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Prioritizing Your Career - A Life-Jacket Analogy Part 3

Note: If you haven’t read Part 1 - Putting Yourself First or Part 2 - Prioritizing your Significant Other - we highly encourage you to stop and read those posts first.

As I mentioned in Part 1 - when I was seeing a behavioral psychologist for our children’s ADHD he advised that children’s needs do not always and should not always come first in the hierarchy of our lives.

In this series we’re using the analogy of a Life Jacket - what you need to stay afloat in this bright messy spinning orb called Earth. And Part 3 of this series is talking about the third belt in your life jacket - your job, your career, your business.

First we need to define and align on what we mean by “prioritization”. We are not advocating for being or becoming a workaholic. In fact, we’re very much against that for every human being, not just parents. We don’t mean that you should always prioritize work, not show up for your children, miss important events, see them less, etc. These are formative years in your children’s lives and they need their parents to provide a solid foundation of love and support. In order for you to provide that foundation - you need to have a solid foundation for yourself as well - and often we find that in part from our jobs.

When we try to do it all, have it all, be it all - we run the risk of driving it all into the ground; of watching it all topple down. Or at least it feels that way. That’s why it's so important to make sure you prioritize your own needs, you find space for your significant other, but that you also make time and space to show up well for your job, or career, or business without feeling like you’re missing out or letting everyone down.

So here are four simple reasons and ways in which your job may take priority in your life, and how you can reconcile that within your emotional ecosystem and still show up for your children without spreading yourself too thin.

#1 - Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The first two and most critical foundational needs are:

“1. Physiological needs: These are biological requirements for human survival, including air, food, drink, shelter, clothing, warmth, sleep.

If these needs are not satisfied the human body cannot function optimally. Maslow considered physiological needs the most important as all the other needs become secondary until these needs are met.” (1)

2. Security and Safety Needs

"At the second level of Maslow’s hierarchy, the needs start to become a bit more complex. At this level, the needs for security and safety become primary. People want control and order in their lives. Some of the basic security and safety needs include:

- Financial security

- Health and wellness

- Safety against accidents and injury

Finding a job, obtaining health insurance and health care, contributing money to a savings account, and moving to a safer neighborhood are all examples of actions motivated by security and safety needs.” (2)

Both of the first two fundamental requirements for human needs are fulfilled in our current society by having a job, or income stream. That’s how we have financial security. That’s how we put a roof over our children’s beds. That’s how we have a fridge stocked with delicious and nutritious meals. That’s how we have access to quality medical care. It’s how we can afford to give our children the rich experiences of childhood - schools, camps, vacations, sports, arts, etc.

Your job matters. It’s important. It’s ok to prioritize it and to show up for it with enthusiasm and joy, not guilt and frustration. Your career path can be important to you.

#2 - Your Job can be part of your Joy

Remember in the first post in this series, we advised how important it is for your children to see you experience YOUR JOY. To do the things that are important to you. If your career is one of them - let them see that! If what you’re doing matters to you, makes you feel good about yourself, helps to give you a sense of purpose - your children can benefit from experiencing that.

I haven’t always loved my jobs - but I have always loved what they represented in my life; I have always the life they have afforded me and my family. I loved the qualities I nurtured and grew in each of the stages of my career - problem solving, team building, leadership, learning, humility, humor and creativity. The better I was at evolving these qualities, the better a mother I became as well. Remember - your family is a P.A.C.K. Those qualities are just as vital in your home as they are in the workforce.

#3 - Money is the number one stressor in the lives of Americans

“ from the American Psychological Association also shows that money is the No. 1 stressor for Americans: “Regardless of the economic climate, money and finances have remained the top stressor since our survey began in 2007,” the results revealed.” (3)

I have felt it. You may have felt it. Financial strain can lead to immense stress. We know how hard it is to find your emotional center when you’re feeling like you can’t get ahead with money. And that affects how we show up for our children. It can come out in a variety of little ways, but also sometimes in some pretty big ways. It can cause us to snap, to be depressed, to withdraw, to feel ashamed, to lose hope. Have you been there? We have.

Focusing on career advancement can have a positive impact in our family lives if it's balanced; if it's done with mindfulness. You can include your children in your career advancement journey - explain why you’re taking night classes or certifications, have them help quiz you or study with you, have them help you pick out outfits for interviews or important days at work, or take them out to lunch to celebrate your achievements with you along the way.

We are judgment free here - and we know everyone’s circumstances are completely different. Sometimes we may feel like no matter what we do - we cannot get ahead. But there are resources out there that can help. We have included a few in a list below.

#4 - The Trick is being Present

A study published in the Harvard Business Review actually found that the amount of time a parent spent working had less to do with the overall mental well being of the children, but rather the psychological affect the job had on the parents and the impact in how they showed up for their children as a result. In other words - if the career was fulfilling and the parent could be “present” and spend genuine quality time with the children when they were at home, the overall family dynamic was healthy.

“We were surprised to see in our study that parents’ time spent working and on child care — variables often much harder to do anything about, in light of economic and industry conditions — did not influence children’s mental health. So, if we care about how our careers are affecting our children’s mental health, we can and should focus on the value we place on our careers and experiment with creative ways to be available, physically and psychologically, to our children, though not necessarily in more hours with them. Quality time is real.” (4)

That does mean we need to have a real separation between work and family life. It doesn’t always have to be balanced - that’s not always possible - but it should be mindful and distraction free. When at work, it’s ok to put your head down and focus. When you’re home or out with your children, offer them the same respect; focus on them, lean into them, and give them that same love and attention. Clear your mind of work related issues.

Trick: The mind actually takes direction well, so if you have an issue that’s been consuming you at work, you can say out loud - “I am just not going to think about this during this quality time with my children. I can think about it again at [insert date/time] but for now, I will focus my loving thoughts and attention on my family.” It works - I have had to do it many times.

What if I HATE my job but I can’t leave?

We have been there. We know what that feels like. Hating your job definitely impacts how you show up for your family. A job that takes advantage, belittles you, stresses you out, drains you, depletes your energy reserves does affect our parenting skills - we’re quicker to snap, need more alone time, have a hard time being present with our children. This is especially true when you have children with ADHD because you have may to use those Super Parenting Skills and if you've been beaten up at work all day, it's not easy to find the available space to be that Super Parent. Finding a job that energizes, fulfills you and compensates you well should be a goal for all of us in the workforce. And even though it feels like you can’t leave, there are always options.

  1. First - really take some time to identify what you “hate” about your job. What is not being fulfilled for you? Is it the actual work you do? Your colleagues? Your boss? Your compensation? How much of it is tied to this organization, this industry, this culture, this sector (public or private)? How are you showing up every day and how might you be partially culpable in your own frustration? (Sometimes the wrong job can bring out the worst in us. )

    1. Answer these questions honestly, because from there you can begin to craft the idea of what you really want in a fulfilling career. The work you do, the people you work with, the people you work for, how YOU want to show up in your job, how you want to be of service. How does this shape your sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

  2. Second - Find a career coach, or just utilize free online resources (everything from career, to confidence, to certifications, to leadership / management training), to determine what you really want to do, the money you want to be making, and the steps you need to take to get there.

  3. Third - Create a roadmap of the next 6 months, 1 year, 3 years and 5 years. Map it out. Write it down. Post it. Share it with your family. Be open to all possibilities - maybe it won’t happen just as you have written it down - but positive changes will occur once you begin to build momentum.

If you read this and feel validated for wanting to continue your career advancement - even with children who have ADHD - reach out, we can help you on your journey.

If you reach this and still continue to think that work and life being balanced is not a possibility, reach out, we can show you the art and science behind showing up mindfully in both!



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