It wasn’t motherhood that changed my career. It was actually the idea of motherhood that set me on a new path. (Click to Tweet) After spending a rather unfulfilling decade working in finance, I knew that was not what I wanted to do long term, nor would it allow me to have the flexibility to be the kind of mom I wanted to be some day. I remember those afterschool specials growing up where the mom was SuperMom! That’s what I wanted – to conquer my career with a single bound and then to be there for my kids to kiss every booboo and attend every school party.
Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I had found my new mantra, “Design your Ideal.” As I explored the possibilities, my ‘ideal’ became clearer. Flexibility was required for the kids I would eventually have with the man I was not yet dating. I wanted financial security and to have work that mattered to me. After ten years of feeling unappreciated, I also knew that recognition and feedback were a piece of that fulfillment.
In time, I was able to create my ideal. Now, I pull out the calendar at the beginning of each school year and block off all vacation days and half days. I note school concerts and special events to make sure I don’t miss anything. As for work, I help individuals and organizations create a more ideal “whatever.” It could be job, a relationship, management style or communication skills. I know what I do now matters; it matters to me and to those I work with. Back then, though, I didn’t know what I do (and what people actually pay me to do) was a possibility. And it wouldn’t have been unless I created it. I truly believe in my work. I actually think of my business as my third baby – I care about it that much.
Over the years, I have developed strategies to help me keep my ‘ideal’ front and center. Here are three that continue to work for me:
Remember that there is no such thing as balance. Moms often run themselves ragged in search of the elusive ‘balance.’ Avoid the frustration and agony and instead think ‘fit.’ Decide what you can (want to) fit in and let go of the rest. For me, I don’t fit exercise in… because I just don’t really want to. But I do always manage to fit in bedtime cuddles, and rollerblading on a sunny day with my boys.
Saying ‘no’ is another way of saying ‘yes.’ I had a sticky note on my computer for years on which my husband had written me one simple word – “no.” No is a hard word to say until you realize it is just a yes in disguise. No matter how hard you try, you can’t do everything. It’s okay to close the door on opportunities that don’t align with your vision so you can make room for the opportunities that match your ideal. Lately, I have had to remember to keep this tip top of mind.
Eliminate the ‘should’s.’ I used to feel like I wasn’t being a good mom if I didn’t cook dinner for my kids. I should be the one to cook them dinner, right? I also felt like I should help them shower every night and play their favorite video games with them. These ‘should’s’ started draining me. Then, I took a new approach and focused on what I get to do with my boys. I get to be the one who helps them with their homework. And I get to be the one who reads with them at night. When you concentrate on your strengths, your kids get the best of you.
Over the years, I have attended many work/life balances seminars, and one take-away that always rings true is ‘good enough is good enough.’ I am pulled in many directions every day, and I can’t get upset every time something isn’t perfect. It’s going to happen… often. What’s important is that I am living every day pretty darn close to my ideal (maybe a little more sleep would tip the scales here) and that my kids feel loved. And that’s good enough for me.