Since when did this become such a controversial word in the mouths of mothers and families everywhere? Doesn’t it simply mean to further oneself in life? Isn’t it a good thing for all people, regardless of whether they are mothers or not, to want to achieve things and feel good about themselves?

Even before I had kids, I would find myself saying things like “I eventually want to have a family so I want to find a job with good hours”. However, the reality was that I really wanted a lucrative career but I thought I was being “bad” and “selfish” by thinking that way and that if I pursued a lucrative career, it would mean I couldn’t be a good mother.

I since realized anything worth anything good in life takes effort to achieve. As children when we went for piano or swimming lessons, we and our parents weren’t satisfied with just staying at the same level each year – we were all trying to pass and make it to the next level – if we weren’t doing this, then our parents pulled us out of the sport, coming to the conclusion that we weren’t very good at it and that we should find something else we were good at. That was the natural instinct; what is unnatural is staying in a job because you have good hours but are not progressing in any shape or form. What kind of example are we setting for our kids by doing this?

Even as I type these words, I can feel the fury of mothers everywhere so my disclaimer here is that if you are staying in a job (or choosing not to have one) because you are happy and that’s what you truly want, then that’s great. If you are accepting this status quo even when you’re unhappy because you feel some sort of societal/motherly/family pressure to, then you are not doing your family any favors by sacrificing your own sense of fulfillment to be a martyr for them.

What I think some of us mommies forget is that if you want to have a great work life balance, you need to invest the time in establishing a solid career first so that you get enough credibility to set your own hours. That takes a time investment just like dating and marriage and kids is a time investment. We all applaud each other for not settling and taking the time to find the right person because we know that we want a lasting marriage. Why don’t we follow the same approach with our careers? If we aim low, aren’t we just going to get low-balled?

I think as moms we have a responsibility to feel fulfilled in our non-mommy life in order to have the energy we need in our mommy life to take care of our kids properly. Why is it that even when my workday often consists of only 8 hours at work with a short pleasant commute, I come home exhausted with little energy to cook and run around with my kids? I’m not physically exhausted from working in a corn field all day; I’m mentally exhausted from feeling unfulfilled at work and knowing that I am wasting my potential.

This epiphany goes against all the things us women/mothers have been traditionally taught – that we should find a non-demanding job so that we have more time for our family and kids. I realize now that if I came home from work feeling fully satisfied and proud of the work I did during the day, I would feel better about being a working mom and in turn, have more energy at home.

The best example I can think of to illustrate this point is: the other day I missed my daughter’s pre-school graduation because I had to facilitate a meeting at work – this really just consisted of me kicking off the meeting, taking attendance, and then turning it over to the very senior subject matter experts to speak. Oh yeah, I also politely nodded and smiled throughout the meeting in manner of Vanna White. I wasn’t senior enough to be able to say no to the meeting. Now if I were one of those very senior subject matter experts, I would have had the authority to say no to the meeting and could have made it to the graduation.

It may seem counterintuitive but I realized it’s not a simple black and white concept of: easy job with less hours = more valuable time with your kids. If you want to have the authority in the longer term to say no to things at work, delegate, and spend more time with your family, it may be worth the initial investment to focus on your career in the short term, even if that means shelling out extra money for more nanny/childcare hours. Your kids will be grateful to have a happy mommy!