Can working moms really be happy?
The days when most moms stayed home to take care of the domestic needs of the family are over. The growing number of women starting their own businesses or choosing to work (due to desire or out of necessity) has created a US work force that is half women -- and most of these women are juggling kids and a job. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008, more than 70 percent of women with children under the age 18 were working. But are they happy? Or perhaps a better question: Can working moms be happy?
Working moms are masters of multitasking
Women, by nature, are adept at managing the many aspects of family life and other responsibilities, such as work deadlines. That doesn't mean, however, they prefer such a jam-packed agenda. Recent research indicates that 60 percent of working moms would rather work part-time, and 40 percent report that they always feel rushed.
With the recession hacking jobs right and left -- and most layoffs happening to men -- women may not have a choice other than to work and support the family. Yet, despite necessity or the daily struggles with time management, it really is possible for women to be employed or self-employed and be content. Professional executive and personal coach Cathy L Greenberg, PhD, co-author of New York Times bestseller What Happy Working Moms Know and former partner in two of the world's largest consulting firms, says working women not only can be happy, they should be.
Working women should be happy
SheKnows: What was the inspiration for your book What Happy Working Moms Know?
Greenberg: Having written What Happy Companies Know and What Happy Women Know, I was interested in doing a book on the science of happiness for mothers (at home and at work). After a lifetime of experiences -- and a friendship with Barrett Avigdor, co-author of the book, and a more traditional mother -- together we wanted to create a "self coaching" tool for all those women who could never afford the cost of a life coach. We are delighted it has been so well received.
Happiness is a matter of health
SheKnows: Before we talk about how working women can find happiness, can you share the importance of happiness as it relates to a woman's overall health?
Greenberg: Happiness is a health issue -- not a luxury -- as many would have us believe. We need to manage our happiness the way we manage our health, maybe even more so. When we are happy we are more resilient and our energy elevates us and those around us. We can even float on our happiness for days after a great experience like an athlete after a winning race or an award winning sports event. When we are happy we generate thousands of biological hormones that flood our bodies and our minds with energizing and powerful healing energy through the autonomic nervous system. It has also been proven that happiness and a positive outlook can help us heal better and faster and ward off a cold or flu. So the connection is clear: When we are happy we have a better chance of being healthy.
Make time to be happy
SheKnows: Your book has many suggestions for working moms and women in general to achieve happiness, but what are your time management suggestions for women who may feel too overwhelmed to fit in one more thing into their day -- even if it does lead to their happiness?
Greenberg: First, schedule YOU into your schedule, weekly and even daily, just as you would another "important" person in your life at home or at work. Every day is an opportunity for you to make choices, so try to influence those choices as much as possible. Even when you think you can't fit another thing in your day, really be mindful and see what is "absolutely essential." Sometimes we keep doing the same things over and over and wonder why we're not happy -- take a hard look and find those things in your day you really enjoy - and do more of those things - and start to weed out the activities that have become too routine with little return or value or have become time wasters. When you truly make an effort to seek opportunity for you, you will find it.
Focus on the positive every day
SheKnows: What is the most important thing a woman can do every single day that will move her one step closer to happiness?
Greenberg: Make your choices, and no matter what those choices are, take pride in the accomplishments -- the small things -- and then celebrate. Always remember if you take any detours there's always an opportunity to learn. What we focus on becomes our reality! It's too easy to see what's not working! Instead, focus on the positive.
Rejoice in the small things
SheKnows: How can women change their work environment or attitude to welcome
happiness into their lives?
Greenberg: Happiness is an inside job, according to my friend Lisa Hayman at the What is Your Happiness project. We believe this with all our hearts. Try to look at your life in the present and find one small thing you can be proud of right now, today. Even if you have no time or support, what can you feel truly good about at this moment? If you are truly a happy woman, you will begin to see even the smile of your child or the voice of a loved one is enough to make you grateful for the small things in life. If you take the time to focus on one positive and you link the small happy moments together they can create a happy moment, a happy memory or happy experience you did not expect. Sometimes if we expect to be happy as a result of something we wanted and we aren't because a less than positive experience. Try to be honest, was your experience not in sync with your expectations.
SheKnows: What recommendations do you have for women who utterly hate their jobs but feel locked in because they are paid well and have a family to consider?
Greenberg: All of us have to make our way, for one reason or another, for money, for our children, for ourselves. It's what we choose to focus on that makes us happy or unhappy. Take the high road -- even if you hate your current position -- and look hard and look inward.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Will this last forever?
- Is this a stepping stone to a new role, a new way of life, a step in the right direction?
- Is this a better option for my children or my family?
- How did I get here?
- Can I find one positive lesson in the experience to date?
- What can I truly influence about what I'm doing?
- How can you make the best possible choices when the opportunity presents itself?
- What are you prepared to do differently?
- Do you understand your strengths and how will you look for opportunities to apply them in your next role?
Our lives are fluid. We have the choice to be happy where we are. It's a choice we make every day.
What Happy Working Mothers Know
Together, Greenberg and co-author Barrett S Avigdor, JD, an international lawyer and certified career coach, wrote What Happy Working Mothers Know to show working moms that happiness is more than just a state of being that "other women" experience. Science and sociology have made great strides in understanding what makes people happy and how to actually achieve it. Greenberg and Avigdor not only lay out the research on the relationship between positive thinking and happiness, but also the practical strategies that working moms can employ to realize true contentment. No matter the job you have or the reasons you work, you deserve happiness and embracing it will help you be your best at everything you do -- at work and at home.
For more information and a schedule of upcoming webinars, visit www.WhatHappyWorkingMothersKnow.com.