When You Feel Like You Can’t Win As A Mom AND In Your Career At The Same Time – Part 1

After my first son was born, I initially went back to my job on a part-time basis.  This worked very well at first, until my biggest case got busy and I started working much longer hours.  I remember feeling like I couldn’t be a good mom to my son and do as well at work as I would like.

And I know that I wasn’t alone.  Nearly every working mom that I know has felt the same way at some point.  

Understand Your Mama Brain

Adult human brains are exceptionally good at finding problems.  Problems at work, in the world, and in our own lives.  But when you become a mom, your brain gets structurally rewired and becomes even better at spotting potential threats.

These changes are great at helping us form strong attachments to our children and keeping them alive in potentially dangerous situations.  But it can make parenting in our modern world while maintaining a career even more challenging.

Couple that with societal pressure to achieve perfection, as well as the tremendous demands of raising young children and having a busy career, and you have all of the ingredients for a perfect storm.

To make matters worse, nobody teaches us how to manage our anxiety-prone mama brains, so we find ourselves living on an emotional roller coaster much of the time.  Mind management is required if you want to be productive, feel happy, and thrive as a working mom. Here’s the first step to doing that.

Look At What You’re Telling Yourself

The feelings of guilt and inadequacy that I experienced as a new mom didn’t just happen to me, and they don’t just happen to you either.  They are created by the thoughts that we tell ourselves every day.  We often repeat some thoughts so much that we’ve accepted them as true, as beliefs.  Often our subconscious thoughts and beliefs are dictating how we feel and what we do in ways that we don’t realize.  

For example, if your mother stayed home with you when you were a child, you may have the subconscious belief that “mothers should stay home with their children.”  If you are working despite having this belief, you might find yourself feeling guilt-ridden every time you leave for work.  It’s not because you work that you feel guilty, it’s because you’re thinking that you should be home with your children.  Another mother without that thought can go to work and not experience a scintilla of guilt.  

Likewise, if you’re telling yourself “I can’t do everything I need to do for work because I have to take care of my kids,” that thought is also likely to create the feeling of anxiety, guilt, or inadequacy at work. 

But these feelings of guilt and inadequacy do not invite us to become our best selves.  To the contrary, they usually drive us to overcompensate, burn the candle at both ends, lose sleep, and waste a lot of time spinning in negative self-talk, rather than taking productive action. 

When you do that, you’re not showing up as the best version of yourself at work or with your kids, and you become mentally and physically exhausted, on the verge of burning out. It’s really hard to do your best work when you’re operating at this level and you’re likely to be unhappy with your results, both as a professional and as a mom.

The truth is that the negative thoughts that cause us to feel this way are 100% optional. And since they cause us to create negative results in our lives, there is really no good reason to continue to think them.

You Get To Decide How You Want To Feel

The fact is that you have 24 hours in the day and you’re a professional and a mother.  

How do you want to feel about that fact?  Maybe you just want to feel adequate at both your job and being a mom.  

Here are some thoughts that can help create the feeling of adequacy:  

  • I can’t do everything (because I’m human) but I can do what is most important at home and at work. 
  • I’m figuring out how to balance motherhood and my career, and that’s okay.  
  • Working for income is an important part of taking care of my family.  
  • There are times when I cannot work because I choose to tend to my family, and that’s okay. 
  • There are times when I cannot be at home because I choose to tend to my work, and that’s okay. 

Thoughts like these are likely to be very different from what you’re currently telling yourself. You have to believe them in order to feel better, so if you don’t believe any of these, write down thoughts that you can believe that are more neutral than what you’re currently telling yourself.

Begin to practice these new thoughts daily by consciously directing your mind to them. Your old thoughts will be competing with these new thoughts and they’ll be easier to believe at first because you’ve been practicing them for so long. But how you feel is the direct result of how much airtime you decide to give the old thoughts versus the new ones. And feeling better is the first step toward creating better results.

Now that I’ve learned to apply mind management to my own life, my dominant thought about being a mom with a career is this:  I am a better mom because I have a career that I love. My career energizes me. It gives me time and space to make a contribution. After a good day’s work, I relish the time I spend with my children. This thought serves me so much better than the thoughts I had as a new mom. It makes me feel calm, peaceful, and motivated. And it’s available 24/7 to anyone who wants to borrow it.

How do you want to feel about being a mom with a career?

Go forth, grow, and bloom.



P.S. Because this is such a big issue for so many moms and there is so much to cover, this post is divided into two parts. See Part 2 for more tools to help you manage your mama brain.

What Is Your Life Purpose?

Many people spend more time and energy planning their next vacation than they spend thinking about what they want for their lives.  But when the vacation is over, you still have to go back to your life.  It’s worth taking a long, hard look at what you love about your life and career, and what you want to change, so that after your next amazing vacation, you can’t wait to get back to your life. 

Life design involves many different components, including defining your core values, your current priorities, and your goals.  And it’s not just what you want to do, but also who you want to be and how you want to show up in the world.

Life design also includes defining your life’s purpose, preferably in single sentence.  This is not because having a purpose will make you any more worthy or valuable as a human.  You are already 100% worthy just because you’re human.

The reason I recommend defining your purpose is so that, going forward, you can be purposeful in living your life in a way that is more enjoyable and meaningful to you.  If you bring intention to what you want your life to be about and then you go about living that out, it will change your experience. 

You Get To Decide

There is no right or wrong purpose for your life.  No one else’s life purpose is more valuable than another’s.  We adore the Mother Teresas of the world because of their selflessness and impact on others, but not all of us would be happy doing that kind of work, nor would we be as good at it.

Many people who want to create beauty or art worry that that purpose is not as impactful or important as the work of people who are literally saving lives, fighting injustice, or ending poverty.  But just imagine a world without human-created beauty:  no music, no art, no movies, no performances, no beautiful architecture, no poetry, no pictures, no stories.  It would be crushing to our souls.  The people who are on the front lines need the beauty that others create.

Others just want their purpose to be taking care of their own families and they worry that that purpose is too small.  But size and recognition do not equal purpose.  You can have a fiercely purposeful and meaningful life by focusing on your own family.  The main thing is to be intentional about defining your purpose and then living it out every day.

This needs to come from you, your heart, and your internal desires.  Not what you think you should do.  Not what you think others will view as important.

Write It Down

If you knew and accepted that you are already 100% worthy and complete as a person, what would you decide to do with your time?

What delights you?  What makes your heart open up?

Write it down.  I want to ____________.  Or: I want my life to be about ______________.

When You Define It, You Begin To Live It

Because you’ve defined your purpose for yourself, you will start living in a purposeful way.  Maybe your everyday life doesn’t change much on the outside, but you will notice an internal shift.

For example, if your life’s purpose is to be a loving mom, then you don’t have to change your external circumstances.  You can just be intentionally more present and loving when you’re with your kids.  You get to be more purposeful in how you show up as a mom.

On the other hand, maybe you find that it’s time to make some changes in your life to facilitate living out your purpose.  Having a clearly written statement of purpose will be your North Star as you make changes.

But even before you make any changes, I encourage you to live out your life purpose in who you are, no matter what your current circumstances are.  Write your life purpose on post-it notes around your house, at your desk, and in your wallet.  Remember it when you wake up in the morning and reflect on how you lived it out when you go to sleep at night.

You may find that you want to re-define your purpose later down the line.  That’s completely fine.  It just means that you are following your heart as you go and being thoughtful about how you want to live.

And when you’re thoughtful about how you want to live and you design your life with intention, you will find that you have more of what you want, more of what you love, and more of what matters to you.  It will not be perfect because, after all, it’s still a human life.  But it will be a life that you’ll love to return to after your next vacation.

Go forth, grow, and bloom.



Choosing Your Priorities

What Are Your Priorities? 

Most of us make our big career decisions when we’re in our late teens or early twenties.  By the time we get to our thirties and forties, our lives look very different and our priorities have often shifted dramatically.  But we don’t usually take the time to consciously choose our current priorities for our lives and careers, which can lead to living out of alignment with what we truly want.

Focus on Five

I ask clients in my coaching program to think about their top five priorities and to make two lists: (1) their current priorities in terms of how they actually spend their time, and (2) their ideal priorities, or how they would like to be living.

When you constrain to just five things, you get a clear sense of what’s important to you and what’s not.  And when you have a written list of priorities, you can use it as a guide to help you make decisions about what to do and decline to do.  Because I work with professional working moms, their current lists usually look something like this:

  1. Kids
  2. Job
  3. Relationship/marriage
  4. Involvement in kids’ school or extracurricular activities
  5. Extended family or friends

What do your lists look like?

Put Yourself on The List

I have yet to have a client tell me that her own mental and physical health is a current top priority.  Yet, without that, it’s hard to tend to the other priorities.  Many women have the belief that putting themselves on the priority list is impossible because they just don’t have time.  But if you’re depleted—mentally, physically or both—it’s highly unlikely that you’re showing up as your best, most productive self to your family, job, friends, and other priorities.  When you realize that your own mental and physical health is what fuels your ability to take care of others, you understand that it’s not optional—it’s everything.

Putting yourself on the priority list does not mean that you have to require a huge time commitment.  For some, it would only require 30 minutes a few times a week for exercise and an extra hour or two on Sunday to plan and shop for healthy meals.  For others, it would require a few more hours to dedicate to a goal, such as finding a new job or working on a manuscript.

If your health and wellbeing are not included on the list, ask yourself why.  Write down the reasons you’re not currently making yourself a priority.  Chances are, you have the thought “I don’t have enough time.”  Although this may sound like a fact to you, it’s actually a thought.  You may have a job, a family, and other obligations.  But the thought that you don’t have time to make yourself a priority is completely optional and it’s also counter-productive.

When you think “I don’t have enough time,” you likely feel some sort of negative emotion such as stress, which probably causes you to spin in your head and have mini freak-outs when you could be using that time to do something productive.  Your inaction results in your not getting everything done, which provides further evidence for the original thought “I don’t have enough time.”

How to Create More Time For Your Priorities

If you want to change your results, you’ve got to start with your thinking.  If you tell yourself you don’t have time, you won’t have time.

To create more time, start with recognizing that you do have a choice in how you are currently allocating your time.  You may be choosing to work at a job is requiring a certain number of hours or choosing to spend time taking care of your children.  Recognizing that it’s a choice is the first step to taking your power back.  Instead of telling yourself that you have to go to work, say instead that you’re choosing to work.  You want to work because of the benefits it provides.  (You may ultimately choose to find a different job or career, but unless someone is holding a gun to your head and saying “work!”, working at your current job is still your choice.)

Second, test the thought that you don’t have time against reality by keeping a time journal for a day (or a week) of every waking hour, so that you can see how you are actually using your time.  Often people are shocked to learn that the story they’re telling themselves about lack of time does not match up with reality.

Third, commit to choosing to live in alignment with your true priorities.  This will require thinking different thoughts than you’ve been thinking.  Instead of thinking “I don’t have enough time,” practice thinking “I am committed to figuring out ways to focus on my top priorities.”  And then brainstorm ways you can fit in some pockets of time by asking yourself questions like:  What are ways that I can choose to spend my time differently than I currently am?  What are the ways I can find more time for what matters most to me.

When you start to make yourself a priority, you will show up in a much more positive way to the other areas on the list because you’ll be coming from a place of abundance and health.  If you need help figuring out how to do that, contact me for a free strategy session.  I guarantee there is a way!

Go forth and bloom.



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