Lean In Or Lean Out? How To Decide Your Next Move When You Are Questioning Your Career Commitment

Working moms spend years building up our careers, and then we can spend hours a day stressing over how much our jobs are taking us away from our family after kids come along. This happened to Tamara Birch-Olason, a human resources director and mom of two boys ages 3 and 8. She shares the 10 directives you should follow when you wonder if rising up the corporate ladder or building your business is worth so much time away from your kids.

Tamara was excited to tell us about her new job that gave her more leadership. But you know what sometimes comes with more responsibility? More time away from home. If you struggle with balancing work and travel and nurturing young children, it’s time to question if you want to continue pushing full steam ahead in your career or step back. How do you know when to lean in and when to lean out?

Sometimes the hardest part isn’t actually making a change, but figuring out exactly what you want first. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Sometimes you can find that elusive balance by adjusting your schedule, changing jobs, changing careers, or working from home.

Tamara told us she is mom of two boys, ages 3 and 8, who became a mom later in life and adopted her younger son. She wants to give her boys more attention and not feel pulled in different directions. She’s been working full-time in human resources for many years. Because of the demands on her time, she knows she doesn’t take the time she should to nurture herself or work out or plan healthy meals. She left a Fortune 50 company recently to move cross country to take a new job as a human resources director in order to have more leadership in a smaller organization. She says workplace flexibility is expected nowadays by a senior level employee, but she still worries about how much time she is away from her kids. She knows she can’t be perfect and should stop putting so much stress on herself, but she’s questioning her career and thinking about pulling back to ease some of the travel challenges and other burdens. She’s in the process of evaluating the trade-offs between her rising career and her growing boys.

“Most women who are trying to do it all are very hard-driving overachievers, and a lot of what is giving us stress is what we put on ourselves,” Tamara said.

She said her family is at that stage where things are just starting to get pretty hectic as her kids get involved in activities and sports and all that. “I’m actually at the point of questioning that now,” she said while describing her commitment to her career.  She said she thinks what is missing in her life “is just time and space to let things evolve and happen and just have more room and more to give them, more attention I think, because you’re pulled in a number of different directions all at the same time when you’re trying to do both. And some of it you just feel stressed out,” Tamara said.

She said she gets most stressed by her “workload and trying to make sure that everybody is challenged and that everyone’s needs are met. So it’s just trying to keep all the balls in the air at the same time,” both at home and at work, since Tamara nurtures her employees as their supervisor. She said if she had more time, “I would work out more, and I would probably have more time to better plan meals and be a little bit healthier in that area.”

She said she took the new job because “it was just a career shift that I was looking for from a 100,000-person organization to a much smaller organization where I had more leadership and impact. As a working mom a big factor was travel, which continues to be a challenge. I’m at a point in my life where you accept what is, and you know you can’t be perfect in every area; don’t try. And you just make it all work. Give the best you can.”

After coming to that realization, she started to consider what she really values and wants for her future. “You start to think about the trade-offs that you’re making and trying to figure out if it’s what you really want.”

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