A person’s professional career path is often referred to as 'climbing the career ladder'. This implies that the journey is straight upwards as one slowly moves up the ranks of a career. Yet, for mothers, this isn't always the case – life mostly doesn't happen like that. A mothers career journey is more peaks of growth, periods of stagnation and breaks from work to look after children with a period of returning to work. They might pursue side hustles and opt into lower-pressure roles with improved work-life integration. They can even become adept at new skills and switch careers entirely. A working moms path is much more akin to the second graphic below than the linear first one - a true testament to life's nonlinearity.
Figure: Comparing career ladder to a more realistic career path.
Our CEO and founder, Phillipa Geard, and the founder of 50Plus-Skills, Lynda Smith, had a thought-provoking conversation about navigating life through various stages of one's career. Their discussion highlighted the importance of having a plan for each life stage to ensure ultimate success. We have summarised their conversation in this blog article.
The context for understanding life stages
The World Economic Forum held in Davos in 2020 put longevity on the agenda for the first time. We can expect, compared to our parents' generation, an additional decade of life and a substantial two decades more than our grandparents. That translates to a lifespan of about 100 years for people who are currently adults. This ‘extra season’ of life (75 years to 100 years) is a blessing that we have to be open-minded and creative about in order to make the most of it.
The four quarters of life
Our lives can be thought of in four quarters. This doesn't necessarily coincide with age, but it's a useful way to visualise life. For example, if someone were to live to be a century old, you could break down their years into 0-25, 25-50, 50-75 and 75-100.
During the initial first quarter, 0-25 years, a person is still maturing into the individual they will be as an adult.
The second period, 25-50, is where much of the activity occurs; this is when we form families and advance in our career.
When you turn 50, you still have 50 years of life ahead of you. At this stage a good way to plan for the last two quarters is to break your planning up per decade.
The last two quarters, 50--75 years and 75-100 years, are largely determined by your quality of health; therefore, if your condition declines prematurely, you may enter the last period sooner than 75. On the other hand, those with good physical and mental wellbeing can remain in their third quarter well into their eighties or nineties.
Understanding how the life stages of children impact a parent
A child’s life stage can impact on a parent and their career trajectory. Let's unpack the second quarter of a moms life, 25-50, where children form a big part of a parent’s life stage.
Children's lives can be broken up into three sections: 0 to 7, 7 to 14, and 14 to 21. Each period has its own unique requirements from us as parents.
In the initial stage of life, parents act as teachers to their children, imparting values and knowledge. The importance of teaching our children in the first 1 000 days of life is well known. It is an intense time of focused hand-on parenting.
Coach 7- 14
In the second stage of parenting, ranging from 7 to 14 years old, our children need more guidance and direction, parents become coaches, providing them with the necessary advice and support to navigate life.
During the teenage years, age 14 to 21, children may start to push back against their parents. At this stage, the role of moms and dads shifts and evolves into being more of a mentor. This is period of parental letting go and allowing children to ask questions and explore under guidance.
Understanding the different phases your children's growth and your role as a mom at each stage, will help you better navigate your life and plan your career journey.
“Life is not a sprint - it's more akin to a marathon”.
As you forge your life path, there will be both ascents and descents, moments of joy and of tribulation. But it's often the valleys that give you the lessons that become invaluable tools on our lifelong journey. The more you plan and think about your life, rather than leave it to chance, the more you will be able to take action and intervene to ensure you reach your ultimate goal.
You can view the 20 min video here.
About Lynda Smith: She has a passionate love of people and the development of future leaders. Lynda has 40 years of business experience and a unique set of skills and knowledge, creating an unmatched value proposition in dealing with all aspects of the 50+ generation.