Co-Directorship and Parenthood: An Exquisite Mess

December 10, 2018

How is executive leadership like parenthood? CompassPoint's Co-Director, Lupe Poblano, explores the connection. 

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A few months ago I shared with you the resistance, courage, and hope that was filling my spirit as I was entering this new role of CompassPoint’s Co-Director. 

And a few months after that, I received another piece of news that I knew would shape and transform my life forever: my partner was pregnant, and I was about to become a parent for the first time. Needless to say, I knew that 2018 was going to be a BFY (Big Freaking Year!) in my life.

Through journaling, coaching, and deep conversations with close friends, I’ve invested a lot of time processing both significant life events, and I’ve begun to draw a number of parallels between the first year of parenthood and my first year of Co-Directorship.

The parents I’ve spoken to have described to me the love, overwhelm, tears, excitement, fear, tiredness, and sense of “I’m not really sure what I’m doing here, so I guess I’m just gonna have to wing it” they’ve experienced in their first year of parenthood. Those words pretty much describe my first year in this Co-Director role as well. There are not many opportunities in life that ask you to confront your limitations on the daily. There are also not many opportunities in life that ask you to step into your best self on the daily. No wonder this stuff wears you out!

And in addition to sheer exhaustion, there are a number of other similarities I’ve learned exist between the first year of parenthood and first year of Co-Directorship:   

This is the culmination of your entire life’s work, and yet, you’re never fully prepared.

Over the last year, I’ve often thought about this quote from poet Rainer Maria Rilke: “It is also good to love: because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.” Everything I’ve ever done and experienced has brought me to this point my life – all my accomplishments, trauma, gifts, contributions, and sacrifices – everything. And yet, I feel like a deep sea diver who is swimming at depths I’ve never experienced. How can I simultaneously be so prepared and unprepared for this? How can I be the right person for this and be struggling for oxygen at the same time?

Confronting my own internalized oppression.

As a future parent, and as a positional leader, the habits of white supremacy run deep inside me. 38+ years of socialization in this capitalistic, white supremacist, heteronormative environment has ensured this, as has the legacy of 530+ years of colonization. This not only means that this socialization is actively going on around me, it is also a legacy that has been passed on to me, by people who love me and wanted me to survive, succeed, and thrive. Pretending this isn’t true doesn’t somehow magically make it go away; it actually makes me more dangerous to the people I love as a parent and a leader.

I can name the habits of white supremacy that I’ve internalized as quickly as I can name what’s on my grocery list – defensiveness, worship of the written word, paternalism, and fear of open conflict. Again, pretending this isn’t true doesn’t make it not true. This first year of Co-Directorship and my upcoming first year of parenthood is requiring me to confront these habits and deconstruct them. Not only for my sake – but for the health of others as well. These are not habits I want to pass on as a parent or as a leader.

Examining my relationship to power.

There’s obviously a lot of power that comes with executive leadership and being a parent. And yet, one of the most humbling experiences of both roles is the realization that you do not have a magic wand and that so much is outside your control. As a parent, there’s no guaranteed way for making your child safe from white supremacy any more than there is a guaranteed way to protect an organization from having to navigate capitalist structures. These external forces that shape and impact your family or your community mean you can’t control every outcome. 

The importance of staying grounded in your purpose.

​There’s a reason why I wanted to become a parent, and it’s the same reason why I took on this role at CompassPoint: love. Imagine two people being so in love that they wanted to bring another person into this world to share in that love. Imagine getting the opportunity to expand your love, explore your trauma, and grow your heart. That’s why my partner and I wanted to have a child.

Now imagine loving a community’s vision and values so much that you wanted to fight for it. Imagine the opportunity at redemption as a positional leader – the chance to do this differently than it’s been done before. Imagine being called to expand your limitations, explore your gifts, and grow your heart. That’s why I wanted to be in this role.

The first year makes you deal with all the complexities and contradictions of love. Being in love with a person or group doesn’t mean you won’t ever harm them or impact them negatively. Being in love doesn’t mean you’ll always be right or get it right. Being in love means that you’ll sometimes harm the very person or persons you’re in relationship with. And even if love is reciprocated, it doesn’t mean you’ll always get the benefit of the doubt for the times when your impact is hurtful, regardless if your intent is pure.

In the end, I’ve realized that this first year of Co-Directorship and parenthood is an exquisite mess. It’s a painful joy. It’s both nurturing and torturing. There is no script or playbook for this first year. You do the best that you can. And if you are doing it out of love, then it means that this is the also the most difficult task of your life, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.

Read other blogs by Lupe:


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