The Light bulb Moment That Taught Me To Navigate Career And Motherhood (And 4 Steps To Take So You Can Too)

The Lightbulb Moment

After I had my first child, I moved away from being a Director for one global public relations firm and responded to a very flattering pursuit to join a smaller firm I had enjoyed consulting for.

For me, joining them was very intentional. I openly traded my experience and skillset for a three-day week, doing a lesser role to protect time for what mattered most – mothering.

In a meeting soon after, I heard words that changed my life.

“We’ve bought you – mind, body and soul”.

We all want a lightbulb moment, and I’ll never forget mine!

Time stopped, and my own heartbeat was all I could hear as my boss carried on talking.

Hearing those words triggered absolute clarity for me about what makes life meaningful – and how different that was to chasing hits of happiness in a career that felt out of date … even if it made lots of money.

The Search

I had been so career-driven before children, I felt I was sacrificing mattering for mothering as I made my next moves.

I knew it was important to seize the moment and change my life

but didn’t know how

Life became a ripple effect of change after change as I struggled to work it out. I still remember my surprised husband’s face as I babbled on about the barn conversion in the countryside (his longstanding dream was to leave our carefully restored Edwardian London home – it hadn’t been mine!).

That wasn’t enough. Next, we moved to the US – with our youngest, a babe-in-arms. Not easy at first.

It felt like being dropped in a sunny American TV series – with the white picket fences and lots of smiles – but without the script.

I quickly grew a network. I wrote a book with one friend, helped another with marketing plans and worked with a charity. Nothing felt like the change I craved.

Years later, on moving back to London, I tried all over again to make what was utterly incompatible have synergy! I boomeranged back to an old boss in London.

I couldn’t have been more shocked walking onto the floor if I had travelled there in a time machine. My stomach physically lurched as I contorted myself back into those old deadline-fuelled ways.

The Breakthrough:

Ultimately, I got ill.

As I stood in front of an x-ray machine having my lungs checked, I made the decision to shake off ‘career 1’ and finally did it.

I’ll admit, I felt defeated – and spent days feeling like I was running on empty – except when I was busy with the children (by now at school all day!). It was dangerously one-dimensional, but I finally engaged with the hard stuff.

Sitting at our kitchen island having an ordinary chat one evening, my husband said something extraordinary – ‘just do something different’. It felt like a green light flashed on and urged me to ‘go, go, go’!

Within days, I completed an application for a psychology degree I fancied at a nearby university.

Easy to apply, shocking to be accepted and hard to do! But I felt alive for the first time in years.

My efforts were well rewarded with first-class honours, an energy ‘reset’ and the fresh career ladder I wanted so badly.

The Career Comeback:

I had found coaching and subsequently completed a (rigorous!) training programme with the world’s largest coach training institute – CTi.

Now, my psychology knowledge underpins my coaching. I love that my commercial edges and marketing savvy often get brought into the mix in service of my clients’ aspirations and know the integration is a powerful one.

I passionately believe we only get to feel as alive and aligned as I do today, if we shape work we love around the life we want to lead and feel compelled to help others achieve the same for themselves.


Some psychologists believe we are authors of our own lives – writing stories that unfold like chapters in a book as we react to the things that happen in our life.

If you have ever got to a career cliff-hanger like mine, here’s a very clever process to help you write your next career chapter.

The 4-Step Story Framework:

My story could be called – From Career to Motherhood and Back Again. You can use the same 4 steps to think through the chapters of your career so far and brainstorm your next chapter.

Step 1: The Lightbulb Moment

Describe what this scene looked like for you. Imagine you are briefing your illustrator and be specific about the moment in your story where you finally decide to make a change.

Step 2: The Search

Talk about all the things you have tried but didn’t work out well. Remember, authors who help you see your characters vulnerability are the best. Be vulnerable when you write about your failures. With awareness, these feelings can become a compass guiding you as you strive to feel aligned and alive.

Step 3: The Breakthrough

What would make a difference now? This chapter needs to tell the story of what life could be like when you finally get what you want.

Step 4: The Career Come-Back

At this point you will have illustrated the story from where you are now to where you want to go. Now write about why. What is most important to you here.

This will remind you why you must move through any reservations and make this important career change happen.

I have created a short PDF of this 4 -Step Story Framework to make being an author easier. It guides you through these stages in your own story with prompts about what matters most at each step, giving tips for what to do if you get writers block and how to start turning your future storyline into your reality. Just click here to ask for it to be emailed to you.

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  • Helen Hanison

    I'm a leadership coach helping seasoned professionals who are at a crossroads, with a growing need to redesign their career but feeling blocked. And worried about that. Together we make a plan realigning work they love with what matters most so they can finally make aligned, confident transformation instead.

    If you'd like to receive actionable advice about redesigning your career, I'd love you to sign up:

    My story could be called 'from career to motherhood and back again'! With a 20 year 'tour of duty' in the worlds' largest PR firms, I came to a career crossroads after I transitioned from woman to mother. I got lost for some years and having moved country (and back again), and tried a bunch of different ideas both sides of The Pond, I went back to University for a second time - to do psychology. My efforts were well rewarded with first-class honours, an energy ‘reset’ and clarity about the fresh career ladder I wanted so badly. I had found Leadership Coaching and subsequently completed a (rigorous!) programme of training with the world’s largest coach training institute – CTi and have since become a narrative therapist too. Now I love that my commercial edges and marketing savvy work alongside my brand of positive psychology coaching, and know the integration is a powerful one for my clients. I passionately believe we only get to feel as alive and aligned as I do today, if we shape work we love around what matters most and that has synergy with the life we want to be living. In some ways my story represents the hard way to figure what work-life synergy looks like. And that's what I help others with now. If you feel stuck and wish you knew how to make a plan to change that, I'm happy to offer a complimentary clarity conversation. Just email me - [email protected] - and we'll organise that.