Yesterday, when I should have been working, I was instead watching an episode of A Baby Story. (Don´t ask me why I´m still hooked on this show, but I get teary eyed every single time I watch it). The mother was saying that she works because she loves what she does, and that the work makes her feel whole. In turn, she is a better mother to her children. Which made me consider this question: What if a working mother hates her career and is ready for a change? When the babysitter came today, I headed out to work at my favorite local café, with pen and paper in hand (the laptop is getting some necessary repairs-like another backspace key, which my munchkin snatched off while typing away with her tiny hands) and a new copy of the magazine Pink (http://www.pinkmagazine.com/index.html). (If you haven´t read it yet, get to the store and pick up a copy: the magazine addresses professional women, and many articles include information that is pertinent to working mothers.) One of the articles addresses this very issue: hating your job. It´s easy to see that if you are working in a career that makes you happy, that challenges you as a person, and that gives back to you what you put into it, you will love going to that job each day. While you might feel sad at times when you have to leave your children, or you might feel overwhelmed at having to get everything done that you need to get done, you will also feel a great sense of accomplishment and joy when you think about your job. You might also feel closer to finding “balance´ (I´ll address that word in a later post, because I don´t truly believe you can ever find complete balance). This, in turn, will make you feel more complete as a mother. But what about mothers who hate their jobs? I know several, and I´ve seen the effects it can have on both the woman and the family. I have one girlfriend who works fairly long hours in a high-pressure position. The problem is that she has been in this career for a very long time; so long, in fact, that if she changes jobs she will take a huge reduction in pay. In some families a pay cut may not be a problem. If you are depending on your income only for the extras, then a twenty thousand-dollar annual reduction might not matter. But when you live in Southern California where the average home is $750,000 (I don´t care what the newspapers say; you can´t get a nice 2/2 condo for under $500,000), then you probably can´t afford to take that large of a loss. So what is a disgruntled mother employee to do? Obviously if she continues in her career, she will suffer not only the repercussions in the workplace but also at home as well. An unhappy worker is not a happy woman after hours either. Instead, she feels frustrated that she has to go in each day, angry that she is still thinking about it when she gets home at night, and concerned that things will never change. The article in Pink gave some great suggestions for those mothers who are unhappy in their careers. I´ll save the meat of the article for those of you that want to go out and pick up a copy, but I´ll give you some basic information that both the article and other articles I´ve read have offered. First, you have to decide if you are unhappy with what you are doing or just where you are doing it. For instance, is it the boss that gets under your fingernails? If she were replaced with someone a little easier with whom to work, would you want to continue on at your job? Is the commute time or traffic a problem? Could that be settled by working closer to home? Would you prefer to work less hours, or more? Do you enjoy the field but want to try something slightly different? These factors don´t always necessitate a change in career but instead a change of employer. Oftentimes, though, people experience burnout at various points in their careers. I was told when I entered special education that I would burn out by year five, and I did. The job was stressful and taxing emotionally, physically, and mentally. I changed what I was doing but stayed within the realm of education for another five years, when I started to feel burned out again. At that point I was pregnant with my daughter and was fortunate enough to stay at home with her. During this time, I was able to look at my career, realize that I was unhappy in the field as a whole, and start considering other options. You might not have the luxury of a break to help you do this though. So if you don´t, what else can you do if you find that it is the field in which you work, and not the place at which you work, that you want to change? Here are a few tips that might help those of you who are ready to try something new: -Think about what you love to do, and consider career options in those areas. If you love art, can you teach classes? Work at an art museum? If your background is in the financial arena, could you see yourself as a financial adviser? If you´ve been working in computers for many years but are tired of, say, programming, perhaps you could try your hand at sales. -Attend a job fair or two. You don´t have to hand out resumes, but browsing different companies might open some doors that you didn´t at first consider. My friend did just this. Her background in education led to a career in developing curriculum. She didn´t know she could even do this type of job until she attended a fair at her local community center. -Check educational requirements, but also look at experience; sometimes the degree isn´t all that matters. This is especially true if you have worked for years in one field and want to cross over. For instance, your degree might be in literature and you might have been working in the editing field, but with that experience you might also be able to teach, work for a publishing company, or begin writing for a magazine or newspaper. Oftentimes what managers want to see is some experience in the field, some knowledge of the career, and a desire to learn. You should also check the educational requirements because if you are making a huge jump-say, from teacher to doctor-you are going to need years more of education. Oftentimes this is not an option for mothers with young children, unless you are able to study while they are at school and you don´t need your income while you are doing so. Once my cousins were in school, their mother returned to college for her degree in occupational therapy. She´d been staying at home for quite some time, so her income at that point was not necessary and she was able to study full time while they did the same. Another friend of mine had a mother who taught school for many years; when he was in middle school, she returned to school and became a lawyer. A third friend had a mother who stayed at home until he was in middle school and then she went to nursing school; she´s still nursing to this day. -Freelance. I have a friend that works for a major television network but he freelances as a photographer. He”d like to eventually move into a photography business but knows that he can´t do so and continue to support his family, so he takes on weekend jobs until he can build up a base of return customers.