Following the birth of my beautiful daughter 16 months ago, my life has transformed. I am now working for myself, busy building a coaching and consulting practice.
Instead of trying to please my boss or play office politics, I play peak-a-boo and “tickly monster”. Most of my single or childless friends no longer call me and I spend my free time hanging out with other wonderful (but tired) parents and their children (many of these friendships facilitated by MiV!). Instead of getting excited about the next Ralph Lauren sale, I get excited when my daughter says a new word or advances with her walking.
To many of you reading this blog, this is nothing new. I’m sure you have experienced a similar version of events.
For many women, including myself, juggling self, children, work and career as well as our husband/partner’s needs, can often feel overwhelming. Whether you are considering returning to work or have got “back on the saddle” and are trying to advance in your career, navigating your career around children is much harder than ever. Organisations expect employees to work harder and longer hours and if you are in an executive or senior management role, a high amount of travel is often expected – especially if you have a regional remit. Working mothers, have to manage these expectations as well as what is expected of them as a wife and mother.
As I slowly make advances in this area for myself, I am discovering there is no right or wrong way to do it – but – what HAS made a huge difference for me is deciding on my priorities and defining what career success looks like. This is what I have learnt so far about these elements and how I have applied them in my own career.
My priorities follow this sequence: 1) Family, 2) Self, 3) Career
Even though I am the main earner for the household, working hard to make my new business a success – I do not put my career or income first. Some of you may be asking why I place myself second. Well, this is still work in progress and at least it is in the top 3. As I see it, family is an important value of mine and by honouring this, I become fulfilled and happy. My husband would argue that I do not sacrifice my whole self to this priority, but it works for me.
I am committed to making my business and career work for me and my family – not the other way around. Many potential clients would love for me to be offering evening or weekend hours to meet their needs but I make it known from the outset that family comes first and politely explain I cannot provide coaching out of hours.
Prioritising on what is important will not prevent you from advancing in your career, it may slow it down a little, but many famous working mothers have advanced whilst honouring their priorities, including Michelle Obama.
Defining Career Success
What does career success look like for you? Is it earning a six-figure salary or making it to Executive level before you are 40? Or is it making it home for your children’s bedtime or that yoga class with your best friend?
My own personal definition was to have a job that I enjoyed and looked forward to, where my earnings would meet our modest needs and that I would have time for myself and family. This is why I chose to go down the path I am on. In December 2012 – I had the choice of becoming a Director of Recruitment EMEA for a well known engineering corporation or setting up VIVA Coaching & Consulting. I knew the latter would give me the career success I wanted. Don’t get me wrong; there are days where I am working until 9pm and times when my husband complains that we don’t have enough time together. This is work in progress but my definition of success helps steer the direction my business goes, the pace in which it grows and what I choose to take on.
There are times when we feel like choice has been taken away from us and that we are a victim of circumstance. My response to this is that we always have a choice and it takes fierce courage and trust in ourselves to do the right thing. After all, as mothers and parents, we are constantly influencing and inspiring the next generation of parents. Who will they choose to be and why?
Guest blogger, Natalie, MiV member, mother, Leadership and Career Coach, owns and runs VIVA Coaching & Consulting, and supports MBA Graduates and professionals to realise their career aspirations, navigate transitions and manage their career with confidence.