Working mum guiltHow Women Can Succeed at their Career/Business and their Family

“The whole point of being alive is to become the person you were intended to
be, to grow out of and into yourself again and again”

                 (Oprah Winfrey, 2014)

One of the biggest barriers for women aiming for success is the struggle to manage their family’s needs or their parenting values with their career or business aspirations. This is often referred to as the “work-life balance” – this is an inaccurate term in my opinion as parenting or caring responsibilities are more significant and more challenging than having a fun or lifestyle priority outside of work. Additionally, it understates the focus and commitment required to really make the two areas work effectively concurrently. It is not about “balance” – what women really have to do to make both components work is to learn to blend them.

The “lean in” mentality (shaped in 2013 by Sheryl Sandberg, the CEO of Facebook) tells only one part of the story – that women must set themselves up to love what they do so that they are willing to commit to their career. But leaning one way suggests to me that you need to lean away from something else – in this case, a woman would have to lean away from their family commitments or parenting values and towards their business or career.

It is my observation from more than fifteen years as a psychologist, that many woman are not comfortable with the choice to lean away from their family to pursue their career/business goals. Women as mums or carers, constantly deal with the guilt that comes hand in hand with these roles. For example, guilt around not being a good enough parent, or forgetting something that was important to their partner, or just not being able to do everything perfectly. In many ways, to lean in will just exacerbate that guilt and this can discourage women from trying to find success outside of the home.

To blend is broadly defined as to mix or merge different parts together so that they become combined and indistinguishable from one another.

Blending is about taking two (or more) important priorities and finding a way to mix them together so that you can successfully undertake both. Both are changed in the process of blending – they would be different if you were completing either of them on their own. But the new outcome is successful for both.

As a single parent as well as the Director of my own psychology practice, learning to blend these priorities effectively has been essential to my success (and my sanity!). I work with many women that are trying to address the same issues of finding a way to fulfill their career or business priorities while also taking care of their children or parents effectively and with love. They struggle with the feeling that they are letting their children or husband down, while also trying to demonstrate the work ethic that they feel is necessary. They report that they are uncomfortable with the choice, they feel guilty, they hate going to work, and they do not feel that they are succeeding at either role.

As a result of working with these women and applying strategies to my own life, I have identified ten critical components of successful blending that fit into three main streams:

STREAM 1: Your Thoughts

  • Believing it is possible

You need to believe with every ounce of your being, that it is possible and that you deserve…NO, you are ENTITLED to both. This choice DOES NOT make you a terrible mother NOR a poor work asset. You need to know you are doing the right thing by yourself, your workplace, and your family.

One of the reasons why blending is “right” is that you become a fantastic role model for your children – encouraging them to live the life of their dreams. You also become a role model for other women. Many will admire your determination and wish they were brave or strong enough to try the same thing. You will be an inspiration for many.

  • Know and be guided by your own values

Your values are the beliefs that guide your life, and they are different for everyone. The following are examples of values:

  • To contribute to society and make a difference in my own and other people’s lives
  • To always be honest and sincere with others
  • To find a focus on spirituality in everything I do
  • To assertively express my feelings whenever possible

If you are making choices that are not aligned with your values, then you will feel stressed or experience a kind of moral dilemma – it just won’t feel right. Identify your values, know yourself and what is important to you. This will both build your self-confidence and help to align your parenting/caring with your career/business. Each day needs to increase your motivation and determination to follow this path, and that won’t happen if it is contrary to your values.

  • Being true to yourself

The work you choose to do must allow you to be authentic, to fulfill your potential (or at least be working towards this), and it must be a choice. If you do something you hate or are dragging yourself to work each day, you will be stressed and frustrated and that won’t be right for you or your family. Your career or business pursuits must, at some level, foster the feeling that your life has meaning and purpose. You will not be committed or determined enough to make it come together unless you feel it is authentically you.

  • Welcoming failure

See everything as dynamic and transient, nothing is permanent. We often get overwhelmed when we feel stuck or that the challenges we are experiencing won’t change. This is just a thought or belief, and is not true. Change in some way is always possible. Failure is not an ending, it is a beginning of something different. It is not a label that is applied to you as a person, it describes an experience only. Failure is an important part of a quality improvement cycle and allows you to improve. Do not fear failure, welcome it, grab it with both hands and learn from it. And model this to your family and the wider community. People that succeed always describe a process of failing and trying again, then failing and trying again. The more you keep trying the more likely you will be in the right place at the right time. Adapting is an essential part of blending – learn to adapt to changing priorities, new information, failures, and feedback.

STREAM 2: Your Actions

  • Knowing it won’t be perfect and that’s okay

Do you remember what it was like when you brought your first new baby home? For most of us (bar the few who’s babies were absolute angels) the following days, weeks, maybe even years, were filled with compromise. Beliefs you used to hold true, expectations you had of yourself and others (perhaps about levels of cleanliness or how much sleep you needed for your brain to function), had to loosen up. It was about survival…and it was okay.

We can normally accept that these compromises are part of coping with such a massive change in your life like having a baby. Being able to succeed at your career and your family is just as significant and requires the same compromises. It is okay if the house is not always clean, it is alright if your son’s school shirt is not perfectly ironed, and it is fine if you are fifteen minutes late to the office more days than not. You cannot be guided by other people’s expectations of you, just as you couldn’t be back when your baby was first born. Focus on the big picture not the small details.

  • Getting outside the box

We are in a fabulous time in history where the definitions of “work” and “career” are no longer as clear-cut as they used to be. You can create the career or business that you want and that aligns itself with your family’s needs. For example: you may not work in a full-time management position, instead you might be a consultant with flexible hours; you might run your own business to get more control rather than take an employed position; or you might combine work and part-time study to facilitate a transition to work that is more aligned with your true self. You can think completely out of the square, in fact, the most successful people usually do.

  • Reducing stress in every possible way

Always look for ways to reduce your stress – make sure you spend time with your family just having fun, being together, and having adventures together. It is these things that will make the energy needed to continue to blend family and career worthwhile. Fun and stress reducing activities are not an optional extra, they are a requirement of being able to blend successfully….




This is a sample from a chapter in the book, Your Success. Available from Amazon.

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