What matters most in life changes with age and life experience. There’s no better example than becoming a mother for the first time, to highlight how your perspective on what matters most in your life can transform… sometimes in an instant, and often, without conscious awareness.
What mattered most to me as a bright-eyed university graduate differs to what matters now as a slightly-less-than-bright-eyed working mother of three children. I remember seeing the world through a completely different lens the second I held my first son in my arms. And as my children grow, what matters most to me in the home and in the workplace continues to evolve and develop, as we do. My need for challenge, change, and creativity has remained consistent over my twenty-year career, but my need for positive contribution to the world has become a higher-priority as my life has unfolded.
If you’re considering returning to work after a career break, or looking to make a mid-career transition, re-examining what matters most to you as part of the important exploration work you do before looking for a role is a must-do.
Here’s why; when it comes to the 3 main occupations that working mothers participate in; Primary caregiver, CEO of the household, and Employee or Business Owner, finding meaning in those occupations contributes positively to our wellbeing…
… and I’ve never met a woman who needs less wellbeing in her life.
When the work that we do is personally meaningful, we contribute positively to our health and wellbeing. On the flipside, when the occupations we participate in lack personal meaning, behavioural science studies indicate a negative impact on our health and wellbeing*.
Finding meaning in the work that we do helps us to feel that we have a sense of direction and purpose in life. By incorporating an exploration of meaning into your career considerations, you give yourself another wellbeing-enhancing perspective to help inform your career decision-making.
Being a mother is a lifelong role, made up of multiple demands and occupations. If we look at the three major occupations that working mothers engage in, we can understand the value of meaning-making even further; as Primary Caregiver, it’s not uncommon to feel frustrated, bored, jaded, or confused and anxious by the day-to-day requirements of raising children. By re-connecting with your higher-level commitment and sense of responsibility to help your children grow and develop, you can support yourself to better tolerate, re-consider, and re-engage in some of the specific child-raising tasks that may not be as enjoyable as you’d like. By re-engaging with the meaning you gain from raising your children, you can enhance your coping-ability and you can also give yourself a bit of a break when you mess-up, by reminding yourself of the bigger picture parenting goals you are working so damn hard to achieve, day-in-day-out.
When we consider the role of the CEO of the Household, asking yourself to describe what really matters (and, what really doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things) when it comes to the smooth-running and management of your household can help you to let-go of some of the unrealistic, or unsustainable demands you currently place on yourself. In our blog ‘Forget blame. Re-imagine what a true partnership at home looks like for you’, we share some of the steps towards a more equal partnership at home and getting clear on what matters most to you can be the important first step in getting the perspective you need to either 1. Cull, 2. Allocate, or 3. Outsource some of the domestic chores.
Equally, exploring which components of being chief-in-charge at home are most strongly linked to your identity, you may better understand any maternal gate-keeping that you’re doing or any unproductive control you might be yielding at home that prevents others from stepping up to help you.
Finally, your choice of occupation or field of work can also be enhanced by a better understanding of what work means to you, how you gain satisfaction and a sense of meaning from your work and what matters most to you in your work. By uncovering what parts of your identity come alive at work, you can gain further clarity on how work outside of your role as caregiver and home-manager bring meaning to your life.
Whilst all 3 of the main occupations working mothers participate in collectively bring meaning into our lives, diving into them individually can help to better understand our own unique headspace. If you’re at a career crossroads, seek to better understand how your work domain contributes to the meaning you gain from life, and what parts of your identity come alive (or you would like to come alive) through your work.
We explore meaning further as a part of our Career Clarity online program. To access a free sample, register today.
* Whiteford, G. (2000). Occupational deprivation: Global challenge in the new Millennium. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 63, 201-204.