Many people believe that once you have kids, your personal life is over. They believe you can’t travel anymore, can’t have date nights, can’t pursue your education.
So it’s understandable when people — especially women — believe that after having a child or when their family grows, that their career, at least as they were planning it, is over. In fact, women are culturally conditioned that once they have a family, it’s mainly their responsibility to take care of that family. To “cook and clean” and do most of the unpaid work at home, and although none of that is bad, it’s not nearly close to all you’re able to accomplish as a woman if you have ambitions to do more. However, if you choose to slow down your career when you have kids and you’re happy with that; then that’s all that really matters. There is no one-size-fits-all — the most important thing is that you’re happy with your life.
Top life and career coach at The Future Is Greater, Maxine Nwaneri has written about this topic extensively, and helps ambitious women of all walks of life dive into how they can have the best of both worlds if they wish. She also shares why having a thriving family can actually support you in achieving greater success in your career than before.
Family Obligations Don’t Have to Overwhelm You.
As a career woman, it can be easy to drown yourself in work — if you have a week in front of you, you might fill it up with work, right? This phenomenon is known as Parkinson’s Law. The way this law works is that “the amount of work required adjusts (usually increasing) to the time available for its completion.” The term was first coined by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in a humorous essay he wrote for the Economist in 1955 (here’s the original article).
This means that the longer time you have to complete something, the longer you’ll take to actually complete it. So if you give yourself two hours to finish administrative work, you’ll most likely take up all the time that you’ve allotted. However, if you only give yourself 30 minutes to one hour; you’ll notice that you can still get the work done in that time and a lot quicker.
So when you have a major responsibility of taking care of a child or a family, it forces you to prioritize what’s actually important and what moves the needle in your life. You’ll start to focus on the 80/20 rule and notice what makes you productive that brings in 80% of the result.
Childproof Your Career.
Managing a career and family is daunting enough — but now with many people working from home because of COVID-19, the lines between work and personal life are more blurred than ever. Studies have shown that working from home can be the flexibility that mothers are looking for to be able to better take care of their kids and do great professional work — but there are also downsides to this now widely-accepted flexibility. For example, women are more likely to try to be Mom of the Year and Star Employee at the same time — an impossible task for all involved.
“A lot of women are struggling,” Maxine says. “They think — ‘I can’t be seen by colleagues to be this person to take time off of work to spend more time with my kids. They’ll think I’m slacking off and it’ll make me look bad.’ But in the meantime, they feel guilty about letting their kids down. So they end up feeling like they’re failing everywhere.”
To remedy this lose-lose mindset, Maxine developed her Childproof Your CareerTM framework to help women continue to thrive both professionally and personally as their family grows. The framework includes the three key concepts below:
Activate Your Success Schedule.
Many women juggling work and family life have wished that there were more hours in the day, as 24 often feels nowhere near enough. As a mother of two young kids herself, Maxine can definitely relate and suggests women can remedy this by activating their success schedule.
She helps them do this by leading them to create an exciting and powerful vision for every area of their lives and then helps them shift from just “spending” time each week, to instead becoming a “deliberate investor of time” so that how you use your minutes, hours, days and weeks eventually lead you toward that vision, of the successful, fulfilling and guilt-free life you want to live both in and out of work.
Activate Your Superpowers.
Sometimes, you’ll have to make choices between going to your kids’ recital or going to a company keynote. Maxine helps women handle these necessary tradeoffs more effectively by doing what she calls “activating their superpowers.”
“When women do this, which includes things like accessing their intuition, and being aware of and leveraging their cognitive and conative strengths, they are able to overcome things like Mom Guilt,” she says.
When your intuition is activated, you have clarity about where you need to be, making it less difficult, because you’ll know you made the right decision that’s aligned with your purpose. You might feel that there are so many demands pulling and that you feel you have to be everywhere. But the reality is, you don’t need to be everywhere because your intuition knows where you need to be. Being clear on your purpose and feeling clarity throughout your actions will lead to you being more focused, confident, and present in your life.
Activate Your Personal Board of Directors.
Activating your personal board of directors is all about “hiring and firing” people in your personal and professional networks so you are surrounded by people who will help you succeed and not feel like you have to do everything yourself. And it’s okay to tweak your support network. When you bring kids into the mix with your family, naturally you’ll have people who help you throughout this time and others who won’t.
“To get more efficient with the 80/20 rule, have a clear vision of where you want your life to go,” Maxine says. “And if you find there are people around you who literally drain your energy and your time — time that you need to fulfill your vision — then they need to go.”
Maxine recommends hiring people who can help you “collapse the timeline of the things you want to achieve.” She worked with one younger woman of color who was a newly hired leader and wanted to go even higher in the organization but was struggling with how to do that. Maxine’s advice to her was to find an older white gentleman who was on the board of her company to tell her how to get on the leadership team of the company — and do it in record time.
“She wished there was a female role model to reach out to — but there simply wasn’t one in this company,” Maxine says. “She was so terrified of this — ‘How can I even ask him? What do we even have in common to talk about?’ And I said no, you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone. And she did that. And lo and behold, she was given a leadership position in the organization — because this move collapsed the timeline for her.”
Parenting: Your Career’s New Beginning
To Maxine, a family can help you create more purpose in your life. And by applying her concepts outlined in this article, a family can also help anyone thrive in their careers. Raising children can strengthen everything you do — as long as you know how to make that happen. Activating your superpower intuition and making the right choices in hiring and firing your personal board of directors will move the needle into a fantastic professional future.
“Life will never be the same as it was prior to becoming a mom,” Maxine says. “Embrace that, and take the right steps to make it better.”