I’ve learned so much over the last few years as a mother and career woman. It’s been hard, and I know for a fact that whatever road you choose — be it mother, wife, career woman, a combo, or something else — it will be hard for you too. But I want you to keep the following things in mind as you start your journey into the world, and one day — possibly find yourself in my shoes.
Know how to get to your happy place. Happiness is inside you; know yourself well enough to access it on demand. Life will throw you curveballs. Take a step back and calm your mind — maybe through meditation, making and enjoying a cup of tea, going out for a run, or writing your thoughts in a journal. Or maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is, find it and make it a part of your everyday schedule. Don’t let anything — your friends, your children, your family, your job, or anything else — take this one part of your day away from you.
Live frugally, spend wisely. I’m not saying to never enjoy pleasures in life, but I am saying to think carefully about how much you want to spend and the value you’re getting for it. This isn’t because I don’t think you deserve a closet of designer shoes or to fly first class, but because in living frugally and spending wisely you will control your expenses and find ways to save. The less money you need to exist, the more freedom you have to pursue dreams that may not provide a salary. You’ll also have more freedom to leave difficult situations — like a job you can no longer tolerate, or a relationship gone wrong. You may live to be older than 100 years old — spend wisely so that you can enjoy every minute, take breaks when you need to, and not fear financial ruin.
What would you do if you couldn’t work for someone else? Helping someone else realize their dreams and be successful is an honor. But identifying and building the right skills for yourself to earn your own value in society is a gift you can give yourself. The workforce is changing: nearly half of the workforce will be independent contractors by 2020 and college graduates have more loans and a harder time finding a job than ever before. What value will you bring?
You will be different. As you gain life experience, you’ll start to see the world differently. You will not be the same person in twenty years that you are today. And if you chose to have children, you will feel this change happen more quickly than ever. I didn’t believe it until it happened to me. I thought that I had to pursue quick wins at work, set myself up for success, go out for a few months to have a baby, and then would rush back into the office at full speed ahead and not miss a beat. But then, something strange happened — yes, I fell in love with your brother when he was born, but I still missed my job and the workplace. However, when I went back, I was different. I approached my job differently, and what I wanted out of my career (stability, intellectual pursuit, purpose) was so different than what I wanted before (advancement, money, prestige). You may still not believe me when you read this, but it’s true. You will be different, and it’s ok to take time to reevaluate. Be flexible.
Be a lifelong learner, and plan early on for a career change. Don’t let learning stop when you leave university. Careers will be longer than ever, and after twenty or thirty years you may want to try something completely different. Plan your finances, so you have the money or the option to go back to school or take a sabbatical if you need time to rest and refresh. Do well academically in university, so you don’t have roadblocks in your next academic adventure. If you take time off to raise children know that you don’t have to go back to the same career you had before. You can try something new.
Be brave and block out the noise. Be brave and follow your gut. Everyone will have an opinion (even me!): what career you should follow, who you should marry (or even if you should marry) when you should start a family, or if you should work once you have a family. The opinions will be contradicting, and you won’t be able to make everyone happy. So make yourself happy. Be brave, do what feels right to you and block out the rest. If you, later on, decide that you want something else, be brave enough to shift course. And be kind to yourself when it happens. It’s your life — you are the one that has to be happy with it.
I love you and wish you all the success in the world as you navigate work, life, and (maybe) kids.
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At work, I create startup education, programs, and curriculum to help entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses while engaging global founder communities. At home, my husband and I have two beautiful children. I love music and am a cellist (formally trained for 14 years) who is learning to play again after an 18-year hiatus. Travel, meeting new people, writing, and spending time with my family makes me happy.
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Originally published on my previous blog Have Kids, Will Work.