Often when my clients come to see me, they know they want a career change. They know they’re craving something new, but they feel stuck. They’re exhausted and depleted. They’ve sandwiched our session between a presentation to senior leadership and the errands that are mission critical to running their home for the week (ie. picking up the kid who will be the last one standing at daycare, again).
When I ask them, “What would you be doing right now if money and time were no object?”, I get a deer in headlights look in response. Not only do they have no answer, but they’re also furious at themselves for being this far along in their careers without knowing what they want to be when they grow up!
Overwhelm coupled with an anvil of pressure to “do it all” is standing in the way of creative ideas about your next career move. When you keep pushing through the slog, you feel like a shell of your pre-kids self. Remember those (still Type A but) healthy dreamer people? They’re in there, I promise! They had hobbies and unscheduled time where they could disappear for a few weekend hours, be completely unproductive and it didn’t matter. In fact, after they had that time, they showed up to work the next day energized, alive and dare I say, brilliant.
Let’s reconnect with that carefree-ish person and unpack your overwhelm with the Roles and Responsibilities Experiment I use with working parents:
Roles and Responsibilities Experiment:
1) Its brain dump time, friend. Break out a piece of paper and create three columns: Work, Parenting and Household.
2) For each category, write a list of the tasks you’re responsible for on a daily or weekly basis. For now, we’re going to focus on the Parenting and Household categories because my guess is that you do this type of exercise at work regularly. Don’t hold back…put it all on there. Gifts for friends and family take time to purchase. Lunches take time to make. Managing childcare, paying bills, budgeting, scheduling play dates—it’s all fair game and it adds up. This part of our lives is what I call—“The Third Job” and it often puts my working parent clients over the edge.
3) Now that you have your list, put:
- a “heart” next to all of the tasks you love doing
- a “star” next to the tasks you think are a high priority in your life
- a “D” next to all of the tasks that could be candidates to delegate to your partner, your kids or someone you can hire if you have the means.
- an “S” next to all of the tasks you feel you “should” do, but you’re not truly connected to them. (This group has it’s own exercise that’s coming soon so hang on to it!)
4) Review your list and note what comes up for you. Are there any D’s and S’s on your list? IF NOT, REPEAT STEP 3! Don’t think I don’t know this trick! You’re holding onto control and that’s a surefire way to stay exactly where you are. If you want to move forward, you need to create space and that means letting go of some things.
5) For those with partners, ask them to do the exercise as well. You can use this as a starting point for a conversation about shifting some roles and responsibilities. Last summer, I took on all of our personal finance tasks including budgeting, bill paying, investing and projecting annual expenses while my husband took on grocery shopping, meal planning and much of the cooking. It’s not perfect (and it will never be), but our kids are trying new foods and we’re more on top of our finances than ever before. It’s an exciting shift.
6) If you do decide to shift roles, remember there’s a learning curve! You’ve been making lunches and managing the babysitter for years—give your partner some room to make mistakes and learn without judgment. Resist your instinct to take back control after one or two mistakes. When you say things like, “I’m the only one who can put the baby to bed.” you tighten your handcuffs and remove any chance of having a weekend away in your near future!
As you begin to create space by removing your “should” tasks and delegating, start to fill that space with things that bring you joy. It’s in this time when you’re doing the things you love in the space that you’ve carefully guarded for only you, that you will begin to find clues about your next exciting career move.