How I Came to Terms with My Kids Delaying My Career Goals
Before kids, I could work until the wee hours on anything I wanted. I’m an overachiever with big dreams. But now my work time is limited to when my kids don’t need me. The time and attention I want to give my children are at odds with the passion and ambition I have for my career.
My transition into a working mom meant I needed to grieve the life I used to have and accept the slower pace. It’s taken years to not feel bitter and resentful but here’s how I finally realized reaching my dreams faster does not necessarily mean a better journey.
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I focus on taking it one small step at a time
How do you eat an elephant?
Swallowing it whole or taking one bite at a time?
Unless you want a nasty stomach ache, you’ll want to do the latter.
For me to reach my big dreams, I have to take them one step at a time. It’s impossible to do everything I want overnight. And now that I have children, those steps aren’t as grand and there aren’t as many.
But the most important thing is that I am taking steps. I am moving forward, slowly but surely, towards those dreams.
This means writing less than I used to but making the most out of that time as efficiently and effectively as possible. I savor every hour that I get to work on my writing. It’s something I can dive into, concentrate intensely, give my undivided attention and refine and master my craft.
The best part about it is that I almost never procrastinate. I can easily cut out the noise and remove distractions, completely immersed and focused on the end goal.
I don't want to have regrets on my deathbed
I recently read an article about the most common regrets of the dying and one of them was “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
On my deathbed, I really don’t want my proudest accomplishment to be my work. I hope it will be all the meaningful relationships I had with the people who cared about me and how much value, compassion, and positive influence I provided in their lives. And I hope my children will be at the top of that list,
I want to protect and cherish my time with my children while they are still young and impressionable. I don’t want to miss those little moments and milestones in their lives because I was at work.
I’ll end my day at 3 pm instead of 5 pm so I can pick my kids up from school. I will put off responding to those emails until the next day. I will refuse to work on the weekends.
I believe future opportunities will still be there
In the beginning, I had a scarcity mindset where the fear of missing out took over my beliefs. There were many things I wanted to do to grow my writing career and business. It’s like this neverending list of ideas I wanted to try and people I wanted to connect with.
I thought if I didn’t execute an idea or jump at an opportunity, I would be left behind in the dust. Other people would beat me to it and I would lose out. There would be nothing left for me by the time I got to it.
The time was now, now, NOW! The competition was fierce.
But the problem with this is that when you have children, you have competing priorities. Your mind, body, heart, and soul are all being pulled in different directions. You’re only one person and you have limited capacity to pursue everything aggressively at once.
I had to retrain my mind to believe in abundance, reassuring myself that the boundaries that I set between my family and career life do not hinder future opportunities to grow my business. It’s about having faith in my abilities and unwavering confidence, patience, and passion for achieving my career goals.
When the time comes and my kids get a little older and need me less, new and exciting opportunities will present themselves and I will pounce on them, no holds barred.
I want to break a generational cycle
Growing up, my immigrant parents worked hard to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. The budget was tight and they struggled to make ends meet. If they weren’t working, they were taking care of the home or driving one of us to our activities.
They invested their blood, sweat, and tears into our future. There was no time to stop, slow down, and get to know their kids on a personal level. I don’t blame them or resent them for their limitations. It is what it is.
I am fortunate and grateful my parents paved the way for me. My education, training, and experience afford me a lifestyle they never could have had. I don’t have to work overtime or lose sleep worrying about whether I can pay my bills.
Now, I have an opportunity to do better, spend quality time and emotionally connect with my kids while they are still young. Intentionally choosing to slow down makes me proud of where I came from and reminds me of how far I’ve come.
I am more than just my career or just a mom
Lastly, I remind myself that I am a writer and a mother, but I am also more than that. I am a human with a vast range of experiences, roles, and relationships that make my life meaningful.
How I define my worth and purpose in life does not depend on the many goals I accomplish, the amount of money I make, or the number of family vacations I plan.
Life is one long continuous transition. Although my life before children offered more flexibility and freedom, I do not want to go back nor do I envy who I was. The life I have right now reflects who I am as a whole.
For now, it’s almost three in the afternoon. I’m shutting down my laptop, changing out of my pajamas, and leaving to pick up those little rascals from school.
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Katharine is the author of three books, has been published in scientific journals, and has co-authored chapters in health research books.