Dear Lizzy: Motherhood or Career?

Dear Lizzy,

I am torn because I think having a career or meaningful direction for my life is really important, and I also think that having a family life is important. I’m at a crossroads right now because my boyfriend wants kids but I am not engaged in any meaningful work and I’m worried if I start a family, I will be a stay-at-home mom and I will never have the opportunity to follow my career dreams, whatever they may be. Financially we can afford it and I know they say there is no right time to have kids, but I don’t know, something in me is very nervous. How do I figure out what I really want right now?

-Austin Luck

Become a Mother of Invention

Dear Austin,

I want to first honor the polarization I hear in your question—the parts of you that are wrestling with one another and are sure that what they want for you is best and are fighting to get your attention. One is sure she will lose her chance at motherhood if she does not adhere to the timeline being presented to her by another, and perhaps biology. Another part of you is nervous that if she leans into motherhood she will perhaps lose her chance at using her talents to their fullest.

When we have such beautifully strong and assured aspects of us that think they know best, it can often lead us to “this or that” thinking. I feel this from you, and I want to give you permission to transcend the tug-of-war you’re playing with yourself. We’re going to ask those parts of you who are working so hard to find the right answer to rest for a moment.

I work with women daily who are in this conundrum; trying to figure out how they can fulfill their deep calling to motherhood and fulfill the equally deep call of being a multi-dimensional woman, a living breathing individual tapped into her curiosity, creativity, talent, who knows she can make the world a better place outside the role of motherhood. Some have chosen to not pursue motherhood at all and feel as if they are the wearer of the Scarlet Letter. You are not alone. I like to blame society for this conundrum and one day maybe I will write an essay on this issue. But for now, I just want to do some level setting for you.

This, at its core, is the fight between believing we know what is best for us and the pressure and conditioning to defer to a broader belief system that we inherit by living in a society. Sometimes that broader belief system tells us that a working mother is a travesty and she is a failure to her family. At other times that broader belief system tells us that not having a career and “just being a stay-at-home mom” without contributing to the ideals of capitalism is a violation of the code of feminism. There is also the Alice In Wonderland White Rabbit Syndrome, where society screams, “You’re running out of time!” I love him. He is adorable. But his anxious demeanor gives me heart pains and I don’t want him helping me make decisions.

Further, when a woman does own her position in the world, be it a full-time mother, a working mother, a single mother, a woman who mothers herself, her career, business, or community but perhaps not a tiny human, whatever role we do confidently and without self-doubt and self-hatred own, they’re still gonna come for us with their proverbial pitchforks. The world fears assured women because we can’t be manipulated.

So what do we do? This is where Matriarchal energy comes into play.

The Matriarch is the all-knowing woman who trusts that when she decides something is right, she can count on herself to handle whatever comes with that decision. She doesn’t mind if others are judging her, because she knows their judgment has nothing to do with her. She follows herself and allows those that are meant to follow her come along. She tunes inward to make decisions and knows that no matter what happens, or what problems present, she has what it takes to respond in the best interest of herself and those under her care. She considers others and allows them to share their perspective, but once it is time to make a decision, she comes back to herself and tunes out the world. She is fair and considerate but she never lets anyone else decide for her. Once she chooses a direction she is focused and ready to adapt as changes and obstacles arise.

The not-so-secret secret here is that you do not have to become a mother to become the Matriarch. Remember that ad? “Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline”. I promise: You were born with it. This energy is available to you from birth; it comes from the womb of your mother and her mother and so on. This power has been passed down and infused into you to be used at your discretion.

Your curiosity, creativity, and talent are not going to become dormant if you choose to honor the call of motherhood. The data I have from hundreds of hours of working with mammas tells me that your creativity flourishes and you gain access to parts of you that you have never met before. There is so much we do not know before we embark on any path. So much beauty is waiting for you no matter what you decide. Motherhood can create extreme focus and purpose in your life. I would like to go as far as to say that motherhood is an extraordinarily meaningful direction, and it will absolutely change you. It will also challenge you and break you wide open, and it will, at least for a time, ask you for your full attention.

The choice you have here darling, is that you can create your own path, a third path where many things are available to you that you currently cannot see. This is a practice, and to access a third path your brain might require different vocabulary. Mine sounds something like this:

I am a woman with a clear direction for her work and yet I do not yet have the blessing of biological children. The more I attune to my truest calling and the more I trust the timing of my life, the more assured I am that motherhood is available to me in a variety of beautiful ways on this journey. While I wait for that call to be answered, I will continue to use my essence to mother the humans around me because I do not have to birth a human to mother them. I operate as the Matriarch of my own life. I cannot express in words how meaningful it is to pour my energy into my work. And because I have not yet had the privilege of becoming a mother in the traditional sense, I have the space and time to show up fully for the humans who need my guidance. This work is certainly helping to prepare me for how I will show up for my children.

Knowing all this might not take away the fear or sadness you experience as you imagine yourself embarking on one path while cutting off your access to the other.

I remember when I wrestled with this choice. It felt like I was lacking, like I was somehow less than because I had indeed spent so much of my life pursuing meaningful work and meaningful art. Friends were becoming mothers, getting married, pursuing that path so confidently. And there I was, in love with a person who could potentially become my partner and accelerate my path to motherhood while also in love with my dreams for my work. I felt that in choosing either of the paths I would never fully embrace my diverseness. Then it dawned on me, is this how I want feel? As if I am stuck between two choices? It was a turning point in my life.

When I got honest with myself, I discovered that to be the “good woman” society told me I should be, I would be forced to make a this or that decision and conform to someone else’s vision for my life. In doing so, I would betray my own self. Standing facing the two paths, I felt it very deep in my bones that the most direct path to live with less pain, shame, and guilt was to decide to never betray myself again, even if that meant giving up this “chance” at biological motherhood. I decided to trust myself and I began designing my own path. There is heartbreak when we decide to go our own way. This is the thing about being a Matriarch we don’t talk about nearly enough. Trusting ourselves means that sometimes we let others down.

So let’s work on trusting ourself, dear beautiful, powerful, Bright Light.

We’ll replace worry with curiosity and design our guidelines and parameters for how we are going to set our direction for this next chapter. You will have grief. With every decision we make comes a season of grieving; do not let the emotions of grief make you feel like you’re doing the wrong thing. Everything worth loving is worth grieving, even the visions or dreams we have for ourselves that we leave behind as we grow and change. I trust that whatever you choose is what is meant for you, that if there is a voice inside calling you in a direction that you are meant to follow that direction.

And even when we know what we’re doing, fear and doubt are still whispering those unwanted stories of failure and shaming us into a rigid identity that fits the mold of a “good woman.” That’s ok, your nerves don’t necessarily mean you don’t know what is best for you at this time. And we don’t have to have all the answers at once. Another not-so-little secret they don’t want you to know: women are allowed to change their minds.

Let’s begin to tap into that matriarch power you carry inside of you.

Here are some ways we can feel confident in our decisions, something I like to refer to as “inner knowing:”


  • If it feels like someone else’s timeline is influencing your decision, do not act. We do not have to do things because they will make someone else happy. That almost always leads to resentment and pain. We can absolutely honor the feelings and needs of others without abandoning ourselves. What someone chooses to do or feel based on your decision is up to them. Consider others, but center yourself on your needs before acting.
  • Doubt is not necessarily a signal that you are heading in the wrong direction. But fear-based decisions vibrate differently than decisions made in alignment. If you were in your matriarchal energy, what would you say about the crossroads in front of you? How does the matriarch see this chapter unfolding? What does she need to walk in her power?
  • Step back. I want you to spend some time pretending there are multiple paths that all lead back to one another. Not a fork in the road but a beautiful maze in a forest where all paths lead to what is best for you. Close your eyes and imagine yourself as a fully empowered matriarch walking through this maze. Pay attention to your surroundings, what do you look like? What does it feel like? What are the smells? What are the colors? The atmosphere? Who is present with you? What are you doing with your time? 

Finally, I want you to play with an affirmation for the next thirty days and let me know if this helps open up your perspective and tap into your clarity:

“I am an empowered woman and I trust the timing of my life. I know that what is meant for me is on its way and that every moment I spend honoring myself leads me closer to the life I desire. I allow myself to want and desire for many things at the same time, and I believe I am worthy and capable of living out those desires without losing any part of me along the way. I know that I have the power to honor myself and care for others at the same time.”

My dear, I can feel your power from here. And I know that with a little space and perspective that your light will illuminate the path that is right for you and you will have the courage that it takes to walk confidently in the direction of your dreams.

While today’s Love Letter is addressed to Austin, I hope it’s helpful to anyone facing a big life decision. These weekly love letters are the first of many ways Love, Lizzy will create change in the world. For now you can learn more about our mission by reading my love letters and if you’re struggling with something, professionally or personally, maybe you want to submit a question. The Love Lizzy Podcast, coming later this year, will take an even deeper dive into the heartfelt topics sent to me by my readers.

Looking for some life wisdom from Lizzy? Submit your question to her here

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