The article, “Raising Successful Children,” by Madeline Levine recently published in the New York Times, addresses the danger of helicopter parenting and provocatively tees up the topic of what women’s roles are as parents.

After describing the benefits of a more hands-off approach to parenting as a formula for building confidence and success in children, Ms. Levine presents the big issue of parents taking care of their own needs. In her conclusion she says,

“Parents also have to make sure their own lives are fulfilling. There is no parent more vulnerable to the excesses of over parenting than an unhappy parent. One of the most important things we do for our children is to present them with a version of adult life that is appealing and worth striving for.”

So to make it easier to “let go” as parents, we’d better make sure we have our own lives we are attending to.

When I turned fifty, I was in the midst of a period of self-questioning. How could I create a fulfilling day-to-day life now that my kids were leaving home? My friends were all beginning to ask the same question and the issue of finding something we loved to do was key.

We all know that once the kids leave for college we are not done with our role as parents. However, we have way more time to focus on ourselves, and for many women, reaching this point in their lives can be downright frightening. The jobs left behind ten or fifteen years prior are either no longer appealing or not available.

For many “on-rampers,” getting back into the work force is fraught with panic on numerous levels.  Lack of flexibility is a topic that gets discussed over and over and is a key deterrent to accepting any full-time work.

In the last five years, there has been a huge movement toward women becoming entrepreneurs and starting their own businesses. A study released last December by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) found an estimated 187 million women starting and running businesses in 59 economies.

The investigation period is clearly triggered by the shift of kids leaving home, a change in our financial situation, the desire to be economically independent, and the need to fill oneself with purpose on a daily basis. This tidal wave is moving with great velocity right now as women look to “What’s next?”

After I sold my publishing company (I was only forty-two) I signed on for a weekend immersion with Carole Hyatt, an amazing motivator and expert on career development.  I did this to help me figure out what I should do with my life now that I wasn’t working 24/7 on my business.

A group of women entrepreneurs were gathered in a living room in New York City and we were asked to prioritize what was most important to us for our next pursuit. Here’s the list as I remember it – (I may have added an option or two to Carole’s list for my own reflective purpose):

What are the key factors in deciding what to go for next?

  1. Flexibility – being in control of your hours
  2. Money – economic independence
  3. Power – ego satisfaction
  4. Spirituality – feeling that you are giving back
  5. Recognition – moving away from being invisible
  6. Intellectual Stimulation
  7. Creativity

We learned that the way you order this list will shift depending on where you are in your life, and you should revisit these and see which are your new priorities when you are in those transitional places.

So, as it turned out for me, I needed to get back into publishing; it took me over a decade to do so. I was initially excited to dedicate myself to being at home and parenting my ten- and twelve-year olds after selling my business but there was a piece missing…I missed working.  Rather than being driven by the “bottom line,” spirituality and intellectual stimulation were key for me. Those items shared the number one spot on my list and have stayed there for the next ten years.  It wasn’t clear what the exact work would be and I had to try on a few hats to land in a place that felt just right.  Moving from yoga teacher, to building a yoga center, to business coaching, and currently teaching Entrepreneurship at Tufts University and finally circling back into publishing with the launch of Clearly this was not a direct path but it was fully informed by the priorities on this list. Creativity moved to the number one spot and the rest of the list became reordered.

I knew I wanted to help others, and write, and I needed to add the creative piece to the mix to really feel whole. That’s been the right recipe for me at this stage, but it has taken me a decade to figure it all out.  So now I am publishing (again), and writing, and creating events where women can gather, connect and grow.

Check out our She Did It/Boston at Babson College, on Tuesday afternoon November 13. Betterafter50 is helping motivate other women who are entering the next phase of their lives. Whether it’s starting a new business, getting fit, traveling, or even reconnecting with your latent artistic self.

Please come to our event to get that push you need to get going.

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