The Choices We Make: Moms and Careers

More than one woman wrote that she wished someone had told her that you really can’t do it all when motherhood enters the picture. Some really hard choices have to be made. Learning-Grace.com

A mom friend recently posted on a parents Facebook group, asking fellow parents how they knew when it was time to go back to work after having kids and if they returned to their former careers. A very long, honest, and beautiful conversation flowed from that post about the choices we, particularly women, have to make, what we wish we knew, and how can we be there for our kids.

More than one woman wrote that she wished someone had told her that you really can’t do it all when motherhood enters the picture. Some really hard choices have to be made.

Growing up in the 80s and 90s many of us cut our teeth on the idea that we could be anything we wanted to be: entrepreneur, businesswoman, doctor, lawyer, scientist, with the assumption that we could have a family life, too. We were not tied to the same gender roles of our mothers. The world is a better place for it. But, many of us didn’t realize the impact of the mommy track until it was too late.

One comment on that Facebook thread read:

I wish instead of my mom telling me to go for my dreams and I can do anything a man can do. I wish she would have told me one day I may have a family and the juggle is hard so maybe focus on a career with flexibility—no one told me this. And I did not anticipate it at all and was smacked in the face HARD with this reality when going back full-time.

We were told that we could have it all: rewarding career, family, health, wealth, happiness. We were given the idea that as women we could do it all, too.

We can’t.

Psst, it’s not just you—no one can.

We all know we have to make choices in life, but this is one that so many of us never expected to make. When you work hard to climb the corporate ladder, establish yourself in your field; when you feel like you have this thing that is all yours—your career, your reputation, your professional niche—it is heartbreaking to watch it slip through your fingers because you made another beautiful choice—to have children, to become a mother.

We all deal with it differently. I left the traditional workforce when I had a good opportunity to start my own freelancing business, knowing my current occupation just was not compatible with family life. The vast majority of my coworkers (men and women) were either single, like myself, or married with no children or with grown children. The job was all-consuming and, while extremely rewarding, required one to make work the first priority. And so, when I realized that I might be starting a family in the near future, I stepped away as gracefully as possible. Do I miss it? Yes, terribly sometimes. But when I calculate the personal toll of returning to this line of work, I decide to stay put and work on my own businesses until I see something that feels right for all of us.

Other mom friends go back at two to three months after having their babies. They struggle mightily with this. They endure their coworkers’ sideway glances when they leave at 5:00 on the dot to pick up their little ones from daycare, or close their ears to gossip about their extra breaks to pump milk. They are passed over for deserved promotions because they are seen as less committed for taking care of their families. Some friends have changed to jobs that have fewer rewards but greater flexibility to try and find the middle ground. All of us career-women-turned-moms fear our years of hard work, education, and skill building will be lost if we take too much of a break—that we’ll lose our worth.

And that is nothing more than a lie.

Our worth cannot be found in what we are to other people: a worker, a professional, a caretaker, a provider. Our worth is in who we are: loving and compassionate; caring and committed. At home or at the office, know your worth. It is far more than you can imagine.

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Discipline

It’s only through discipline that things become truly fun and enjoyable. But first comes the work. Learning-Grace.com

Discipline. It’s not a fun word. In fact, discipline is not fun at all. But it is the key to a lot of life’s rewards. To be truly good at anything, it requires discipline: disciplined eating, disciplined exercise, disciplined learning, disciplined practice. It’s only through discipline that things become truly fun and enjoyable. But first comes the work.

This is why discipline is my word for 2016. There are so many things that I want to accomplish, but haven’t for lack of discipline. I’m kicking it off with disciplined eating. I’m currently on day 20 of the Whole30. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a 30-day eating plan to change your relationship with food—no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no alcohol, no sugar (even honey or maple syrup), and here’s the kicker: no snacking. And, I need to change my relationship with food. I love it a bit too much and I treat myself way too often. I’m so thankful that Ken decided to do this with me, for the most part. It’s helped a ton to have some extra support. And we’re reaping great rewards for our discipline. As we near the end of our 30 days, we’re thinking of what parts of this do we want to keep and what parts do we want to change.

In February, I’m going to work to keep the healthy eating going while adding getting up at least 30 minutes earlier (and going to bed earlier, too!) to my list. I need some time to pull myself together before the kids wake up. This is also when my creative brain is at its best, and when I do this I have a much more productive day. So, I need to make this a habit. March will be exercise. I don’t know what April will bring. This is as far as I’ve gotten.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I’m all for reflection. And as I barely survived the marathon that is December and thought about what needs to change so I can begin accomplishing all that unfinished business that I feel like is out there, I realized that my biggest stumbling block is discipline. I can excuse myself out of almost anything and it’s time for me to get it together and start making some changes. So, now that I’ve told you, you can hold me to it.

Discipline. It feels like a drag, but I know it’s going to open a door to some incredible freedom.

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