YOU, Yes Y-O-U, Deserve To Be Happy and Wildly Successful

Kristi is a wife and mom of 3 who writes for JugglingNormal and Medium. This article first appeared here, and is republished in whole.

Photo by Ryan Moreno on Unsplash

Bestie

I had brunch with a friend, one of my besties, who’s in a tough spot. She’s worked in Corporate America her entire career, first for a Fortune 500 company, and the last five years, in more of a consultative role with a private firm. She believes in the work she does, and she’s awesome — smart, reliable, and strategic — and notoriously underpaid and undervalued.

She’s very good at her job because she’s good at almost everything.

Sidebar: Do you remember the first time someone said to you, “just because you’re good at it doesn’t mean it’s what you’re meant to do?”

But her body of work doesn’t reflect her contribution or potential. Since she’s become a mother, she has traded flexibility for promotions. Her trajectory stalled, but her responsibilities grew. Sound familiar? She stays in the role for her family.

She’s been in the industry for so long, and running her household too, that she’s lost perspective — she’s lost a little bit of herself too. She isn’t unhappy, but she isn’t happy. She doesn’t know what she wants, let alone how to make it happen. She’s treading water. And, because she’s been treading water for a very long time, she’s exhausted. I don’t want her to drown.

Photo by Sebastian Pena Lambarri on Unsplash

Fill Your Cup

It’s more common than you might think. Moms take on the heavy lifting for their families so their husband’s career can flourish, to be present for their children, and they carry the emotional burden too. Meanwhile, they take on the heavy lifting for their bosses and teams, and also carry the weight of collaboration.

But something always suffers when we give so much of ourselves without filling our cup. It’s hard to see it though, when our family is thriving. When our family is thriving, everything is good, right?

Sometimes.

Statistical Proof

Being a mom is hard, being a woman is hard, being a working mom is practically impossible.

There’s somewhere between 1 and 2 billion moms in the world, and approximately 40–85 million moms in the US. It’s a hard stat to pin down.

In 2018, 33.6 million families included children under age 18, about two-fifths of all families in the US. At least one parent worked in 90.8 percent of families with children, and among married-couple families with children, 97.4 percent had at least one employed parent, and 63.0 percent had both parents employed.

Sixty percent of mothers with children under age three worked. Sixty-five percent of mothers with children under age six worked. Seventy-six percent of mothers whose youngest child was age 6 to 17 worked.

Ninety-six percent of employed fathers and 78 percent of employed mothers work full time.

In 2017, the last year with available data, 41 percent of mothers were the sole or primary breadwinners for their families, earning at least half of their total household income, including single working mothers and married mothers who out-earn their husbands. An additional 23.2 percent of mothers are “co-breadwinners,” meaning married mothers whose wages comprise at least 25 percent of their total household earnings.

All those stats to say that when you’re thinking about women and mothers in the workforce, keep in mind that you are talking about 75,978,000 women aged 16 and over in the labor force, representing 46.9% of the total labor force in 2018. That work isn’t working for working moms is a big problem with big implications, and if solved, will undoubtedly be a big deal.

Fun Fact: Women have earned more bachelor’s degrees than men since 1982, more master’s degrees than men since 1987, and more doctorate degrees than men since 2006.

Not-so-Fun Fact: Women earn just 79 cents for every dollar men make in 2019. Remember when I said that moms take on the heavy lifting for their families so their husband’s career can flourish? It’s not that we see our husbands as smarter, more worthy, or more successful; it’s that we do the math. We take one for the team so to speak.

Photo by Vincent Delegge on Unsplash

Moms are Awesome

Moms are also necessary. We can all agree on that, right? Can we also recognize that they deserve every happiness and wild success?

So why don’t they have it? There are so many reasons, too many to address here. One reason is that being a mom is such a definitive role; it takes over for many of us. So much of a mom’s happiness stems from the joy of her children, which brings us back to the concept of when our family is thriving, it’s hard to complain about anything else.

There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but it shortchanges the mom — she’s got so much to give, and it shortchanges the world — we miss out on it. And, we miss out on her. When the family thrives, and Mama thrives, it’s better.

Photo by Letizia Bordoni on Unsplash

A Better Choice

So what’s a working mom to do? Again, big question, longer answer than I can address here today. Today, I’m going to make the case for entrepreneurship, which can be a means to success and happiness, and I’ll tell you why in the simplest terms.

It filters out a great deal of the boys club, me too, hierarchy, politics, income inequality, and rigidity that doesn’t really work for working moms in the first place.

If an organization, its leadership, and its culture isn’t pro-mom, you have options, but they aren’t ideal. You can fight. You can maintain. You can tolerate. You can rise above the fray. You can put your head down and work, but for what? Where’s it heading? You’re likely to hit the same wall my friend hit. Someday, it will come down to your family or your career, and you’ll have to choose. It’s a gut-wrenching decision.

You’ll know when it’s time for a better choice. Sometimes it’s triggered by a situation, being passed over for a promotion while on maternity leave, for example. Sometimes it’s triggered by a family consideration, having your child diagnosed with special needs or a chronic illness. Sometimes it’s triggered by something less definitive, but still powerful — deciding that you want more out of life because you’re tired of sitting on the sidelines and you know you have more to give.

Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

Freedom

When Moms say they want more, they are usually talking about more time, more money, more flexibility, or more fulfillment. Or all four, which adds up to freedom.

So, I challenge you to measure where you are now vs. where you want to be. Time. Money. Flexibility. Fulfillment. Personally and professionally, evaluate where you are and your ideal. Simple scoring will do. A 1–10 scale, a happy face/sad face, or 1–5 gold stars if you prefer. Whatever works. (If you need a chart, let me know. I’m a visual learner too.)

Then, study the picture. What did your scoring reveal? What story does it tell? Are you on track? Can you get there? Are there any wide variances or obvious opportunities? Keep in mind, this exercise isn’t about judgment, it’s about creating a snapshot of where you are and checking in with your instinct about what’s possible for you. And, to take it a step further, if you had more of what you think you need, do you know how to make the most of it? Could you activate what’s possible?

Maybe journal, sleep on it, or sit with it for a week or two. Do not feel overwhelmed; get excited. Just by opening the door to what’s possible, you have set your future in motion, and unlocked your subconsciousness. You’ve given it a little project to work on behind the scenes.

And if you let yourself feel the potential of that, you’ll also open up a tiny part of your heart that knows what it wants and who you’re meant to be. No matter who that is, you deserve to be happy and wildly successful. Never forget it.

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