For many women, I believe a time comes when we realize that we have done the best for our families. We have endured the late nights encouraging or nursing someone back to their normal self. We have risen early to shuffle people out of the home; providing a great start to the day just like a well-rounded breakfast would provide necessary nourishment. We have taken the second job or not taken a job to help the family unit thrive (or at least remain stable, whether that’s financially or emotionally).
But perhaps we have poured out this protectiveness and tolerance only to find out that these actions of love have hurt our families by making them more dependent and less self-sufficient. Does this sound familiar? When women reach this epiphany, and the feeling persists after deep reflection, it is time to make a change.
Many feelings can surface during the transition. Guilt that we are doing something we shouldn’t do. New concerns for the welfare of the family. Doubt, both in your abilities to navigate the transition as well as doubt in your actual abilities to land a job or launch a new career. But perhaps one of the most challenging feelings to process is regret. There can be sadness that creeps up and reminds us that we could have done more when we were younger and had more energy. All of these feelings should be acknowledged but not obsessed on. Acknowledge them, yes. But then redirect your thinking to what you are doing now and in the future. Shifting focus like this is the key to moving past these challenging feelings.
Putting yourself first is thinking about your desires, needs, and aspirations as you think about others that are close in your life. We have a tendency to put ourselves last as we are planning or reflecting on what needs doing. If you are at the stage where your need for change has persisted, it is time to ask the question: What do I need in this situation? Ask this question when planning vacations, financial responsibilities, allocating your time to activities, and many other areas.
When we begin to put ourselves first, we may believe that this decision will take us far from home, our children. Or at worst that our closest relationships will be strained. Those that have come from a strong spiritual background may believe that women should rule the home while men provide. I believe this can be one woman’s truth but not a final truth. All of these beliefs can be adapted over time with clear and consistent communication with our loved ones.
Before clear communication can take place, we must be clear on where we are going and what we want. A good network of other women who have varied experiences and are willing to listen and encourage is a great start. Utilizing the many assessments (personality, work interest, Myers, work values, skills, and aptitude) are good data points for self-knowledge. Working with a life, health, or career coach can also be a great aid.
Here are some steps to ensure that you transition well and your family survives intact:
- Be clear about what you want. Spend as much time as you need to figure this out.
- Do you need more time for personal pursuits?
- More time for career pursuits and less time doing housework/paying bills?
- Do you want more time pursuing what is directly in line with your core values?
- What are your core values?
The vision board process is a great mindset shifting tool that works over time. Once you establish what you want, create a visual example of that vision.
Help your family see how your transition will benefit you and them. No one likes change, especially those that are comfortable. But creating a picture for your family on how this change will help the family unit is key. It might be as simple as you will be “happier” and more agreeable. Share with your stakeholders (family) that this transition will result in more income for the family, more stability for the family, or simply more life satisfaction for you (because you are slightly miserable). Have faith and patience that if we do not understand it now, we will in the future. Spend time thinking about how the family will adapt and grow in ways we may not have considered. Share this vision with them and let them add their expectations to this new way of life. For example, a certain family member might be enticed with the idea of having their favorite dishes more often since the need to cook or meal plan might fall on them in the future.
This transition will not be easy, but it will be rewarding if you hold to the truths you uncover about yourself. Choosing you does not mean that your family will drown or fail without you. Keep communication (speaking and listening) strong and everyone can work together to fulfill the entire family’s needs.