Four years ago, this was me. I was picking up the keys to my new car I had earned through my at-home business. I had worked hard and I was very proud of my accomplishments. Professionally, I was on top of the world. I had achieved a management position only the top 2% of people in my company ever reach. I thrived on the recognition and prizes I was receiving. I loved my work! I loved the people I associated with and the friendships I had formed.
Several years into this journey, I heard a wise woman say, “Time spent in one area is time taken away from another.” It’s a pretty simple phrase, but when I thought, really thought about what it meant, I realized that all the time I was investing into my business was time I was taking away from my primary responsibility as a mother. And although it is good for us as mothers to have our own pursuits, I was working A LOT! Even when I wasn’t working, I was thinking about work. The stress I felt was spilling over into my home life and taking away from the little time we had together as a young family.
Eventually, I chose to step down from the position in my business and step up in the position of mom. It was a very difficult decision. After all, this work brought in income that we had come to rely on. I had a team of 30+ women to whom I was a leader and a mentor. I had constantly taught others that women could have both career and family without sacrificing either. And yet, I walked away from a career that was very important to me. I think what made it so difficult (and it often still is difficult) were the comments from others around me.
I continue to work on a much smaller level and I still associate with the same women who were once my peers (and are now my superiors). They continue to encourage me to work more and move back into management. They often remind me of the money I can earn, or influence I’ll have in that position. I have to remind myself that I have the greatest influence over my children, and that one day they will grow up to influence the world. I came to realize that quantity time could not be replaced with quality time. My children needed BOTH.
There are many wonderful opportunities we can pursue as moms and as women. In stepping down from my position was I saying it is wrong for a woman to work? Not at all. It was simply a matter of dividing my time and prioritizing accordingly. How do we decide which opportunities deserve our time? This is the method I have used.
First, I rank my opportunities into 3 categories: things that are good (for me, for our family, for our health, for personal growth, etc.), things that are better, and things that are best. I try to focus the majority of my time and energy on doing things in the “best” category, and less time on those that fall into the good and better categories. None of us can only do things in the “best” category. I do ask myself the question, “Is this (activity, event, whatever) going to take time away from what is most important to me at this time?” Even though my business was good for our family, my really being there for our kids was better.
Second, I learned to say “no” to some opportunities, at least for now. I don’t need to do it all, even if I tell myself that I am capable of doing just that. I have realized that “life is long.” (I heard that phrase on one of the Power of Moms podcasts, and it has really stuck!) Life is long, and there will be time later to fulfill some of my life goals. One of my church leaders once said, “A woman need not sing all the verses of her song at the same time.”
Third, I remind myself that what is good for me and my family may not be right for another mom, and what works for her may not be the best for my family. When friends, colleagues, and loved ones encourage me toward something I don’t feel is right for me at this time (or takes away from something I do feel is important), I have to do what feels right in my heart. We may each have a similar end goal in mind, but how we get there may be different.
Occasionally, my son asks me about that car we earned. He asks when we will earn another one, or when he can color in the thermometer on one of my goal posters. Life has times and seasons, and I don’t know when I’ll get back to earning another car. But I do know that no other endeavor will prove to be more important than that of raising my children. And that just feels right in my heart.
QUESTION: What are the “best” things for you?
CHALLENGE: Try prioritizing your opportunities into good, better, and best categories.
Photo submitted by author.