Three tips for getting clarity in your career when life gets murky after children
Becoming a working mom can sometimes feel overwhelming. Jennifer Hargreaves, an entrepreneurial mom who is the Founder and CEO of tellent — an online community and resource for professional women to pursue flexible work opportunities — offers three tips to get clarity in the chaos.
By Jennifer Hargreaves
No one can prepare you for becoming a working mother, or a mother for that matter. Even if you have done the research, made a plan and feel certain that you will know exactly how work, life, and motherhood will play out.
Adjusting to new priories, shifting values and personal identity can be exhausting and confusing. Some of us can pivot easily and adapt quickly; seeing clearly and stepping boldly into the next step, the next role, the next challenge in our lives. For the rest of us, we can lose the me somewhere along the way, becoming so intertwined with our children, our work, and our partners that there is no me left. This impacts our energy levels, our career choices and growth, and our personal happiness.
How many of us have craved time alone, to feel like ourselves again, to think our own thoughts, feel our own feelings, and make decisions because it is what we want to do and not because it is what we should be doing?
Here are three tips to help you sort through the noise and get clear on what this next stage of your career and life can look like.
1. Start. Right now. Seriously. Get a new journal and commit to getting clear.
What excuse just popped up in your head? It is so easy to come up with a rationale — not only to avoid starting a task, but also to justify why we can’t have what it is that we really want and deserve. Our excuses are born out of fear and our own self-limiting beliefs and lead to procrastination and inertia.
I want you to challenge your excuses to get different results. Here are two simple exercises to combat procrastination and get you moving towards setting clear goals:
Take responsibility. If you think you don’t have the time, make the time. We are brilliant human beings with infinite problem-solving potential! If your day is packed and you need five minutes, you have the ability to find it.
“Take perfection out of the equation and start showing up however you can.”
If you can’t find the time, you are choosing to prioritize other things over a task you don’t actually want to do — not because you don’t want clarity but more likely because your subconscious mind is sabotaging your actions.
Owning and recognizing your role in this process will give you a feeling of more control. Tell yourself, I can do this if I want to do this.
Make it easy. Break tasks down into simple actions. Take perfection out of the equation and start showing up however you can. For example, get out your journal and a pen and sit down. You have to establish this habit before you can improve it. Sit down enough times with your pen and journal and you’ll start writing.
2. Identify what you want, not what you believe you can have.
This is way easier said than done for all of the reasons listed above. What we want can feel like it comes with conditions. We can have whatever we want in the world — keeping in mind that we also have to pay the bills, look after the kids, are approaching 40, don’t have any experience, have the wrong experience… But what if we ditched the circumstance and conditions?
In order to do this exercise, you will need to relax and get quiet. Picture a baby and start by asking the question: what is this baby’s potential? What can she be, do or have? Put yourself in her shoes and ask yourself the same question. What can you do, be or have?
Watch out for the onslaught of ideas and reasons that will flood your mind on why that can’t be done or how you are going to do it. There is no growth beyond the beliefs that you hold, so for this exercise, we have to think beyond our beliefs.
Keep your journal handy and start to develop a vision of your future self — one with infinite potential. Think about:
- where she lives – describe her house, the décor, who lives there.
- what she looks like – visualize how she looks and her demeanour now that she has succeeded in meeting all of her goals.
- what she does – describe the kind of work she does, who she spends her free time with, what gives her the most satisfaction and joy.
Find some time every day for the next seven days to connect with and visualize your future self. Close your eyes and imagine what it is like to live that life like it is happening right now. Create a list of all of your wants. Include your personal and professional wants. Remember that time, cost, education or responsibilities have no role to play in this exercise.
3. Ask an expert. (You).
Find a mentor. Not just any mentor — your internal mentor. Success looks different for all of us. External mentors play an important role in our professional development, but they cannot tell you how to get to your customized future state. The one that holds your individual hopes, dreams and values.
The best person to be able to guide you to that future is you. In amongst the pressures to work, not work, breastfeed, home school, do it all, do nothing… ask your future self for clarity on what needs to happen now to become her in 20 years?
Throughout the process, it’s also important to remind yourself that you are not alone. A lack of clarity on career and life direction after having children is the number one challenge that the over 3,000 professional women in our tellent community face.
“The best person to be able to guide you to that future is you. In amongst the pressures to work, not work, breastfeed, home school, do it all, do nothing… ask your future self for clarity on what needs to happen now to become her in 20 years?”
We field so many mixed messages about what we should be, do, or have as women, and especially as mothers, that it is easy to forget who we are and what we really want. These messages start when we are young and are often compounded by institutionalized workplace bias at mid-career levels. There is no doubt that work needs to work better for women, but we cannot wait for organizations to change for us as individuals. Start today in clarifying your goals with this exercise and start building the future career and life that you really want.
Jennifer Hargreaves is the Founder of tellent, and a champion and advocate for women in the workplace. In 2015, she set out to change the way that work works for women. The tellent community has grown to over 3,000 women in the greater Toronto Hamilton area. What started as an idea to provide access to flexible job listings has grown into a movement, creating more opportunities for full and equal participation of women in the economy.