#1 Your job should leave you feeling fulfilled.

  • Many working mothers reassess their job after their first child comes along. We examine our satisfaction at work because it is literally time away from our baby. As we reassess our current job, it is important to be honest about our degree of fulfillment & whether we feel appreciated. A job that is not fulfilling is just a job.
  • The best jobs allow you to use your strengths & unique skills. If you are not heading toward your career goals, then your job is not right for you.
  • Having a mentor at work helps – someone who recognizes your strengths & skills & wants what is best for you. Your mentor can help you think through all your issues.
  • There will always be conflicts at work. If they are minimal, your job will be tolerable. But if conflicts are common, they add STRESS to your work environment (which some of us carry home).
  • Frequent conflicts are a red flag indicating the necessity of your finding a better job for you (and your family). Expect that your becoming a mother will change the way you look at your work.

#2 Your professional development is crucial.

  • Continuing education & adult learning are necessary. They are crucial to your survival as a working mother in your field.
  • After you obtain your degree & a good job, you work your job, mature, & become better with experience. However, your original education & training may become out of date; so you need to stay current.
  • Many of us have jobs that provide reimbursement for on-going education: CME for doctors, CEU for nurses, CLE for lawyers, etc. Always take advantage of these offerings. Feel free to pursue any new skills that interest you (with your boss’ approval, of course).
  • Remember that you are in this for the long haul – twenty-five to thirty years, or more, & your original job may one day begin to feel ordinary.
  • Multidisciplinary projects are extremely valuable for professional growth, for only in that framework will you learn how the “other” sees the same problem. For example, neonatologists & obstetricians view the birth process from entirely different perspectives. This is true in other fields as well. A multidisciplinary approach will broaden your view in any area of work.

#3 Cultivate your work friendships and allies.

  • All working moms need friends. It is simply how we survive being away from our children.
  • Working moms tell stories, compare notes, & talk about our children. It comes naturally to us.
  • The workers under you will respect your ability to reveal something personal about yourself. When you volunteer a story about a challenging situation with your children, that sharing, and vulnerability are appreciated. All working mothers face these challenges.
  • Learning to give positive strokes to others in your workplace is key. When we are kind & outwardly appreciate the work that others do, they notice & respond positively. The best NICU nurses would do anything for me, because they knew that I appreciated, recognized, & needed them!
  • New jobs can bring out the worst in us (at least it did for me many years ago). Once in a new job, I complained about my situation to too many people. Soon enough I became known as critical & difficult to please. That won me few friends & allies. Without friends & allies in that workplace I was miserable for a long time. That was a huge mistake.

#4 At some time, you may need to find a different job.

  • Sometimes we become too unhappy, or we grow too unfulfilled to continue on working where we are. If need be, you can change jobs. It is scary, but you can do it!
  • Once I left the NICU and went to work as medical director of a small HMO. The work was easy & the hours a vast improvement, but what an eye-opening experience that turned out to be (& not in a good way).
  • Once I left academic medicine & entered private practice. That was another shock. In my new practice environment, what other doctors, nurses, & patients (parents) think of you is weighed far more heavily than your academic credentials, your CV, & your research.
  • If you do change jobs, expect that your family will react greatly! A job change to a new city will be huge for your family. Even a simple change in your schedule will affect your children & your partner.
  • Childcare needs will depend on your new schedule. School changes will be needed, & it will take some time for your children to adjust.
  • If you do not like your current job, & you can possibly change it, you should strongly consider doing just that. The long haul that is surviving-as-a-working-mother is difficult enough without your dislike for your job.

#5 Expect trouble from toddlers & teenagers.

  • Wow, toddlers & teenagers always seem to pose additional challenges.
  • They do not mean to create trouble, but those the toddler & teenage phases are hugely important in child development. The goal for these two phases periods is independence – from you!
  • Your personal limits & boundaries must be secure in order to fend off their competing demands with your work.
  • Sometimes toddler problems are so unmanageable that you will want to limit your work. Thankfully, most toddler problems are self-limited, like hitting & kicking, biting, tantrums, & potty-training, etc.
  • Two of my teenage daughters (at different times) manifested such profound problems that I was forced to work part-time in order to spend more time with them & get them the help they needed.
  • While in high school, one had an eating disorder & years later the other skipped school, wrecked cars, got tattoos, & ran around with a bad boy.
  • More than any other time, the problems that teenagers develop will test your endurance as a working mother.

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