When You Feel Like You Can’t Win As A Mom AND In Your Career At The Same Time – Part 1

After my first son was born, I initially went back to my job on a part-time basis.  This worked very well at first, until my biggest case got busy and I started working much longer hours.  I remember feeling like I couldn’t be a good mom to my son and do as well at work as I would like.

And I know that I wasn’t alone.  Nearly every working mom that I know has felt the same way at some point.  

Understand Your Mama Brain

Adult human brains are exceptionally good at finding problems.  Problems at work, in the world, and in our own lives.  But when you become a mom, your brain gets structurally rewired and becomes even better at spotting potential threats.

These changes are great at helping us form strong attachments to our children and keeping them alive in potentially dangerous situations.  But it can make parenting in our modern world while maintaining a career even more challenging.

Couple that with societal pressure to achieve perfection, as well as the tremendous demands of raising young children and having a busy career, and you have all of the ingredients for a perfect storm.

To make matters worse, nobody teaches us how to manage our anxiety-prone mama brains, so we find ourselves living on an emotional roller coaster much of the time.  Mind management is required if you want to be productive, feel happy, and thrive as a working mom. Here’s the first step to doing that.

Look At What You’re Telling Yourself

The feelings of guilt and inadequacy that I experienced as a new mom didn’t just happen to me, and they don’t just happen to you either.  They are created by the thoughts that we tell ourselves every day.  We often repeat some thoughts so much that we’ve accepted them as true, as beliefs.  Often our subconscious thoughts and beliefs are dictating how we feel and what we do in ways that we don’t realize.  

For example, if your mother stayed home with you when you were a child, you may have the subconscious belief that “mothers should stay home with their children.”  If you are working despite having this belief, you might find yourself feeling guilt-ridden every time you leave for work.  It’s not because you work that you feel guilty, it’s because you’re thinking that you should be home with your children.  Another mother without that thought can go to work and not experience a scintilla of guilt.  

Likewise, if you’re telling yourself “I can’t do everything I need to do for work because I have to take care of my kids,” that thought is also likely to create the feeling of anxiety, guilt, or inadequacy at work. 

But these feelings of guilt and inadequacy do not invite us to become our best selves.  To the contrary, they usually drive us to overcompensate, burn the candle at both ends, lose sleep, and waste a lot of time spinning in negative self-talk, rather than taking productive action. 

When you do that, you’re not showing up as the best version of yourself at work or with your kids, and you become mentally and physically exhausted, on the verge of burning out. It’s really hard to do your best work when you’re operating at this level and you’re likely to be unhappy with your results, both as a professional and as a mom.

The truth is that the negative thoughts that cause us to feel this way are 100% optional. And since they cause us to create negative results in our lives, there is really no good reason to continue to think them.

You Get To Decide How You Want To Feel

The fact is that you have 24 hours in the day and you’re a professional and a mother.  

How do you want to feel about that fact?  Maybe you just want to feel adequate at both your job and being a mom.  

Here are some thoughts that can help create the feeling of adequacy:  

  • I can’t do everything (because I’m human) but I can do what is most important at home and at work. 
  • I’m figuring out how to balance motherhood and my career, and that’s okay.  
  • Working for income is an important part of taking care of my family.  
  • There are times when I cannot work because I choose to tend to my family, and that’s okay. 
  • There are times when I cannot be at home because I choose to tend to my work, and that’s okay. 

Thoughts like these are likely to be very different from what you’re currently telling yourself. You have to believe them in order to feel better, so if you don’t believe any of these, write down thoughts that you can believe that are more neutral than what you’re currently telling yourself.

Begin to practice these new thoughts daily by consciously directing your mind to them. Your old thoughts will be competing with these new thoughts and they’ll be easier to believe at first because you’ve been practicing them for so long. But how you feel is the direct result of how much airtime you decide to give the old thoughts versus the new ones. And feeling better is the first step toward creating better results.

Now that I’ve learned to apply mind management to my own life, my dominant thought about being a mom with a career is this:  I am a better mom because I have a career that I love. My career energizes me. It gives me time and space to make a contribution. After a good day’s work, I relish the time I spend with my children. This thought serves me so much better than the thoughts I had as a new mom. It makes me feel calm, peaceful, and motivated. And it’s available 24/7 to anyone who wants to borrow it.

How do you want to feel about being a mom with a career?

Go forth, grow, and bloom.



P.S. Because this is such a big issue for so many moms and there is so much to cover, this post is divided into two parts. See Part 2 for more tools to help you manage your mama brain.

How To Know If You’re Growing

Growth sounds like a nice, positive, wonderful thing that we should all do, both personally and professionally.  

But the truth is, growth usually feels really uncomfortable.  Even terrible.  That’s because it requires us to stretch and keep moving past what we know to what we don’t know. It requires that we persevere despite fear, doubt, and uncertainty.  And it requires that we continue to try things even when we have no evidence that we can achieve them. 

Opportunities For Growth Are Everywhere

Although we might think of growth opportunities as those big, pivotal moments in your life and career, sometimes tiny, seemingly insignificant choices that we make can change our growth trajectory or can give us the momentum we need to get unstuck and start growing.  

When I moved to Spain in September, I had such a moment in a parking garage.  Driving here in general presented several challenges for me.  The traffic lanes inexplicably merge without warning.  Left-hand turns are a veritable free-for-all, with people passing you on the left and right when (in theory) you’re in a single turn lane.  You have to change lanes (and therefore look backwards) while driving in circles.  But I dreaded the parking garages the most.  

Spanish parking garage engineers are cruel individuals.  In an effort to fit in as many spaces as possible, they make postage-stamp-sized parking spaces and the narrowest tunnels and steepest ramps you can imagine.  And the worst is that they give you virtually zero space to maneuver into the tiny parking spaces.  

When I first started driving in Spain, I had an errand that required parking in a particularly small parking garage. It would have been easy enough to come up with a way to avoid it altogether.  I could have taken a bus or taxi.  But I was committed to learning how to drive here, so I drove into the garage and was presented with a particularly tiny spot between two columns and to access it, I would need to park in reverse (without a camera).  I had all kinds of negative thoughts about it: “I can’t do this!  I don’t know how!  I’ve never had to do this before!  How can anyone park in these insanely small spaces?”  These thoughts created the feeling of helplessness, which made me want to give up and go home.

That moment was not a moment of growth. It was a moment of being stuck.  

But at the same time that I was feeling stuck, I also really wanted to learn how to park in that space, so that I could face any parking garage in the city.  And to do that, I was going to have to switch my mindset.

So, I coached myself through it.  I reminded myself: “I’ve done new things before.  I can figure this out.  I can do hard things.”  These thoughts created the feelings of motivation and determination, which drove me to figure it out.  I was slow parking the car.  I had to get out to check how much space I had.  But I parked the car without swiping any columns or bumping into anything.

And then, I began parking in spaces like that over and over.  Now, it’s almost easy.  

It could be tempting to dismiss seemingly insignificant moments of growth like this one.  But consider that growth begets more growth, so even a small moment of growth can provide evidence that you’re capable of growing in bigger ways, too.  

Embrace The Growing Pains

We want growth to be easy and when it’s not, we often stop, telling ourselves “I just can’t do that.”  But growth is not supposed to be easy or comfortable.  Accepting the inevitable discomfort of growth allows you to keep going.  There is ease on the other side of growth if you push through it.  

To know whether you’re growing, ask yourself:  

  • Am I trying something new that feels difficult? 
  • Do I feel uncomfortable attempting something new, but continue taking action anyway?   
  • Do I have a goal that I’m pursuing even if I sometimes fail along the way?

If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” you’re growing.  If that’s where you find yourself, keep going!  Allowing the inevitable discomfort of growth is what allows you to reap the benefits of that later.

If the answer to those questions is “no,” it’s either because you’re not stretching yourself to try something new at all or you started trying but then got stuck.  If this is where you find yourself, pay attention to your thoughts.  What are you telling yourself that setbacks mean about you and your ability to do this?  Are you telling yourself that you just can’t?  

Growth Requires Positive Thoughts 

Since our thoughts create our feelings and our feelings drive our actions, we can’t take positive action from negative thinking.  Berating yourself for not knowing how to do something doesn’t work.  Negative thoughts are make us feel stuck, not motivated.  Only positive thoughts (that we actually believe) can propel us to move forward and grow.  

Growth Makes Life Better 

I don’t want to suggest that we should always be growing in every moment.  Sometimes we just want to enjoy the ease of our current comfort zone.  For example, there is still considerable room for improvement in my driving in Spain. I avoid the incredibly narrow streets in the center of the city completely. I’m sure that my neighbors find it amusing that I park right in the middle of the two parking spaces that we’re allotted in our parking garage at home, because we only have one car here and it’s faster and easier to park that way.

But life is better when we live mostly in growth mode.  By choosing growth instead of comfort, we ultimately expand our comfort zone and find ourselves doing more than we knew we could.  Yes, it’s painful, difficult, and uncomfortable.  But it’s so worth it.  

Go forth and grow!  



How To Make Decisions That You Won’t Regret

A friend and former colleague recently asked whether I ever regret my decision to leave my former job, become a coach, and move to Spain.  I told her that I have not even once regretted it.  

But deciding to take the leap wasn’t easy.  In fact, I hired a coach specifically to help me make that decision because I had so much uncertainty around it.  My coach taught me fail-proof tools that helped me make the decision and not look back. 

Now that I’m a coach, I use those tools every day to help others make big decisions and it’s one of my favorite parts of coaching because cultivating the ability to make good decisions for yourself is one of the most empowering skills you can learn.  Here are some tools that you can use in your own life to make decisions that you won’t regret.  

Consider Your Reasons

When making decisions, the conventional wisdom asks us to weigh the pros and cons.  But the pros and cons don’t necessarily merit equal attention or weight.  

A far better way to make decisions is to consider and write down your underlying reasons for wanting to choose one thing over another.  Then ask yourself:  Do I like these reasons?  

When I wrote down my underlying reasons for wanting to become a coach or stay where I was, I could clearly see a pattern.  

My underlying reasons for making the move were based on what I wanted:   

  • I love helping people become their best selves and finding fulfilment in their careers and lives.  
  • Coaching lights me up, energizes me, and comes naturally to me.  
  • I really want to try this.  

My underlying reasons for wanting to stay put were based on fear:  

  • I might not make it.  
  • It might be really hard.  
  • It would require me to get really uncomfortable.  

When I considered which set of reasons I liked better, the answer was clear: I liked my reasons for wanting to take the leap.  I did not want to let fear drive my decisions anymore.  I wanted to choose out of love instead.

Check In With Your Gut

As much as we love to analyze decisions with our minds, sometimes we just know what is right for us in our bodies.

For example, if thinking about choosing Option A over Option B gives you a sinking feeling in your gut, that’s something that warrants your attention.

If you have a gut feeling about a decision you’re trying to make, include that on your list of reasons.  That’s a tremendously compelling reason to consider.

The only thing that will lead you astray from your gut is fear, which is generated by thoughts in your mind. Thoughts like: 

  • “I really want to enroll in this course but I’m afraid it’s just too expensive right now.”  
  • “I really want to write a book but I’m afraid I just can’t find the time right now.”  
  • “I really want to try this new program but there are just so many uncertainties right now.” 

Sometimes making a leap requires listening to the part of you that knows that everything will be okay and that you will make it work, if you can find the courage to move past the fear that is trying to keep you safe and playing small.  

Just Decide

As much as people like to take their time to make decisions, time usually doesn’t help.  

We like to think that if we have more time, we’ll eventually feel better or become more certain about making a decision, but we usually end up just finding more pros and cons and get dragged down by the uncertainty.  

To avoid this, the best thing to do is just decide. Consider your reasons, check in with your gut, recognize your fears for what they are, and then make a decision in your mind and commit to it for 48 hours.  Tell yourself “This is it.  This is what we’re doing.  The other option that I was considering is no longer available.  It’s completely off the table.”  

Then notice how you feel over those two days.  Do you feel excited?  Do you feel giddy, even if you think you might be a little crazy?  If you do, you’re on the right track.  If you’re deciding to do something you’ve never done or never thought you could do, it’s going to feel completely foreign and maybe even terrifying.  That doesn’t mean it’s not a sound decision.  It just means you’re stretching yourself and your brain is reacting to something new. 

If, on the other hand, you feel disappointed, let down, sad, or deflated, you know you’ve gone astray. Go back, try on the other decision for 48 hours, and see how you feel.

By deciding and moving forward, you’ll be gathering new information as you go. You’ll be learning instead of staying stuck.

Don’t Look Back

Once you make your decision, commit to it 100%. Go all in knowing that it’s the right decision and that you will make it the right decision. Keep your focus on the present and the future.

There will be obstacles no matter which path you choose.  Your job is to overcome them and you can only do that when you’re looking ahead, rather than back.   

If you like your reasons for your decisions and follow your gut, you won’t even want to look back anyway. 

Go forth, grow, and bloom. 



My Wish For You In The New Year

When I was discerning whether to become a coach, I worried that maybe coaching wasn’t enough of a contribution.  Despite feeling called to be a coach, doubt and fear still tried to dissuade me.  

Then I realized something:  If I do what I’m called to do—helping other women become their very best selves—then I’ll be empowering them to do what they are called to do.  I’ll be helping them go out and make their contributions. That felt right. That felt like “enough.”

My goal now is to help 1000 women become their very best selves.  

Just imagine the impact of that. 1000 women who are going after what they want, refusing to play small, trying new things, coming out from the shadows and showing up as the women they know they can be in their careers, relationships, and families.  It gives me goosebumps.  

As we embark on a new year, my wish for you is that you allow yourself to become the very best version of you.  

The person who knows exactly what she wants to do in this life. 

The person who has a clear purpose.  

The person who knows that she is capable of living that purpose and achieving her goals.  

The person who stands and speaks confidently and allows herself to be seen and heard.

The person who is willing to go outside of her comfort zone and grow. 

The person who is willing to do the work of looking within and managing her mind, so that she can show up as the person she wants to be and have a better life.

The person who is willing to try, fail, and learn.

The person who is committed to living in alignment with her core values.  

That is the person who will be a better version of herself one year from now.

I am endeavoring to be a better version of myself, too.  

Every day.  I try new things.  I fail.  I learn.  I grow.  I look back and ask “What didn’t work? What do I need to do better?” (There’s always something I need to do better.)  

I coach myself daily, I get coached weekly, and I ask for help all the time.  

And what I’ve noticed after doing this for a while is that I am becoming a better version of myself.  Far from perfect, but better.  

I still get overwhelmed sometimes, but I don’t stay stuck in overwhelm anymore.   

I still feel afraid when trying new things, but I don’t let fear stop me from doing what I want to do.  

And I continue to ask:  What do I need to do better next time?   

And it helps.  Little by little, I grow and become a better version of myself.  

It’s making enough of a difference for me that I can’t help but want to share it with others, too.

By showing my clients how to use the coaching tools to create whatever results they want in their lives, I’m giving them so much more than just a wish.  So much more than dandelion seeds floating through the air.  

What I’m giving them is a guarantee:  if they work the tools, the tools will work for them.  

So that they can become their very best selves.  In love with life, in love with their careers, and thriving in both.  

What about you?  Are you ready to become the very best version of you?   

Let’s live, grow, and bloom in 2019.