Lately, it seems that everyone wants to accomplish something. Just look at sites like 43things.com. The ambitions posted on these sites run the gamut from wanting to get more organized to traveling the world to earning more money. If you are a working mother, you know you are just as ambitious as everyone else out there. You also know that your career is the vehicle to achieving those aspirations. Unfortunately, you probably feel like you are barely able to keep your head above water, much less establish any professional goals beyond bringing home a paycheck. Complicating matters even further, working mothers have hurdles to jump that their counterparts probably don’t even have on their radar.
Working mothers have two jobs: being a mother and being an employee. There is no way to keep your family life from seeping into work. You may be able to leave your work at the office but you can’t ever completely leave your family at home. How many times have you left work early to take a sick child to the doctor or to attend a parent-teacher conference? Do you feel like you have to “sneak” out of the office right at five o’clock (whether your work is finished or not) so your child won’t be the last one picked up at after-school care—again? Do you feel like your commitment to the company and your career is being questioned when you put your family first? As if all of this juggling isn’t tiring enough, the second shift begins as soon as your “outside the home” job ends. There is dinner, homework, little league, dance class, scouts, and on and on and on.
Another equally important challenge you face is the delicate task of having to weigh each decision you make between the needs of your family and the good of your career. Do you entertain clients or have drinks with the boss after work or do you go to your son’s baseball game? Do you apply for the promotion that will relocate your family across the country, or do you put your career on the back burner until the kids are grown? There is never an easy choice and I bet you tend to second guess your decisions and feel guilty no matter what choice you make. In fact, I would guess that there isn’t another segment of the population who feels as much guilt as working mothers.
Let’s face it, mothers work because they need to—either they need the income, they need to fulfill their desire to work, and/or they feel the need to provide a better life for their children than is possible on one income. But, if you are stressed out, always on the run, and don’t have quality time to spend with your kids, is having a career fulfilling that need or is it causing undue hardship on your family? This is one of those times when it pays to do it right. If you are going to work, shouldn’t it be for a career that is rewarding, both intrinsically and financially and that also allows you to enjoy your family life?
For working mothers, life is exhausting (as if I need to tell you!). You are constantly being pulled in multiple directions, expected to perform miracles that few could accomplish, and take care of everyone around you—all without dropping a single ball and a smile on your face. And somehow, we manage to pull it off, day after day. Not always with a smile and occasionally a ball or two drops, but the ship stays afloat even if it means that your own goals get sidelined. But wouldn’t it be great if it wasn’t so difficult? It is possible to have it all, a great career and a meaningful family life, without having to work even harder than you already do.
The key to success lies in these seven steps:
1. Prioritizing. What comes first, right now? How do you know where to focus your attention if you don’t know what is most important?
2. Finding time for those priorities. How do you fit it all in—time for your family, your career, and yourself —without sacrificing?
3. Goal setting. How will you know what direction to go in if you haven’t established solid goals? You’ll quickly wear yourself out running in circles. Do you know what you want out of life, personally, professionally, and financially?
4. Planning. A comprehensive plan to achieve your goals will keep you focused and on the right track.
5. Making choices that are aligned with your priorities. This is the number one key to eliminating your guilt and feeling good about your decisions.
6. Surrounding yourself with a supportive community. Have you ever noticed that when you are around people who are drowning in misery that they bring you down with them? The opposite holds true, as well. If you surround yourself with people who are positive, goal-oriented, and supportive, your attitude soars and the possibilities really are endless.
7. A rolodex full of resources. No one can, or should try, to do it alone. Having access to resources that can pick up where you want to leave off makes all the difference in the world.
By taking these steps, you are empowering yourself. You are taking control of a chaotic situation that will result in a positive, meaningful life and a career that is both rewarding and affords the lifestyle that you want—all with less stress and guilt. That means a better mom for your kids, a better partner for your significant other, and a happier YOU.
The first step to taking control of the chaos is to prioritize. What is most important to you right now? Is it finding more balance between work and family? Making more money? Spending more time with your kids and significant other? Whatever is at the top of your list, come up with three action steps you can take to get closer to your goals. Keep your priorities at the top of your mind at all times and you will see that your decision making process will get easier and the guilt you struggle with will begin to fade.