What all working moms need to know about letting passion guide your career (and work-life balance)

finding your passion is the key for working moms to have work-life balance

Working moms need to be intentional in creating the life you want and the work-life balance that makes you happy

During my first maternity leave, I spent playdates and time with other moms talking about baby sleep and developmental milestones. We were all first time moms and new to parenting. I loved talking about babies, hearing people’s ideas, finding solutions to our challenges.

During my second maternity leave, the tone shifted. This was our second child, and probably the last. Our conversations were no longer about how to get a baby to sleep through the night and whether they were crawling or walking, but instead about our careers and our own next steps. It was as though we had put career progress on hold while pregnant or planning to have more kids, but once we were done, we were ready to lean in.

How to have a successful career guided by passion for working moms

Have working moms forgotten their passions to care for family, kids, and those around them?

Every woman’s position was a little different. Some women realized they didn't love what they did, but weren't sure where to go next. Others enjoyed their jobs, but were feeling bored, or unsure how they could move up. Some women wanted to make large career changes, but were afraid of how to do that, whether it would be the right move, and how to make it financially if they switched careers. And while they dreamed of career ambitions, they worried about all of the family responsibilities at home.

One evening, I was sitting in Starbucks with a girlfriend, Beth (long before she became by Balancing Bravely partner) talking about our next career steps. She is a thoughtful, intelligent, successful addictions counselor. She had a list of ideas and potential opportunities. After she went through her list, I mentally stepped way back from the detailed questions she was thinking about and asked her "what do you want?"

There was a long pause, she thought for a while, we discussed some ideas back and forth, but the answer was she didn't really know. For so many years, she had been thinking about what other people wanted and needed that she hadn't really stopped to think about what she wanted.

The amazing transformation when working moms find their passion

As we navigate work-life balance as working moms, it's easy to get caught up in joys and challenges of raising a family and continue with the status quo at work. We focus on the wants and needs of those around us - children, spouses, parents, siblings, employees, bosses... Being considerate and supportive can be amazing, but somewhere inside us, we have our own passions, things that inspire us, challenge us, and push us to greatness.

I'm writing this post on Friday evening; after what has probably been one of the best work weeks of my life. It's a moment in time, where I have so much clarity about my passion, even though my own career next steps feel very unclear. I just finished delivering a course I developed. It's an intensive 5 day workshop that presents the culmination of years and years of school and work to understand how we can effectively take research evidence and put it into practice. As participants finished the course, many commented on how inspiring it was to spend the week with us (myself and the other facilitators), because it was so clear that we are so passionate about what we do and we love working together. And they were right.

The thing that inspires me to wake up and go to work every morning is that I want to help people, organizations, communities, and the world be a better and happier place. This course does that, it helps people understand how they can put research evidence in practice so that they can improve whatever health outcome they are looking for. It's hard not to get swept up in the excitement of figuring out how to do this. This was the 9th time we offered the course and the best delivery yet.

While I sit here typing away, part of me feels so lucky to have had the opportunities to learn what I did so that I could build this course and deliver it to new participants every year. But it isn't just luck. I made a series of deliberate and sometimes difficult choices to get to this place.

Do you feel balanced or struggling to get it all done?

 Can't find time for your kids, your work, your spouse, or yourself? 

You don't need to live like this - you can have so much more balance.


Grab the free guide to get started with 3 simple steps to improve your work-life balance 

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    3 Steps to support working moms to discover their passion – to guide your career, your life, and your work-life balance

    1. Think back to your childhood to figure out what you value most, what is most fulfilling for you personally? 

    It can be very challenging to figure out what you truly value. Thinking back to your own childhood, or adolescence is often a great way to identify what fulfills you.

    Can you think of the times that you felt content and wonderful about yourself as a person?

    What made you feel proud, not in a way that you would boast to others, but because you knew you had done something that you really wanted to you and made you feel really good?

    Amanda McCullough, life coach, award-winning scientist, writer, behavior change specialist and founder of Not Just Mum says “no matter what your decisions about work and kids, the most important thing is that you know yourself and make decisions from there. One way I do this is to be explicit about what your values are and what behaviors demonstrate those values. If you know what is important to you and why, then when things come up to challenge you, you can keep coming back to these values as guiding lights.”

    For me, example that stands out so clearly in my mind is when I was in high school, I was a camp counsellor at a camp for children in the foster system. The camp was open to all children, but each week about 25% of the campers who had pretty rough lives. We would get this profile about each of the campers (like the ones that you fill out for your kids now – what you kid likes, if they have allergies, if they have any fears…), and the children in the foster system had an additional form. It didn’t provide us very many details, but painted a high-level picture of the kinds of struggles they experienced. For example, if a child had been in several foster homes in the past year, if a child had recently been placed into foster care, or if a child had been exposed no to drugs or alcohol as a fetus. 

    Obviously, working with children who did not have stable lives was not always easy. They didn’t always want to participate, they didn’t always listen very well, some children were slow to open up, and others opened up way too much, way too fast. But I looked forward to summer camp all year round. It was undeniably the most fulfilling six weeks of my year, every year. I absolutely loved and relished my time there, even though it also very difficult and challenging. 

    Childhood experiences like this often provide great clues about what you love, what you value. It brings you back to a simpler time when you were not influenced by society’s expectations of you, of women, of motherhood, of working moms.

    What really inspired and excited you when you were young?

    2. Figure out how you can transform what you value into your career, your volunteer work, or your life (and improve your work-life balance).

    working moms need to "find your why"

    I wish I could tell you that figuring out what you valued as a teenager will directly tell you exactly what you should be doing for the rest of your life, but it’s more complicated than that. What you’re able to do as a 12-year-old is very different than what you can do as an adult, a mother, and working professional. You want to get to the core of those values and figure out how those can transform into your current life.

    Amanda McCullough shared that her “values are authenticity, courage and freedom. To me, they mean showing up as my full self in the world which includes doing work I love, choosing courage over comfort when difficult situations arise, and having the financial freedom, choice over how my days are set up and space to create my life in the way that works for me and my family.”

    You might think that based on my strongest memory of feeling fulfilled as a teenager that I would want to be a social worker, counselor, or teacher. I truly explored all of those options, but in the end I realized that I want to work more upstream. My day job is about working with large organizations, so that they implement evidence-based programs (which are programs that have been proven to improve outcomes and the lives of the people who participate in these programs). I do this and mostly in public health and healthcare. It means that I don’t get to see the people impacted by these programs, but I am okay with that, because the trade-off is that I get to influence more people, to implement more programs that results in impacting more people’s lives. I’m not as close to the outcome, I don’t get to see the outcome, but I believe I have a larger impact. That’s okay with me, although I know many people who much prefer working more directly on the frontlines with patients/clients/kids/people. For example, Beth (my Balancing Bravely partner) works as a therapist directly helping the clients she serves.

    Your passion may not be directly related to people. For example, I have a friend who absolutely loves to write – her passion is writing novels. Now she writes on the side (and has published several novels), but also writes for work, as a freelancer.

    As a child and teenager, my brother was obsessed with video games. For years he worked for a video game company, but recently switch to a toy company (with apps and such), discovering that his passion was not only for video games, but for engaging kids in a different way.

    Talk to friends, family, and colleagues about what fulfilled and inspired you as a child. How could it be transform now that you’re a grown-up and know much more about yourself and the world than you did as a child or a teenager? 

    3. Figure out the ways in which comparing yourself to others might set you up to start following someone else’s path instead of your own (a huge working mom pitfall).

    It’s wonderful to figure out what you want, but it’s also really important to decide the things that are not your priorities, but that might get you into a cycle of comparing yourself to others

    working mom guilt and comparing yourself to others undermines your work-life balance and happiness

    These days there’s so much mom shaming going on that I think this is a huge one. It’s so easy to fall into the mom guilt trap – you see what someone else is doing and think that they are doing it better than you. This can derail you and your values. 

    One of the ways I can see this happening to me, as a new entrepreneur, is that I’ve started reading a lot about entrepreneurs and marketing, topics I had essentially never read about until a year ago when I quit my very stable job to launch my own consulting business and then Balancing Bravely. Almost everything in the marketing and entrepreneur space of focuses on money.

    When people talk about big goals, they are focused on money. When people talk about success, it is often defined in terms of money. They regularly make a note that money isn’t the only driver of success, but it is the example that everyone uses all of the time.

    When I started trying to create my “epic fail goals”, I really struggled to come up with ones that weren’t related to money, because all of the examples that I was hearing about related to money. But at the end of the day I care about inspiring people to make better choices to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.

    I want to make sure that I am paid what I am worth, but money is not my primary driver, it’s not my secondary driver, it’s not even in the top 10.

    But I’m competitive and driven, and I’m an upholder (using Gretchen Rubin’s 4 tendencies). So I can see how I’m probably going to have to battle against this money driver, because as an entrepreneur, a lot of things I read and listen to are going to be about money. 

    But money is not my outcome of success – I need to remember this and have others remind me, so that I don’t lose my way and lose my passion.

    What are your potential pitfalls? How can you plan for them so they don’t derail you?

    to working moms trying to find your why

    Are you ready to re-define what success, work-life balance, and fulfilment like mean for you?

    Success and fulfillment look different for every single person. That’s because what we value and what we care about most is different. That’s not only fine, that’s amazing, because if we all cared about the same things, we would all want to do the same thing, and this world needs people to do lots of different jobs and have a lots of different goals.

    What are you passionate about?  

    1. Think back to your childhood to figure out what you value most, what is most fulfilling for you personally? 

    2. Figure out how you can transform what you value into your career, your volunteer work, or your life (and improve your work-life balance).

    3. Figure out the ways in which comparing yourself to others might set you up to start following someone else’s path instead of your own (a huge working mom pitfall).


    The more examples people have the easier it is to figure out what it is they truly value, come up allowed to share your childhood memory that for filled year, and help inspire other working mothers.

    Good luck!