Pitfalls to Avoid on the Road Back to Work

The road back to work for many of us can feel like entering the enchanted forest from the Wizard of Oz or the Fire Swamp for all you Princess Bride fans; scary, unknown and full of pitfalls. There are numerous places to get stuck along the path to purposeful work and I am happy to share a few that I have navigated.

Here are a few pitfalls to avoid:

 “I’m not sure what I want to do.” 

Many mothers have spent so much time serving others that theydo not know what they really want anymore. If you are unclear about what your purposeful work is, think about what inspires you. Feel free to dream outside the lines here.  What did you like to do as a child? How do you love to show up for people? Focus on what is important to you and activities that ignite your passion.

“I don’t know what I’m really good at.”  

This can be a tough one at first, but it is actually pretty easy to solve.  Ironically, it can help to begin by making a list of what you are NOT good at, what you do not like to do, what is going wrong in your life right now. Once you start to list the things that you don’t like, the things you like and are good at will begin to appear.  It is also easy to ask your friends and family.  They have seen you in a variety of situations and can point out where you shine.

What I like to do doesn’t fit into the current job market.”  

In order to be successful with your work, you will need a structure that fits your lifestyle.  If you look outward for this structure and try to fit your needs into it, you will not succeed.  You must instead create a structure that supports your work while being honest about your needs.  For example, if family time is important, tell your employer that you need flexibility to work from home. If you would like to be able to show up for school events, choose a short commute or flexible hours.  If you work for yourself or on contract and crave the stimulation of the office environment, look into working in a co working space a few days a week. I have found collaboration, confidence, networking and resources working in my beautiful co-working space The Hivery, an idea + inspiration lab.

 “I can do it all by myself.”  

As modern women, the notion that we can do it all is very tempting. We can have our careers, travel and enjoy cultural opportunities, and raise healthy, confident and socially responsible children.  However, doing all of this without the support of an extended family or community is a recipe for burnout. Chasing the delusion that we have to do it on our own may be creating widespread unhappiness among mothers in the workforce. In a recent article in the Atlantic magazine entitled, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” Anne- Marie Slaughter shares that women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, self-employed or well off. She chronicles her own struggles to balance her family life while working in a high profile job at the State Department. Ultimately, she left her job to return to her family after realizing her own limitations. This article has created waves of debate and touched on many issues that I grapple with. How can we create a strong family, ensure good health and have purposeful work in our current economy?

As Slaughter suggests, we may not be able to have it all at once, but I feel that with clear priorities and the right resources we can achieve great things. Knowing what you value and having a clear strategy to achieve your goals is paramount to reentering the workforce on you terms. Having a great partner or community is another necessary part of creating balance for a working mother. I hope that reading this article fuels your passion and reminds you to check in with yourself often.  And as it is often said, when you work for your fulfillment, the money will follow.

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