You could be reading this because you have had a fulltime job and you have been building a career in an organisation. Sometimes this has meant working late, becoming in early or travelling. Although you have not exactly relished those requirements on you, you have managed to meet them with a level of flexibility, possibly giving up some of the time you would have experienced with family or friends that are dear to you.
Or perhaps you’ve been running your own business. While you’ve had more choices about how you use your time, you are still going to have put in considerable amounts of time and dedication beyond the boundaries of a traditional working day. Suddenly your priorities get turned upside down. A new small being comes along who not only needs your attention desperately from one second to another, but whose health is as significant to you as your own career. And this little being is completely dependent upon you. While their addiction slowly diminishes as they grow, your devotion to them does no such thing.
You’re having to make some hard decisions with practical implications: if you have gone back to work – or you are contemplating going back to work – just how are you going to manage what are often conflicting demands on you? The boss requires the report done by first thing tomorrow morning, it is 4 o’clock in the day and you will need to leave at 5 immediately for to the childminder. Or perhaps you’re working four days per week, and a vital team meeting will happen on the day you are not there. Or a customer wants delivery of your product or service superb, within a timescale that conflicts with your time on the job.
Situations like these exert pressure and anxiety not only in the moment but also due to the implications for the growth of your career or your own business. Having It All is an unrealistic dream for any mother, but you can pick your compromises in a planned manner, without feeling that you are being wedged into a corner and giving away your integrity. Being clear on key issues so you understand – and can claim – that you are and what matters to you can help you handle the multiple tensions.
Know what is important to you and handle your priorities: Each of us is driven by our values – what is basic about how we would like to live and work, and the way we expect others to act. If your life is out of line with your values, you might well feel stressed, frustrated or deeply unfulfilled. Suppose what matters to you includes freedom, freedom to speak your mind, honesty and versatility. You’ll feel fulfilled and satisfied working in an environment that promotes personal initiative, provides tons of opportunity that you present your view, in a working culture that’s relaxed about you leaving 15 minutes early one day because you are trusted to return in another way on another event.
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On the other hand, you’re likely to feel unhappy if creating your views felt is frowned upon – whether implicitly or explicitly – because there is an expectation that you will toe the party line and visiting the college concert at Christmas is a matter of muttering and bitterness. Get clear on your top five values – your non-negotiables – write them down in priority order, and consider ways to live them in work and at home (one method of identifying your values is to remember situations where you have been frustrated or angry: they will show you what things to you).
Does the culture of the organisation you are in fit with what is most important for you? Otherwise, plan what you are going to do about it. Be clear in your boundaries: Knowing your worth, what are you prepared to compromise on? What are you prepared to tolerate and what is completely intolerable? Being clear beforehand on the sacrifices you are ready to make will mean that you are less likely to wake up one day and find yourself in a situation which might have evolved slowly and that is demanding something of you that you resent giving.
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Be careful to re-visit your bounds every six months or so: as your child grows, as your family grows, as your financing change and as your career viewpoints change, be explicit about the changes in the bargain – your prepared sacrifices balanced against the gains. You might have some challenging decision-making to do. Be honest about the effect of the choices on you, your family, your career and your finances. If you make compromises, make them knowingly.
Don’t open yourself up to being taken by surprise farther down the line. Surprise can lead to bitterness and may lower morale. Clear expectations can be worked together: they offer you a stage for asking for what you need assertively. Know what you offer: Can you articulate your natural abilities, your skills, your experience and your knowledge? Do you know which skills you enjoy using? Does your company (or you in case you operate your own company ) understand what they are, and do they appreciate you for them? Do you appreciate you for them? Is your organisation stretching you, providing you with opportunities to grow within the context of the hours you work, the job you hold, and the responsibilities you have, and can it be preparing you for the next step of your career? Are you asking for all those opportunities so you’re constantly growing? Knowing what you bring, and the difference you make (if you work full-time or full-time), and assisting your organisation to use one to your very best advantage will help make sure you and they – get exactly what you each deserve.
Know what you need in this step of your career and at another one: Develop a clear vision of the working life and the non-work life you need, in every respect, and in every detail – in words, pictures, a mindmap or maybe a collage. Refer back constantly to your vision (at least every few months ) so that you remain focused. The clearer and more detailed your concept is of the vision you are working towards, the easier it’ll be attain because the detail you visualise will have assumed its own reality. Feeling left behind or failing to tap into your possible career-wise may reflect the fact that you haven’t planned, or come to terms with, what you need from your out-of-work life, your job and your career.
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It’s all too easy for a mother to be swayed this way and that by the requirements and needs of different people and seldom holding out for what she wants or desires. Assess your present life against your vision: how does this match up? If the match is not good enough, think about what you can do about it, and then decide what you are going to do. Get support: In the rough and tumble of everyday life it is quite easy to just react at the moment, and to lose sight of this larger picture represented by the sorts of issues this guide has presented up to now.
Then suddenly life can get you down, the anxieties become too much, and it seems like you have lost your way. Having a supply of unconditional and independent support already in place can make a massive difference: working moms who have a friend, a support team, a coach or a mentor frequently discover that this is the way they can recover their balance and their sense of perspective, and their psychological and functional strength, and in which they could let off steam in a secure context (family sometimes has too much vested interest in this sort of situation to provide the independent support that is needed, even though the value of a supportive spouse can not be over-estimated).
Time for yourself
The more calls you will find on your focus and your energies, the more important it’s to make time for yourself, a space in which you may reflect, draw breath, and reassess. Often working moms find that they’re merely snatching minutes here and there. Conversely, planning – and – taking – time daily, even as little as 20 minutes, to be alone with your thoughts, reflect on what things, or savour something of beauty can help you get back in touch with yourself and wind up again.
Be focused and realistic: Remember Superwoman only exists in the cartoons and comics. Maintain an awareness of reality around what you aim for, whether you stay employed or you choose to start your own company. This is difficult in the competitive working world we live in, but working moms (and others!) Often get a greater sense of accomplishment by focusing on a single goal at a time and making sure it is accessible than by planning to do everything well. In many ways being a working mother is like trying to live two people’s lives at exactly the exact same time. It can not be done absolutely perfectly.
In my view it is pretty much impossible to Have It All: a glittering full-time career and a completely dedicated life as a mother just can not be had concurrently. But the great news is you may Have Plenty Of It by being clear and explicit to yourself and others about what you would like, the compromises you are – and are not – ready to create, what you need to give, facing the honest facts about the extent to which your current organisation can satisfy your requirements, and by putting in place the service you want. And as the goalposts change, make sure that you expect those changes and change together. Above all produce the conditions for enjoying both your job and your life outside work: chances and chances are there for you to make the best life you can, for you, your spouse and your children.