Working Mom: Why you deserve to be happy and questions to ask yourself if you’re not

In my last post, Can working moms really have it all, I said I would write some posts about how working moms can plan and create their ideal work/life balance.  However, I think there’s one question that many moms need to ask themselves first: do I really deserve to be happy?  Of course, the answer is YES.  It seems so obvious, yet after having children, we become accustomed to putting their needs first.  Sometimes, we feel that we can’t put their needs first because we must earn an income to support them.  Either way, our own happiness can get put on the back burner.

When I was contemplating leaving my teaching position last year, thinking about my own happiness made me feel guilty.  I was surrounded by other teachers who were experiencing the same situation I was, and still managed to stay positive and enthusiastic.  What was my problem? I wondered.  Why couldn’t I just put on a happy face and plug through, for the sake of my steady income, for the sake of my students?  Thinking about leaving to make myself happier only made me feel selfish.

Finally I came to realize that not only did I deserve to be happy, but that my happiness would benefit my whole family.  As the saying goes,

If Mama Ain't Happy Ain't Nobody Happy
In my constant state of stress and unhappiness, I had less patience for my children.  My discontent was affecting everyone in the family.  Though I still miss my students, I know every day that I made the right decision, not only because I’m happier, but my whole family is happier.
So what if you are unhappy in your current work situation?  Is it always necessary to quit your job and work from home?  Absolutely not.  Career coaches often suggest that clients look at the LEAST amount of change that would make them happy.  Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Would I be satisfied with a promotion, or even a lateral move to a new position?

Do I just need a new supervisor, or is it time to leave my job?

If it’s time to leave, do I need a new company, or a whole new career?

What is our family’s financial ability to handle risk?

Do I really want to work for  myself?

Feeling unhappy in your current situation drains your energy and makes it difficult to take care of your own needs, as well as those of your family.  On top of that, uncertainty about the future can be overwhelming.  Taking some quiet time to answer these questions is a great place to start the process of achieving your ideal work/family balance.


Can working moms really have it all?

In talking with my clients and friends, it seems there’s one wish most of us have in common:  to “have it all”.  We  want quality time with our kids, to be a real, caring, patient mother.  We also want a career – not just a job, not just to help with the family finances, but something fulfilling – a purpose.  If not our mothers, certainly our grandmothers were expected to feel that being a mother was purpose enough.  And it is.  But even my grandmothers worked outside the home when their children were older.  Womanhood, and motherhood, is fraught with changing seasons.  Sometimes we can work this to our advantage.  Because I didn’t have kids until my 30’s, I had already been Mary Tyler Moore or Ally McBeal, the independent career woman.  I chose to stay home with my kids, feeling that I’d waited a long time for this experience, and I wanted to enjoy it fully.

That decision was immensely rewarding and unexpectedly difficult.  I missed interacting with other adults.  I felt guilty that I wasn’t contributing financially.  However, I knew it was a season, and that I would go back to work as soon as my kids were in school.  I was a teacher, so I assumed this would be somewhat easier than it is for many working moms; after all, I would basically working the same hours and days that they were in school.  This worked well when I was an Instructional Coach because I didn’t have any “take home” work.  However, when we moved for my husband’s career, I landed back in the classroom, which was much harder.  I felt like I had to make an almost nightly choice between helping my kids with their homework or doing mine – lesson planning and grading.  In the end, I felt like I wasn’t doing a good job anywhere:  I was emotionally drained, all my patience used up at school and none left for the two kids dearest to me – my own.  And I felt like I was always behind at work – that I could always be working harder, doing more.  It wasn’t working.  Something needed to change.
This is the dilemma of so many working moms:  how to have a fulfilling, rewarding career, and be a fantastic (not just ok) mom to their kids.  But there are inevitable trade-offs.  Rewarding careers often require a lot of commitment.  Is it possible to “have it all”?  Maybe not in the purest sense.  There are only 24 hours in the day, and we must make choices about how we spend them.  That being said, when we stop to really examine our priorities and we’re willing to sacrifice a few things that don’t measure up, we can come very, very close.  Employers are becoming more and more open to alternative working arrangements; a couple of my close friends negotiated a job-share when their kids were little so that they could each work half-time and spend the other half at home.  More and more companies are open to telecommuting or offering more quality childcare options.  Also, many women are figuring out how to work from home.  While writing this post, I ran across an infographic stating that “96% of professional women believe having it all is attainable”.  With that kind of optimism, surely many women have figured this one out.

In the next few weeks, I’ll post some questions to ask yourself when planning your ideal work/family balance, and ideas for making it a reality.

Exciting opportunity for a free coaching session!

What’s great about coaching?  Many things, but today, it’s that you can get a free session by taking advantage of this Hot Steamboat Deal, no matter where you are!  Coaching is done via phone or Skype, so even if you’ve never heard of Steamboat Springs, this is a great way to get a fantastic deal and give coaching a try.


Key to finding your dream job: know yourself first

I know:  you’re thinking, “I know myself!”  You’re listing off your name, your job, your marital status, political affiliation, etc.  But if you don’t feel completely fulfilled in your current job, are dissatisfied with some aspect of your situation but not sure why, maybe it’s time to take a deeper look.  Often, life happens so fast that we don’t take the time to explore who we really are.  If you are confused about the future, not sure which direction to take, getting to know your authentic self is a great place to start.  Here are some ideas:

  1.  Interests:  list your hobbies, favorite activities, subjects.  If nothing comes to mind, what really grabbed your attention when you were a child?
  2. Values:  think of times you have felt successful in life.  What values were you upholding?  When something makes you angry, what values do you feel are being ignored?
  3. Heroes:  list the people you admire – they can be famous, or people you know personally.  What do they have in common?
  4. Strengths:  what do you like about yourself?  If it’s too hard to list many things, what do your friends and family say they admire about you?
  5. Skills:  what do you do really well?  What do you do that is unique, or that you do better than most others?
  6. Desires: What do you want?  What’s on your bucket list?  What do you want to be remembered for after you’re gone?
  7. Dreams:  If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
  8. Places and spaces:  Where and when are you most comfortable?  Most productive?
  9. Balance:  what is your ideal work/life balance?
  10. Put it all together:  look back at the answers you’ve given.  How can they be combined to reflect your core message – that is, what you want for yourself and to give to the world?  This is who you really are!


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How to Make a Schedule that Works and Stick to It


My post is late this week because I allowed my busy schedule to get the best of me.  Coincidentally, a couple of clients and prospective clients also mentioned the difficulty of creating and sticking to a schedule this week.  We all know how challenging maintaining a schedule can be, especially for single parents, people working multiple jobs, or going to school in the evenings.  However, for these people especially, finding a schedule that works is essential.  Creating and maintaining a workable schedule can keep you on track to achieve your goals, while allowing you to build in time for relaxation and recreation.  Here are some resources and tips I’ve found helpful.

First, it’s important to set priorities.  Scheduling is easier when you know what’s most important; you can make time for that first.  Here is a great resource for setting priorities and using time effectively:  Challenges and Choices: Time Effectiveness — Prioritizing Your Time

After you’ve made time for what’s important, work in the rest where you can.  Think about  what is most likely to succeed based on your own tendencies:  are you a morning person or a night owl?  As a morning person, I find that doing activities I tend to skip, like exercise, first thing in the morning, helps to keep me on track.  I don’t schedule much of anything after about 8pm, because I’m not very productive in the evening.  On the other hand, the struggle to get my son ready for school in the morning became much easier when I started working from home and he could sleep in a little longer.  It’s amazing what a difference a half hour can make.

Are you a procrastinator?  Finding a way to focus on your goals can help keep you on task.  I like Joe’s Goals, a free online “habit tracker” created by a “regular Joe” (sorry) who thought of a great way to hold himself accountable.  You create an account, add your goals, and then keep score of how you did over the week.  You can also journal about your activities.

Of course, there will be times when you want to be free of a schedule and just slack off for a day.  (See last week’s post.)  The beauty of a schedule is that it helps you to get tasks accomplished so you DO have down time.  When all else fails, read this Grand Pep Talk to keep you motivated to stick to your schedule and Just Do It.

How do you stick to a schedule?  Share what works for you in the comments!