I had a hard time turning 35. I’d never cared much about ages, and always try to celebrate each year as a gift. So this feeling of unease got me thinking, and soon I realized it wasn’t the age, but the life state I had reached that had me feeling a bit off.
My 2nd baby was almost 1, and my husband and I were quite decided that we were done having children.
My career was in a steady state – I had advanced a fair amount so far, earned a good salary and enviable flexibility, and had little desire to “lean in” further at the moment, with the demands of two little ones, the intention to maintain a social life, and hopefully sleep now and then.
I had a house that we had updated over the course of a few years from a sad foreclosure to a lovely, happy home.
Gosh, I had it good, right? Seriously, I did (and I do), and I pride myself on keeping a mindset of gratitude. So what was my problem?
It was the achiever in me saying, “well…what’s next?” My life had been so sequential: good college, city life in my 20’s, career growth, marriage, house in the ‘burbs, babies. I didn’t have some big life plan; I just followed the one that someone, somewhere, suggested is a good path. And it really was for me.
But then what? I had no tangible goals. Sure, I always have small goals or projects (and extensive to-do lists), but I’d reached a stage with no prescriptive expectations set for me – by myself or by society – of what would be the next big undertaking.
As moms, our focus so naturally shifts to the goals and plans we have for our families. That’s normal, and that’s good. When you have a family, it should be your priority. But does it have to be your only priority? Certainly not.
So I spent a few months participating in a life coaching program. It was just what I needed to realize that I didn’t want to just let life happen like I had so far, even though that approach had worked for 35 years. Without some intentionality, I could end up looking back with regret (or maybe not, but who wants to risk that?). The guidance helped me consider my life as a whole; a sum of the many separate and often compartmentalized roles I hold day to day. I considered my marriage, my kids, my extended family, my health and fitness, my career, my friendships, my interests (or wannabe interests)…
The outcome of the program was a 5-year plan, which included yearly goals and milestones along the way. I love being introspective, so the exercises were fun and helpful for me – and a key piece of the program was reigning in my weekly organization so that I felt confident I could even consider some of the projects and plans I was hoping to complete. Because in this stage, for all of us, it feels like there is no time to even THINK about this stuff!
You can take or leave the concept of a life coach – if you have the resources and are into that sort of thing, I highly recommend it. But the practice of self-reflection and thinking beyond what’s for dinner this week is available to anyone, anytime (so put it on your to-do list, right?!). In a nutshell, this is why I think every mom needs a 5-year plan:
- It gives you permission to prioritize your own needs and wants right alongside your family’s. This plan is not a to-do list, nor is it outlined in order of priority. It’s a flow over time, and sometimes there are goals or projects for your family, sometimes with your partner, or sometimes just for yourself. It encompasses all areas of your life without saying you care more or less about any of them; just that you care.
- By looking further into the future, you can align your life plans with the ages of your kids, milestones like anniversaries (a big year to celebrate your parents, for example), school changes, etc. It’s true that some vacations, home projects, or career adjustments just fit in best at certain ages/stages…or DON’T fit in when it’s bound to be a busy year for big events for other family members. You won’t feel disappointed in yourself for going another year without starting that grad degree if you know it is in your plan, where it fits better, next year.
- It helps you budget – time and money. A career change or milestone anniversary vacation are great examples of things you likely need to save up some extra cash for, and if you only take life one year or season at a time, you may not prepare as well financially as you could if you looked a few years out. And training for a marathon or remodeling your kitchen will take up a lot of your free time (what’s that?), so maybe don’t try to do both simultaneously…and definitely not over the summer in AZ!
- Your bucket list becomes tangible. We all have dreams, and some are easier to achieve than others. But some may be more attainable than you think if you just put it on paper and plan for it. Why not try? With this self-reflection, you will also realize that some goals or dreams are going to be realistic more than 5 years ahead, but the day will come when your 5-year plan has reached that point, and…wow, how exciting will that be?!
Remember, this is YOUR plan, not a signed contract. That cute Thomas Rhett song that says, “You make your plans then you hear God laughing, life chaaanges…” is pretty accurate. So use pencil, or an editable Word doc. Make it pretty, make it fun, make it you. And remember this is real life – where you cannot plan for everything – so expect to be fluid, revisit your plans periodically (you’re also allowed to just plain change your mind), and give yourself plenty of grace along the way.
Do you have a 5-year plan? Have you worked with a life coach, or would you? Would love to hear your feedback in the comments!