Life is full of tough choices for working moms, and balancing work and family is far more than a numbers game. In this issue of Working Mom 3.0, writer Stephanie Taylor Christensen explores how working moms can write their own fairy tale to identify the career and family life they want.
I recently had dinner with a friend who is expecting her first baby. She loves her job in fashion, but it’s demanding and stressful. She’s well-compensated, and her husband is willing and able to care for the baby at home while she works. But she’s getting her first taste of a classic working-mom career crossroad. She could “downsize” her role at work or go to a lower-profile employer who would likely offer her less money, but more flexibility. But her career is important and provides her a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and challenge.
Of course, there is also the undeniable importance of being there as a mom and wife to experience as many irreplaceable and unquantifiable moments as possible. How does a working mom know which path to take when faced with this common conundrum?
When I was a full-time working mom grappling with the decision to pursue a flexible career, almost all of my research turned up the same conclusion: Look at your budget, decide what your family can afford and go from there. Finances are certainly important, and every family has a “baseline” that they need to meet in order to maintain the lifestyle they want.
But that advice leaves out a very important piece of the puzzle: What career move will benefit you and your family — financially and emotionally?
Write your success story
When you find yourself at a career crossroads, forced to choose between the “fast track” or taking a step back to the “mommy track,” there is no magic formula to create your best life. There is, however, a way to gain some insight into what may be best for you and your family, and it starts with writing your own “happiness memoir” — before it happens. Renowned marketer and author Seth Godin says that “we repeatedly underestimate how important a story is to help us make sense of the world.” The axiom applies both to business decisions and to the life and career crossroads of a working mom.
Make sense of your own options by writing the future story of the life you want. Leave judgment and logic at the door — just write your fantasy. It doesn’t need to be grammatically correct, or even make much sense. But it can help to tap into what it is that you truly value in life, once you temporarily cast off the heavy cloak you wear as a “responsible parent.” With the information your fantasy story uncovers, you can develop actionable goals that will bring your fairy tale to life — and stop wasting time and energy on the choices that won’t contribute to your desired big picture.