What Do You Really Want This Year?


What Do You Really Want This Year?

I found a new Instagram page recently called Motheruntitled. The slogan is “a place for ambitious women leaning into family life – on a mission to rebrand career pauses for motherhood with dignity, growth, and potential” and it has been so refreshing to me to get a glimpse into the community she has created. If you’ve made this shift, or are considering it, I highly recommend you check it out.

I’ve taken steps over the last few years to shift the balance in my own life from full-time working professional career woman to more of an emphasis on home and family life.

Shortly after my son started kindergarten in 2022, I changed jobs from full-time in an office with a 30 minute commute, to part-time, remote work. It was a major life change, but it felt to me like the only viable option at the time. Now, 1.5 years later, I view it as one of the best decisions I have ever made – not only for my family, but for myself. I considered quitting work altogether, but that wasn’t feasible for my family, or good for my mental health, and I feel working part-time is the ideal solution for us right now.

I’ve always been very driven. For most of my life, I was blindly ambitious, and achievement was my sole focus. It wasn’t until I had children that I started to really question some of my goals and achievements and ask myself: is this really what I want? And now, in my early forties with two young kids, minimal outside support, and dwindling energy reserves, I have no choice but to fiercely examine every single obligation and activity in my life.

I’ve also had to redefine what success looks like to me.

I used to think I could do it all, and I tried that for a little while. But now I have absolutely zero desire to do it all. In fact, the less I can do now, the better. And oddly enough, I don’t even feel guilty about this. I don’t see this desire to downgrade and simplify as a lack of ambition; I see it as the ultimate act of self-care.

I’ve finally recognized that the more things I try to do, the worse I am at all of them. It finally has sunk in that if I want to be good at something — really good — then I have to cut out all of the other distractions so I can focus on just that thing. And I have to take care of myself so I can actually be successful at that thing. Before I downshifted at work, I was frazzled, burned out and exhausted. I was not thriving at anything in life; I was surviving at best. I had absolutely no margin in my life. Now, I have some room to breathe. I have energy left over after my work day to take a walk and cook my family a healthy dinner. I have more patience with my kids and my husband. I actually even have some time for myself. My only regret looking back is that I didn’t honor my limitations and make the shift sooner.

It does feel a bit strange at this time of year for me though, to be assessing what I can take away, rather than what I can add. I’ve always thrived on goals and resolutions, and I still do I guess, they just look very different now.

In the past, my new year’s resolutions looked something like this:

  • Lose 20 lbs.
  • Exercise every day.
  • Ready a book per week this year.
  • Write a book.

Now, they look more like this:

  • Eat good food.
  • Get outside as much as possible.
  • Put my phone down and be more present with my family.
  • Find joy in the small things.

It took me a while to adjust to this new mindset. I spent a few years before I downshifted trying to convince myself that it was ok to do less. Building an argument in my own heart and mind to justify doing what I knew needed to be done. Grappling with my own overachiever persona and wondering if I would be enough if I let go of the striving and walked away from the hustle.

Turns out it was the right move, and I’d known it all along.

And what I understand more clearly now is that this is only a season. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to have the balance that I have now, to have the opportunity to step back from work a little, and step toward family life. But that will not always be the case. Before I know it, my kids won’t need me as much, and I’ll have the capacity to ramp back up at work. Life goes in seasons, and it is my responsibility to honor the season I’m in to the best of my ability, knowing that I’ll gain in some areas and lose in others, but in the long run I’ll end up where I was always meant to be.

What about you? What season are you in? Whether you’re a full-time career woman, a stay-at-home mom, or some combination of the two, I hope you will find joy and peace in the space you’re in, and know that there is no right or wrong way to do motherhood and there are pros to embrace and cons to manage in every single situation.

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Haley McManigal
Hi there! I’m Haley, a middle-aged-momma to Lukas and Laney, and wife to Dan. I’ve lived in East Tennessee my whole life, and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. After moving all over Knox County and surrounding areas, my family has settled in Hardin Valley where we intend to stay at least until the kids graduate from high school. My son was born in 2017, changing my life forever, and my daughter completed our family in 2020. I work as an architect and project manager at a global design firm. I think it’s pretty cool that I get to meet with people from all over the world from my home office on a daily basis. I am happiest when I’m able to strike just the right balance between home and work life. But my family is my greatest treasure and my most fulfilling role in life so far is Mommy. My favorite things are reading, writing, cooking, exploring, and making things. I don’t have much free time these days but when I’m able to squeeze in a few of these activities it really pays off. I love being a part of Knoxville Moms and I cherish the opportunity to share this journey of motherhood here with you!


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