You've watched your little one bravely walk toward his new school, carrying a backpack too big for his little body. You've given the hard hugs. You said goodbye. You've wiped tears (theirs, but most likely your own, too). And, now that you walk away without a little hand holding yours, you're wondering where did the years go.
You may also be thinking: what comes next?
The start of kindergarten is an exciting milestone for our kids, but for mamas -- both working mothers and stay-at-home moms -- it's a time of reflection. A time when we start to ponder our very own next chapter.
With the heavy lifting of baby-rearing behind you, now may be the time to head back to work. For those already working and no longer chained to daycare fees, perhaps it's a good time to go after a new career opportunity. Or the empty house may have your biological clock ticking for just one more baby? Or, maybe just maybe, you have just enough time now to start that business you've been dreaming about for years.
No matter what your next chapter could be, many of us get so stuck in the thinking stage we never really take that first step. We think about all the what ifs that make up our lives as mamas: What if my kid gets sick, who will take care of her? What if my skills are out of date and I can't keep up? What if I try and fail? What if there isn't enough quality time with my babies? What if I can't balance it all?
I'm sure you have your own what ifs to add to this list.
As mamas, all this thinking and what if-ing is necessary. We can't always just jump without thinking through the different scenarios of how things will work in a real and practical sense, and the impact they will have on you and everyone else.
At the same time, we can't let fear of the unknown hold us back. More than that, we shouldn't use our children as barriers to the life we so very much want.
If you're ready to start your next chapter but finding it hard to make a decision to move forward, try one of these strategies.
Pretend you're advising a friend
We mamas are hard on ourselves. We set a very different, significantly higher and rather unattainable standard for ourselves that we wouldn't dare place on another mama. We are always ready to cut another mother some slack, but we wouldn't dream of showing ourselves the same level of compassion.
It's time for some self-compassion. To get started, you'll have to play a game of pretend.
Here's how it goes: your very good friend is faced with a decision -- the very same one as you -- and has come to you for guidance. And, like you, she has all the very same circumstances in her life. What advice would you give her? What do you want her to know? What do you want her to believe about herself?
Then, go ahead and say your very wise words out loud. Before you do, look in the mirror or sit in a room alone, so you can truly hear your own advice.
Flip the script
When making a decision, there's a tendency to focus on all that could go wrong if we take on a new opportunity. But, what could happen if we let the opportunity pass us by? What could happen then? What could be the impact to your life, your career, your happiness (which could also affect your kids happiness)?
By flipping the script, you shift your perspective to see all you'll miss out on if you open the door to opportunity's knock. These outcomes could far outweigh any that could happen if you say yes.
Stop planning and starting listening to your gut
No matter how hard we want it to be true, we can't plan everything. Opportunities have a way of surprising us and if we spend all our time thinking and planning, it may pass you by.
Instead of putting all your focus in planning, start paying attention to how you're feeling. What are the physical reactions happening in your body when you think about your decision: Are you bubbling with inspiration? Feeling a sense of dread? Optimistic, yet nervous, about your future?
This is your intuition or your gut talking to you. Let it speak, but as you listen, be sure to differentiate between any sensations or uncertainties you're feeling about having to make a decision and how you really feel about the specific idea or opportunity available to you.
Decisions can be scary. As can be taking a step in a new direction. If you are faced with a big decision and need a little more inspiration, check out this video:
This article first appeared in Huffington Post U.S.
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