Redefining Success as a Working Mom: 3 Steps to Freedom

Written by Erica Pieczonka, Founder of Dream Lab Coaching

Motherhood is a transformative journey that leaves no one the same. Yet, societal norms often pressure us to “get back” to our pre-motherhood selves, as if moving backward is the ideal. This [BS] expectation leaves many mothers in its wake, causing us to feel trapped in an old approach to work and life that no longer works. We get lost trying to make sense of it, all while resisting the opportunity to find a better way. If you’re a high-achiever trying to reconcile your ambition with your desire to live a fulfilling life and be a good mother, this one’s for you. Keep reading to learn how you can break free from the past and define success in alignment with who you are becoming.

It’s well established that we experience an incredible identity shift when we become mothers. Matrescence is a term that describes this multifaceted and messy process of becoming a mother. During this period, it’s normal to question your beliefs, values, and approach to life to meet ALL the changes happening physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually.

“Who am I, NOW?”, is the question that calls loudly to be answered.

I call this process of becoming “the caterpillar goo” stage.

When a caterpillar becomes a butterfly they don’t just jump into a cocoon, sprout wings, and leave a butterfly. The process of metamorphosis requires the caterpillar to completely dissolve into goo so that they can be biologically rearranged into something entirely new.

This is what the process of Matrescence is like. The good news is that like any transition, the loss of identity you are experiencing is temporary. You will get through it and emerge an even better version of you.

The caterpillar goo stage for me started around 6 months postpartum.

I was back at work as a corporate HR Director, but the job I had loved before left me feeling empty and unfulfilled. Climbing the corporate ladder had lost its luster entirely. I found myself wanting to invest more time in my well-being and family. Increasingly, I found myself jaded by the constant corporate hustle. I wanted to help people, not waste time in another meeting before the meeting before the meeting.

There was a long period where I felt utterly lost. I looked for other jobs, but it just felt like it would be the same sh*t, different company. I was ready for a completely different approach to my work and life.

Freedom came to me when I realized my definition of success had changed. No wonder I was so unhappy, I was chasing the WRONG goal. The goal wasn’t to be a Chief HR Officer anymore; it was to be a good mom and wife, AND a successful coach and entrepreneur who was in LOVE with her whole life.

I saw clearly that my desires were in stark contrast with my old definition of success. To move forward, I had to let go of the parts of myself that no longer resonated. I had to give myself permission to start over.

I learned that we GET TO write our own rules. And you can too.

This blog is your invitation into a beautiful transformation. This is your time to redefine what success looks like for YOU – not society, your parents, your boss – just YOU. Let go of the ideas of what you SHOULD be or do, and play full out in your desire.

I promise it will be worth it.

Let’s do this! 👇

Creating Your Success Statement: A Holistic Approach

Many clients come to me because they don’t know how to choose between being a mom OR a high-achieving career woman. I am here to tell you that you DON’T have to choose one or the other. You can have both AND everything else that is important to you.

In a world that tries to tell us we are bad moms for working and bad workers for being moms, the greatest rebellion is to say “F that” and CHOOSE how you want to live your life!

You will never truly FEEL successful until you define what success means for you.

Instead of narrowly focusing on traditional definitions of success (money, status, rank, etc.), we need to broaden our thinking to consider a more holistic view. This might look like excelling in your career while being present for your family, having time for things you enjoy, positively impacting your community, and/or nourishing your physical and mental health.

When you claim a comprehensive definition of success, you FREE yourself from the prison of definitions that don’t align with what you value most.

This is NOT a one-size-fits-all formula (so stop looking outside you for the answers!). Instead, go inside and ask, “What brings me joy, fulfillment, and a sense of purpose?”. THAT is what defines success for YOU.

Here is my 3-Step process for creating your Success Statement:

Assess: Where am I Now?

The Wheel of Life allows you to holistically assess how balanced your life is in the present moment. This tool is especially powerful because it provides a simple, yet visual snapshot of your overall satisfaction with all parts of your life.

Using the chart below, rate your current level of satisfaction out of 10 in each category by drawing a line. The scale ranges from 1 (not at all satisfied) to 10 (highly satisfied).

The question I want you to hold throughout this exercise is: What do I TRULY need to feel fulfilled, successful, and satisfied?

Reflect: What do I Really Want?

Grab a journal, cozy up with a blanket, and take some time to reflect on your Wheel of Life Assessment. This reflection is intended to help you identify what is important to include in your new success formula.

  • When you look at your Wheel of Life, what is your initial reaction?
  • In the places you scored yourself higher, what are you celebrating? What values and priorities are you honoring?
  • In the places you scored lower, what values and priorities are you neglecting? What do you need to do differently to bring those areas into balance?
  • If you had to rate yourself overall on how well you are living your purpose and your values, what score would you give yourself? What does that score tell you?
  • Now, what do you really want? Take a moment to list what you learned is important for you to lead a FULL life through this exercise.

Commit: Your New! Definition of Success

Now, write your Success Statement based on your reflection: What is success to YOU?

For example, a few elements of success for me are:

  • Work that honors my purpose of helping women thrive in life and motherhood
  • Time to care for my family and my well-being with the same intensity
  • Autonomy to make decisions that align with my values 
  • Flexibility to care for the needs of myself and my family without stress
  • Enough money to care for my family, have adventures, and invest in my growth as a human and as a coach (as well as a few nice things here and there 😉)

Now, for accountability, put your Success Statement in a place you can see every day! Let it serve as a compass for your future decisions and actions.

Making it Stick

Designing your formula is the easy part. Making it stick requires some more work, from the inside out. The truth is, if we don’t challenge our self-sabotaging tendencies it’s unlikely that our new definition of success will stick. These mindset blocks use fear to keep us in our comfort zones and direct behavior that doesn’t align with what we want to create in our lives.

 The 4 biggest mindset blocks I see in working mothers are:

  1. Perfectionist: Spending too much energy on making things perfect and feeling like a failure if they are not. 
  2. People Pleaser: Puts everyone else’s needs over their own, resulting in resentment and often burnout.
  3. Overachiever: So caught up in achieving the next thing, they neglect themselves and other important priorities.
  4. Controller: High need to be in control of everything at all times, over being present. Often refuses much-needed help.

All of these mindsets value some external result OVER protecting our peace. We end up wasting precious energy on things that don’t matter instead of the things that do.

Consider for a moment: What are these mindsets costing you? 

To make your formula stick identify how you can prioritize your well-being by challenging your biggest mindset block:

  • For the Perfectionist: Let good be good enough. Release unrealistic expectations. This could look like spending less time organizing so you can spend more time doing something else.
  • For the People Pleaser: Letting your no’s protect your yeses. Prioritize your self-care and well-being first. This could look like saying no to a friend asking for help when you don’t have the capacity.
  • For the Overachiever: Set clear boundaries to honor your new definition of success. This could look like setting a personal boundary with yourself to walk away from your computer by 5pm so you have time for your other priorities.
  • For the Controller: Focus on what you can control, and release what you can’t. This could look like letting the kids play with messy paints and enjoying the fun with them, knowing you can clean it later.

Commit to ONE action you will take to make your Success Statement Stick!

As a recovering perfectionist (and aspiring good enoughist, as Brené Brown says), I have committed to EASE. When I find myself getting sucked into the familiar pulls of perfect I ask myself, “How can I make this easy?”. And that one action has simplified my whole life and completely turned down the pressure I used to put on myself.

You got this mama! 💪

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