If there is one phrase mothers across America are SO done with it’s “Can I have another snack?”
If there are TWO phrases mothers across America are SO done with the other one would be “having it all.”
What Does That Even Mean?
I’ve struggled with this concept since my son Jack was born. How could I “have it all” as a mother and a professional? And were those the only two things I was supposed to worry about? What about my marriage, friendships, health, and outside interests? If I managed to make many of the things work but not all of the things, would that be enough?
Yet this challenge often overshadows the underlying issue. What if we are so busy with trying to have it all, or thinking that we should have it all, or trying to do it all, that we don’t take a pause to figure out if the “all” we are striving towards is what we really want? What do you really want to be when you grow up?
Putting on My Career Hat
I’m taking us down a very self-reflective path here. That’s on purpose because I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about people I love, and nonsense I love, and cracking jokes about 90s boy bands. But there’s big part of my “all” that includes a decade of experience in the higher education industry with seven years in career and professional development at Harvard Business School. This self-reflective stuff is my professional jam, if you will. And it’s time for my parenting humor side and professional side to have a jam sesh.
Recently I was in a training at work that discussed life stages and various aspects of adult development. Throughout the training I laughed, I learned, I sobbed uncontrollably – pretty average day at work. Perhaps the biggest takeaway was reflecting on Daniel Levinson’s research on stages of adulthood – specifically the Age 30 Transition (ages 28-33) and the Settling Down Stage (ages 33-40).
Leading up to these life stages, young adults have spent a considerable amount of time exploring career paths, pursuing relationships, and making moves to build out a vision for their lives. They are discovering and goal setting and achieving like woah.
Then for many there comes a turning point.
Woah, What Just Happened?
Perhaps the turning point is marriage, having kids, or a promotion that sets you on a clear career trajectory. Things start moving. Fast! Ferris Bueller style fast. You have responsibilities with a capital R. As a result, reflection and deep evaluation of your goals take a back seat. And they sit quietly back there. They don’t need juice or toys or anything! So considerate.
Let’s focus in on parents of young kids in particular for a moment. During this stage you’re spreading yourself too thin, making everyone else in your life the top priority, vomiting in your mouth every time the daycare bill comes in, cleaning up other people’s vomit, and eating a lot of frozen pizza and microwaved vegetables.
Hard to keep your head above water let alone deeply reflect eh?
You’re doing it all. How can you be expected to evaluate your all and define your goals? Haven’t you already achieved some pretty big goals already? What more do you want from me, self!?
Defining It All Through Career & Life Criteria
I know it’s overwhelming, because (raises hand to the sky) I’ve been there.
But, I’ve also been quite fortunate because for this working/blogging mama of two, my “all” also includes being surrounded by experienced career coaches who have helped me learn to develop my career and life criteria. And to coach others to do the same.
What career and life criteria boil down to is figuring out the really important stuff that gives you energy and happiness and meets your emotional, intellectual, and financial needs. Your criteria can change over time but they are also rooted in your values so they are real and powerful and doggone crucial to how you define success. They are how you define “having it all.”
Help Me, Help You
The career and professional development work I do with MBA students, most within the 28-33 life stage, is incredibly rewarding because they are all at an inflection point in their lives. I want to do more of that work, with you.
Readers of this blog (hi guys!) are quick witted, passionate, and smart. And I’ve found from conversations that you’re eager to talk about how life intersects with work. In addition to ridiculous stories about toddlers and elliptical machines, of course. That’s not going anywhere.
This new project connecting my work and life interests is part of how I’m redefining my “all.” More on how this is all going to play out coming soon – but just know that I do think laughter, parenting, and careers really do go together. Like a peanut butter, honey, and banana sandwich, if you will.
Making You an Offer You Can’t Refuse
So did I strike a cord? Are you thinking about what your “all” really is? And how in the heck you’re going to get there? And if it’s okay for your “all” to be totally different from anyone else’s AND to change over time?
If so I’d love to send you one of my favorite career development exercises. This version of the 100 Job Exercise, adapted from Dr. Tim Butler’s book Getting Unstuck (which is an amazing read by the way) gets you thinking about your deep-seated interests and how they can translate into a rewarding life and career. Big thanks to Harvard Business Publishing for the permission to share this with you!
Ugh, seriously guys, I love this stuff so much. Thanks as always for reading. I’m really looking forward to careering with you!
With my career hat on at a jaunty angle,
Digging the career stuff? Head here for more career development posts on everything from the networking, resumes/cover letters, interview skills, and creative thinking.