By Alexandra Levit
It wasn’t too long ago that women began taking sledgehammers to the glass ceilings of corporate America. In the years that followed, women were allowed into the privileged society of male executives, and as they marched up the ladder and commanded high salaries, everyone cheered. Even so, some powerful women wondered what they had gotten into.
“A lot of women found that the male model of success — with its emphasis on full time and face time, extensive investment during the thirty something years, and money as the primary motivator — didn’t work for them,” says Kathy Caprino, a work-life coach and author of “Breakdown, Breakthrough: The Professional Woman’s Guide to Claiming a Life of Passion, Power, and Purpose.”
Mary Beth Reeves, of Atlanta, had worked her way up to a high-level training and development position at Starwood Hotels & Resorts when she found out she was pregnant with quadruplet girls. “I was career driven and competitive,” she recalls. “I’d get on a plane to go to a meeting at a moment’s notice, and once there, I’d stick around longer to have drinks.”
But once her daughters were born, Ms. Reeves, then 37, says her priorities changed. “I didn’t need the prestigious title, and I wanted to do my job and go home.”
Seeking meaningful work as well as more personal time, Ms. Reeves, now 40, created a new career on her own terms. She launched her own business, Scrapbook Mamma, which develops custom photo books.
She employs a nanny to help with her daughters while she runs her business from home. “Necessity was the cause of my reinvention,” she says. “I’d been happy in my hospitality career, but then one day, I wasn’t.”
If you’re a mid-career woman who wants to make a change, where should you begin? First, it’s important to consider the type of work you’re drawn to, and then think through the details. For example, you may want to work for yourself because you think that will provide you with more time for family. But in some entrepreneurial ventures, you will end up working more hours and with more stress than in most corporate jobs.
Try interviewing other women who have succeeded and failed at what you want to do. They can provide a reality check regarding the day-to-day life of your prospective career path and assist you in overcoming challenging emotions like fear and insecurity. For mid-career women who aren’t accustomed to negotiating or advocating for themselves, empowered mentors can make the difference between succeeding — or not.
As you move forward with your reinvention, keep in mind that you don’t have to emulate superwoman. While you are setting up a situation that will provide you with better work-life balance in the long term, your focus may need to be primarily on your career. You shouldn’t feel guilty about asking for help.
“Women do more in their lives than is appropriate and healthy, but they need to empower their families to take on more of the demands of the household,” says Ms. Caprino.