I work with extremely talented, creative, resourceful women each day who have taken a break in their careers to be at home with the kids. When they come to me it is often because they are ready to recreate themselves a bit and find a new way to express their interests outside of the home…in simpler terms, they are ready to go back to work! Rarely do mothers I work with want to return to the same job that they had before the kids. Let’s face it…the women we were when we graduated college are very different from the women we have become. Many women do not want as aggressive a work schedule or they feel that something new has developed inside of themselves that wants to be expressed. Their biggest fear is appearing like they have nothing professional on their resumes for the last 5-10 years. Their self-confidence can be low, as well as their trust in being a valuable asset in the workplace. Fear to step into the unknown keeps any new ideas or actions from happening. They feel stuck.
While many would see that taking a break from work is a setback for your career, I see it as a HUGE POSITIVE. When you take a break from your work, it is a chance to see what new gifts and talents want to come out and express themselves. It is like hitting the pause button to see what else feels interesting, alive and challenging inside of you. When you start to look at your life through this lens of purpose (AKA, what you would do if no one was watching or paying you) you begin to see that you have been growing possibilities for your new career all the while you have been at home with the kids.
Here is one example of a mom that I worked with who thought she was completely lost about new directions for her career. Her identity was still attached to the high level work she did as a lawyer and she was feeling pressure to return to that profession. However, there was something new that she wanted to express in her career and when she took the time to really explore what that could be, something unexpected presented itself to her.
Kerri is an ambitious, highly motivated woman who decided to channel her intellect and energy into law. However, after having her second child, the demanding schedule and pressure just did not work for her life any longer. While staying at home with her kids, she began to take on many leadership roles in the school and became PTA President two years in a row. She also rebuilt her home to GREEN standards and began to grow a huge vegetable garden. When she came to me she was ready for new work that was able to bring in some money and felt completely overwhelmed and doubtful about her chances of getting a job. After much exploration she realized that her passion for healthy living and gift for advancing big ideas to make change needed to be a part of her career moving forward. She discovered a magazine called Edible with a mission to bring awareness to organic eating and living. She knew this was it and started Edible in Silicon Valley. Running this magazine uses her editorial and leadership skills, passion to make change and obsession with healthy living.
Now, if you are reading this example and thinking that running a magazine is WAY too much for me at this time, remember you can create whatever it is you want. I just invite you to start thinking about the times you were in the zone. Start asking your friends to describe you at your best. Think about what you like to do when no one is watching? What is it that you cannot stop reading or learning about? What do you do so naturally that people come to you and ask for either your support or advice on the matter?
Begin to really follow your curiosity and ACT on it. Buy the new book, sign up for a class; take a friend to lunch who interests you. Just start praising yourself for all that you do naturally rather than beating yourself up for not having new things to put on your resume. Recognize that your fear is a natural part of growth. And if it is too hard to do on your own, find a coach!