • Maggie

    Refreshing honesty and resilience! Thanks to GW and Kate for taking the time to write this.

  • Slaggggg

    So she’s less effective at the high-stakes hi-comp world of founding a startup, because of a personal choice to start a family. Her investors and the employees she’s recruited to follower her mission just have to choke it down and pretend to smile. We’re all supposed to applaud that?

    • Ryanisinallofus
      • Slaggggg

        I think we need to talk about the meaning of “prediction,” as your first post came 4 hours after mine.

        So what is sexist about my remark? I talked about contribution and priorities. You are the one who brought up gender.

        Look, a startup founder is an intense job. You take money from investors, and you pledge to work your butt off to give them a return. You hire employees to follow you up any hill.

        What I am saying is — man or woman — to now say hey I’ve got some other things on my mind is at minimum a questionable move for a startup founder.

        How is that sexist?

    • Dave

      Unfortunately, this sort of comment reinforces the perception that the tech startup world is a bunch of immature 23 year old boy coders who used to live in their mom’s basements and turn speechless when a girl walks by. At some point, if you hire people with actual experience you will hire people who want to have kids, who are parents, who have sick parents, who get sick themselves, etc. or all of the above. This is life.

      I’m sure Kate will be more focused and a better time manager, and her team will work hard with her. Probably the best time managers I have ever worked with are senior managers who are also Mom’s. Their focus and output tends to amaze me and put me to shame.

      She will have ups and downs as a new parent and as a CEO. New Mom and startup CEO sounds hard and scary to me, but good for her. Some people will admire her. Some people will get frustrated because being a colleague of a new parent can sometimes be tough but that is between her, her team and her investors, none of our business.

      Working and being a new parent is hard for anyone, male or female. The startup and Kate will work or they won’t. But really, being a parent is one of the many things in life that make many of us human. Parent will rapidly become part of who Kate is, just like she is a coder and a CEO.

      Hopefully it all works and congratulations to her.

      • Slaggggg

        Well said.

  • Brent Enarson

    No, she keeps herself effective and accountable by reorganizing priorities. I applaud that. Give it a rest, Slaggggg.

  • West Seattle Blog

    As a mom who had an intense management job (in broadcast news) while expecting, I appreciate the topic too BUT the comparison to a sidelining injury, in your lead, is unfortunate. While pregnancy is not necessarily a walk in the park, it is NOT a disability, illness, etc. It is natural and normal. The recommendations here are those we probably all should pay more heed to. No question that the process of baby-gestating and delivering presents some challenges, but they are more accurately compared to the challenge of an intense athletic achievement (running a marathon, for example) rather than a sports injury … Tracy @ WSB

    • Jennifer Sable Lopez

      Thank you for saying this!

    • jbn

      Completely agree. And no, it wasn’t that hard being pregnant. I was tired, but I wasn’t “sidelined” in any way.

    • Guest

      Agreed. Even for a father who does not even need to take on the responsibility of physically carrying a child, it’s more of an endurance race than having an injury. Honestly and endurance race would have been a far better comparison. At 12 weeks it’s only into the initial training for the big event, adjusting diet and lifestyle to prepare for a much more intense event in a few months down the road. The biggest challenge will be caring for the kid once they are born. That’s when you’re responsible for a living human that is 100% dependent on you to do everything for them. Sleeping, eating, exercise and even the same career choice are a luxurious option that not all parents get to have. Make your kid the #1 most important thing, the career is not as important.

    • Taylor Soper

      Hey Tracy, thanks for pointing this out. I definitely agree with you in that pregnancy is not an injury and that it is, like you said, natural and normal. I mainly used that comparison after Kate noted this in her post:

      “I imagine this is how athletes must feel when they get injured. They take pride in their athletic prowess, and then suddenly they are unable to train, contribute, and demonstrate their super power.”

      With the lede, I was using the comparison as an example of a hard worker who suddenly can’t be fully productive, but I can see how that came across the wrong way.

      Thanks for reading.

  • Tired of boring geek wire arti

    Yawn

  • Natasha Jarmick

    This article may have good intentions, but it comes off as making pregnancy seem like a disease or injury, and that women are somehow handicap by nature.

  • http://www.about.me/tgowland Tara Gowland

    Congratulations Kate – here’s to balance, success and making a difference!

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