Erica's New Book Releasing the Mother Load is officially out! Order your copy today!
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Erica's New Book Releasing the Mother Load is officially out! Order your copy today!
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March 25, 2024

February 28, 2024

How to Embrace Career Change as a Mom: Finding Your Passion and Overcoming Guilt

E:
214
with
Jess Galica
Career and Leadership Coach, Best-Selling Author

What You'll Learn

  • Why Becoming a Mom Can Make Us Reevaluate Our Careers
  • How Intensive Mothering Keeps Moms from Prioritizing Their Careers
  • How to Overcome Fear of Taking a Risk
  • How to Embrace Discomfort in Uncertainty
  • How Moms Can Achieve What They Want From Their Careers

Many of us find ourselves struggling to “balance” work and mom life. Between the invisible load, the pressure to work as if we don’t have children and mother as if we don’t work, and becoming the default parent to take off for sick days, there are a lot of challenges to maintaining a career as a parent. 

The truth is that “having it all” is not nearly as simple and straightforward as it seems—and for many of us, the ideal “balance” looks different once we have children. 

Some of us are forced to go back to work too soon, due to lack of parental leave and financial reasons. Some of us want to work but find that a lack of accessible childcare makes it impractical. And some of us find that what we once wanted doesn’t feel as fulfilling as we envisioned. 

Between all of these factors, along with mothering in the wake of the pandemic, many moms are looking for a change. The great resignation saw more moms than ever leave to stay at home. 

But perhaps moms don’t want to leave the workforce altogether. Maybe they’re just looking for more flexibility. 46% of moms say that flexible work arrangements are the number one benefit they value in an employer—and 52% of moms have considered leaving the workforce or reducing their hours. 

Our careers can look different once we become moms—and that doesn’t need to be a bad thing. Many moms are embracing flexibility, considering career changes, and reevaluating what they want from their personal and professional lives. 

Today, I’m joined by career and leadership coach Jess Galica, best-selling author of Leap: Why It's Time to Let Go to Get Ahead in Your Career, to discuss how moms can overcome fear and guilt and embrace career change.

Why Becoming a Mom Can Make Us Reevaluate Our Careers

Before having a baby, Jess achieved traditional workplace success, climbing the corporate ladder and growing her career. But even with her “success,” she never felt fulfilled in her professional life. After becoming a mom, she experienced what so many of us go through—a major shift in her identity. And for the first time, she found herself questioning her career path. 

So many of us experience this same crossroads. The adjustment to motherhood can cause us to step back and question many things about our lives—from our own childhood to our career paths to how we show up in the world. 

We might have practical reasons for wanting changes in our workplace, such as a need for more paid time off. We might find our values, goals, or ambitions changing. Or we might just realize that we’ve never questioned the path we were on, and that it isn’t actually fulfilling. 

Many moms feel a whisper, pulling them in a new direction—but that inner voice is really hard to listen to.

Jess said that many moms feel a whisper, pulling them in a new direction—but that inner voice is really hard to listen to. We’re often holding onto gender norms, financial implications, or resistance to make a change. 

She pointed out that when we’ve been told we should be able to “have it all,” we might feel like we’re falling if we want something different—as if we were supposed to find a way to make it all work and be happy through it. And if we still want to achieve career goals, just perhaps in a different way, we also battle intensive mothering ideology that tells us we should find fulfillment solely in motherhood. 

Jess said that we treat women’s ambition and men’s ambition differently. Women wanting different things or demanding more is often criticized, while it’s celebrated for men. All of these factors create a fear or hesitation to try something new in our careers—even if that’s what we truly want. 

How Intensive Mothering Keeps Moms from Prioritizing Their Careers

If we want to overcome that hesitation and listen to the little whisper telling us we want something different or more, we need to recognize the external messages that are telling us otherwise. 

It would be very hard to achieve what we want in our careers if we hold onto the myth that we should only find fulfillment in motherhood, and that we are selfish to look for purpose outside of that role. 

Moms are often conditioned to be self-sacrificers, to overlook our own drive or our own needs in favor of everyone else’s. But we need to remind ourselves that we are allowed to desire more outside of the motherhood role–it’s okay to find fulfillment in our careers. 

We are allowed to desire more outside of the motherhood role.

Jess shared that when she first started doing research for her book, she assumed that what women would need most was practical advice on how to create career shifts or pivots. But she discovered that what they really needed most was validation and permission. 

She said that it’s often the emotional baggage that prevents moms from feeling that they are ready to move forward and execute. In fact, working moms are often already phenomenal executors. 

What they often need is ways to overcome working mom guilt, and to navigate the emotions that come up when they challenge traditional gender norms and push for something different. 

This requires pushing back on those intensive mother messages and allowing ourselves to embrace ambition, and our desire for more. This isn’t always easy to do—especially when we have been conditioned to think that “good moms” don’t do that. It takes a big mental shift, an unlearning of messages, and a tolerance for discomfort. 

There will be moments, even if we make the decision to pursue our passions or reach for more in our careers, that the guilt resurfaces. Jess encourages moms to remember that happier moms lead to happier kids—and that we can only be in service of others when we are in service of ourselves. 

How to Overcome Fear of Taking a Risk

Jess pointed out that the other big emotion that keeps moms from taking risks or making career changes is fear. She believes that many women carry a fear that we aren’t good enough—it’s the same reason why women will wait to apply for jobs until they meet 100% of the requirements while men will apply when they only meet 60%. 

Those fears aren’t unfounded. The bar is often higher for women in corporate environments. Jess shared that career women often feel that they have to be bulletproof. They do face workplace biases that men don’t face. 

Career women often feel that they have to be bulletproof.

But Jess pointed out that when we listen to those fears, we often fall into an unproductive cycle, pulling back to protect ourselves. She said that it’s important to see the patterns and understand the knee-jerk reaction to pull back. 

There might be times that pulling back is the right answer—such as the postpartum period or when struggling with our mental health. But when we have the capacity to manage the feelings and face feedback or criticism, we can overcome that knee-jerk reaction. 

Jess said it’s important to remember that there are seasons and stages in our career, just as there are seasons of motherhood. Just because we make a decision now, whether it’s to pivot to a new career, or temporarily work more, or fewer hours, those choices don’t have to be permanent–and remembering that our decisions aren’t permanent actually often unlocks risk-taking. 

How to Embrace Discomfort in Uncertainty

Another barrier we often face when making career pivots is perfectionism and control. 

We often have a desire to control the outcome of situations—and it can leave us unwilling to take risks. We might think that if we can just form the perfect plan, or just make all the right decisions, things will turn out exactly how we want them to. 

But not only is that unrealistic, it is also often fueled by anxiety. When we feel anxious about something, we can either move towards it, trying to seek absolute certainty, or we can pull back and avoid it because it feels threatening. 

This can make it very hard to take a risk or to willingly enter into something that is uncertain. But when we can accept the uncertainty and acknowledge that there is a level of risk involved in a change, we can enter into it with openness. 

Sometimes not taking a risk is the biggest risk of all. 

Jess pointed out that sometimes not taking a risk is the biggest risk of all. It can leave us with missed opportunities or moments of regret. We have to decide which risk we can tolerate. 

She also said that it’s important to remember the benefits or reward—not just the risks. For example, a career pivot could come with a risk, but if the reward is more flexibility, more happiness, or more fulfillment, it might be worth it. We can’t just focus on the risks and forget the possibilities. 

How Moms Can Achieve What They Want From Their Careers

Ultimately, moms can achieve what they want in their careers by tuning in and listening to the whisper–then deciding if there is a change worth making. That change might be pursuing an interest or a passion, seeking a promotion, asking for more flexibility, or making a big career change. 

One movement can open up new steps and new possibilities.

But Jess pointed out that the big changes aren’t always the answer. For most people, what makes more sense is starting very small, with a tiny action to lean into an interest, such as starting a new hobby or developing a new skill. 

It’s important to be thoughtful and intentional. We gather so much information from even small steps. One movement can open up new steps and new possibilities.

Making small shifts also reduces the risk and gives us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves in the process.  

Struggling to give yourself permission to make a change in your life? Working with a mom therapist can help you overcome pressure and expectations and tune into your values. Book a FREE 15 minute virtual consultation today! 

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Tags:

Working moms, Intensive mothering, Ambition

Stage:

Postpartum, Motherhood

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OUR GUEST

Jess Galica
Career and Leadership Coach, Best-Selling Author

Jessica Galica is the best-selling author of Leap: Why It's Time to Let Go to Get Ahead In Your Career. Jess spent 15 years building a successful corporate career at the world's most prestigious companies in Tech and Management Consulting. In 2020 she craved a more authentic and purposeful career after stepping into motherhood. Today, Jess is a trained career and leadership coach working with high performers to maximize career and life success and speaks to organizations about building meaningful careers, advancing women, and prioritizing life and work. She holds an MBA from MIT's Sloan School of Management and lives in Boston with her husband and two young children.

Erica Djossa
Erica Djossa
PMH-C | Founder of Momwell
Erica is the founder of Momwell, providing educational resources and virtual therapy for moms. She is a mom of three boys and a registered psychotherapist. Erica’s work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Breakfast Television, Scary Mommy, Medium, Pop Sugar, and Romper. how they want it.
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