When I was in my early thirties, before I met my husband, I was a bit of a mess, though a fun mess of course. I was all over the place with what I wanted to professionally. I had a regular 9-6 job, but never felt it was right to me.
Any position that made me go to the same place every day and sit in a cubicle felt horribly wrong actually. But I had bills to pay living in NYC and dates to go on. I needed to buy drinks and cute outfits, and well, you get the picture.
I met with a few career coaches to help me figure out what to do with my life. One in particular, Kristina Leonardi had a real gift. She was like the career whisperer for me, and helped me get in tune with my passion, which at the time was video producing.
Now that I’m a mom and a bit older, I feel more settled and sure. I know that I want to do work I love, that fits around my child’s schedule so I can be home. I spoke with Leonardi recently when she came to visit my little boy. He gave her a big hug right away — he must of sensed her special powers. Here is what she had to say about combining mommyhood with work you love:
What are some things moms can do if they’re home with a little one but have no idea what they want to do professionally either now or later on?
If they are able to be a stay at home mom, I think it’s paramount to be present for the child and not worry about their profession at least for the first 6-12 months. It’s temporary, not a lot of time, and that IS their job. Not only are they the caregiver for their growing child, but I think that the child is growing the mom as a person too, so it’s a very transitional cycle. The changes might make them feel like a completely different person, with different interests and priorities, or they might feel more like themselves than they ever have been. In other words, especially with infants and toddlers, moms should just observe how they feel moment to moment and pay attention to discoveries or needs they might make about themselves or the world around them.
As much as they can, they should take time to journal and observe their thoughts and feelings. For some, they will want to jump right back in to their former work. For others, they might want to do something with a lighter workload or flexible schedule closer to home. Others might want to start their own businesses. If she had a previous career that she loved, perhaps she can go back to it in a modified version, or as a consultant, part time or freelancer. This of course only applies to moms who can afford to make these choices, which I acknowledge is not everyone. So it’s about doing the best she can with the options that are available to her and her family.
Any words of encouragement for moms who love being a mom but also want to do their work they love that fits into their life?
Moms need to know themselves and honor their own desires as much as they can, because the happier and more fulfilled a mom is, the better caregiver she will be, in terms of her energy and demeanor. (Happy wife, happy life!) She will also will serve as a role model/example to her children. Of course at times there will be more emphasis on the family, but she wants to avoid totally sacrificing her sense of self, because one day the kids will not need her as much and she will have to see who she is without the role of “mother”.
I know several women who are dealing with this now as their kids go off to junior high, high school and college. As stay at home mom’s their focus was 100% on their children, but now they don’t know what to do with themselves because they haven’t cultivated their own interests or income while they were raising the kids. And that’s a more challenging place to start from.
Can you share examples of moms who are with their children, but also working their passion?
I had a client who came to me in transition when she had twin girls that were less than a year-old. One woman had transitioned out of being a corporate lawyer and wanted to do more economic development work and was feeling frantic about it. I told her to not actively look for a job for three months because the twins needed her more. She freaked out about “doing nothing” but she did listen to me. In the meantime, she did some networking, came to my group coaching sessions and worked on refining what she really wanted. At one point, the twins got sick at daycare and she had an “a-ha” moment, realizing she didn’t want to work far from her neighborhood in Harlem so she could get to them quickly. She limited her search that way and identified a new program within Columbia University that she was excited about and set her sights on it. She made it happen (she was of course qualified for it, i.e. it wasn’t a huge stretch). So she got the best of both worlds, doing work she loves and being able to take care of her twins in a way that made her comfortable.
I also know of an HR professional who worked for several Fortune 500 companies and decided when she had kids she wanted to be home to pick them up from school. So she decided to go out on her own as a career coach. Then she eventually created an outplacement consultancy of coaches and created materials for high profile publishing company. She found she enjoyed writing and the business aspects even more than coaching.
Another client was struggling early on when her son was young about how to transition her IT career. I too coached her in those early days to be OK with being a mom as that was her main job for the time being. Eventually, she created her own web design and business services company so she could have the flexibility to take care of her son as well. Now that he is school-aged, she is considering another career change to pursue her passion of working for the environment.
I love hearing about all these stories about parents carving their way into new careers that better suit their family life. So inspiring! Life is about change and digging deeper into ourselves. Parenthood gives us the perfect opportunity to re-prioritize and get closer to our dream family work/life situation. Be open to these new doors and possibilities!
If you ever need to bounce your ideas and thoughts off someone really talented, check out career coach Kristina Leonardi’s website at https://kristinaleonardi.com/ and give her a ring!