ballard designs sconce

bust | sconce | mirror | acrylic frame | console, pillow, chair – n/a

A few weeks ago I started a conversation on Instagram stories centered around my perspective of millennial career women. When I say that, I mostly mean women who have been in a traditional job or career for 10 years or longer (millennials are those born between 1981 – 1996).

From that conversation, two articles were shared with me that rocked my world. Check them out here:

Women Rejecting Traditional Ambition

A Letter From a Working Mother to a Full-Time Mother

vintage airlines hat

display box | riser | cabinet | drapes | mirror

Some snippets that really hit me –

“When Kim Kardashian was dragged for declaring, in her signature vocal fry, that ‘nobody wants to work these days,’ she was a little bit right. We don’t want to work ourselves to the bone, clocking overtime hours without overtime pay, for a vanity title at a soulless corporation anymore. At this point in our collective professional history, women are looking for something more. Or is it something less?”

Once I entered my thirties, we moved from Orange County to San Francisco and then cross-country to Georgia, buying our first home. Christian became partner in a business. We experienced a global pandemic. I continued working solo from home. We welcomed two children with hopes and plans to add a third. We now live within driving distance from our families for the first time since we married in 2012.

As these major life moments have happened, I’ve found myself wondering what my new definition of success is. Because I know it’s not the same as it was in my twenties.

The beauty of this conversation is that there is no right or wrong opinion. It’s really about stepping back in each phase of life and reevaluating your choices. Reviewing how you spend your time in an effort to recognize what actually makes you happy. Have your personal goals changed? What does success mean to you in this decade of life? When do you feel most at peace?

From the Elle article:

“Yes, I’m ambitious,” a friend told me recently, “but climbing the corporate ladder does not interest me like it used to. A title, a bump in pay—it’s not satisfying. What I need to feel successful and fulfilled is completely different. Am I doing something that brings satisfaction? Do I feel like I’m learning? Do I feel like I’m contributing? Do I feel like I’m connecting to other people? Do I feel like I have flexibility in this new way we live and work? Am I given not only responsibility but autonomy? Am I in a place that aligns with my values? The things that I am looking for have changed.

… For many of us, the ambition to rise through the ranks in our chosen field has dissolved into something simpler: the desire to not feel so stressed and exhausted all the time.”

Perhaps what it comes down to is that this is the first time that my own professional ambition has shifted. It’s decreased. We decided to move to Georgia so we could have more space to accommodate a larger family, be closer to our families and enjoy a lower cost of living. To have an overall slower pace of life in general.

Then entered the children and yes, our day-to-day life changed but even more so, the source of our joy changed. From this, my personal definition of success has been altered. In the past, success meant working well past 40 hours a week to gain professional status and recognition in addition to earning as much money as possible to save for a home or even a second home. Earning enough to have flexible spending for vacations, luxury items, and so on. Now, my definition of success is taking on projects that make me happy and are fun, being my own boss so I can have a flexible schedule and only working from 10AM to 4PM so I can participate in daily family routines with my children and partner. I take weekends off, I rarely work overtime and I have a maximum number of partnerships a month I will accept (prior to children there was no number – it was limitless, and that was by choice! #hustle).

kathleen barnes home

sofa | side tables | art – Where is Frances | lamps | tassels | rug, antelope pillow, stool, coffee table – n/a

I am incredibly grateful for my career because it brings me so much happiness and creativity. I feel like I’m constantly challenged to learn new things and expand my skill set. I love having adult conversations and trying to become more intelligent, savvy, and productive with my working hours. It gives me confidence and is how I continue to invest in myself. And perhaps more than anything, I love being my own boss. I recognize what a total luxury and gift that is. I’m grateful for it daily and vocalize this gratitude repeatedly.

However, I also know what kind of mother, partner, and friend I want to be. We have a really special community where we live, and I want to be there for my friends when they need a hand or a hot meal for their families. I want to participate in our small group with other couples once a week without being stressed about the time commitment. I want to take Fridays off to alternate spending one-on-one time with my children and show them I’m invested in their hobbies and interests. To quote Kelly Wynne when she decided to close her retail business, “I want to give my children the best of me and not the rest of me.”

A book I’d recommend if you are a person of faith and interested in this topic is John Mark Comer’s Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. I was encouraged by some career women I admire to read it and they were right. It has changed the way I view how I spend my time. You guys often tell me you picked up this book at my recommendation, and I cannot tell you how much happiness that gives me. I hope it has blessed you as it has blessed me!

I really loved what Phoebe Robinson had to say about ambition:

“As I’ve gotten older, the definition has expanded, because it’s not just about the professional for me. I want successful friendships, romantic relationships, and hobbies. To me, ambition’s about working hard to have the life you want. Having that desire to take this one life we all get to live and do it our fiercely independent way and experience joy on our terms.”

ruffled marble bowl

ruffled bowl | planter

I have a saved highlight on Instagram called “AMBITION” with more of this conversation, but it was so impactful to me that I also wanted to carry it over to the website where it could continue. You guys had SO many amazing things to contribute to the conversation on instagram, and I needed to highlight some of the direct messages so more could read your words!

If you have thoughts on this subject, please share them in the comments. I really love hearing what you guys have to say. Thank you so much for stopping in and reading, and you can find more personal content in the “personal” category of this site. XO –

10 Comments|See Comments

10 thoughts on “Women Rejecting Traditional Ambition

  1. Tearing up reading this. I think so many of us (I’m the same age/generation as you) are feeling this. 10 years ago, my definition of success was CEO, a huge salary, being praised for what I can accomplish at work. I’ve poured years into that path. WOW how that has changed since I’ve gotten married and welcomed 3 children. I still think those things are amazing and admirable, but they are no longer MY priorities. My priority is seeing my daughter’s face when I get to pick her up in carpool, being able to run an errand for my husband or kids because it makes their lives easier, volunteering at a church function because those relationships are so important. As an extroverted, outspoken, confident woman, I always saw myself working and grinding hard for a career. And much to my own surprise, I’ve recently felt so called to step back from work, reduce hours, and go part time. I have no doubt I’ll be happier. I know I’ll never regret choosing my family and marriage over a career. But it doesn’t mean that it isn’t hard to do, when we are processing and recognizing that our OWN expectations for OURSELVES have changed. As a long-time follower and admirer of your attitude, outlook, and lifestyle, it’s a relief to see someone you admire admit it’s okay to step back or change directions. You’re giving a lot of women feeling the same way the courage ACT and do it. Thank you for that.

    1. Oh wow – Lora, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to share this. So beautifully written and I absolutely agree with you about feeling that shift of priorities as well as the relief when you realize someone you thought was all about the “hustle and grind” also desires a new personal definition of fulfillment. The most important part is that we stop to acknowledge these feelings and take action steps toward the life WE want for ourselves. You’re doing such a great job and blessing both yourself and your family by taking a new direction (for now, who is to say what the future holds?). Thank you again for taking the time to share. Truly appreciate this so much. xoxo

  2. Hi Kathleen! I just LOVED this post! While I love the fashion and recipes, I so love when you share your life and soul like this. This shift is not only found as we all grow older, but it is such a fascinating sign of the times. Particularly in the “post” pandemic world we’re living in. A hard season but peppered with the blessings of time, reflection and evaluation of our priorities (the definition of success & ambition included!) Adding your book recommendation to my list. Happy Friday <3

  3. Thanks for this conversation!
    As a young girl I started in a small mom and pop hair salon/barber shop. I work from age 16-32 in the same career, a Hairstyles. Having a one year old at the start of the pandemic. My career just kind of imploded. Due to salons closing, loosing contacts with clients, and all the messiness. We decided to grow our family and focus on my husbands career ( a traveling/work from home sales guy that gets to schmooze people all the time) . And with that I knew this was always what I was meant to do. I feel that a few of my close friends understand it way more than my parents or in- laws. Choosing to be with my girls, having dinner ( & a drink) ready for my husband, and holding down the fort while he is gone.

    Ps you are one of my favorites on IG.
    I watch it all and love it all!

  4. I agree with the ladies above. It’s really incredible as a follower to love the outfits and the home decor, but also have a very real and admirable person sharing thoughts and feelings we all have in common, but never said aloud.

    The ambition conversation has been so refreshing and thought provoking. I’m slightly different in that I have no concept of a pre-child career being that my son was 11 months when I started my first corporate job, and I only 23. The only hustle I know is the hustle of balancing both exceeding expectations at work & at home. I appreciate both aspects of my day. I love my morning routine with him & bringing him to school. I love being alone while working and finishing my thoughts, having autonomy and control of the day, and being recognized for my accomplishments and contributions. I love when he comes home & switching gears to being all in. Cooking together, dancing around the kitchen, teaching him to read, bath time, and bedtime snuggles. The weekend is all about him with sports, sleepovers, and pizza dates. What it’s taught me most is being present and being efficient at work so I can give him all of me after. I couldn’t agree more with valuing flexibility, finding joy in your work, expressing creativity, and having autonomy. If I ever lose the ability to make my own schedule with meetings to attend a field trip or Mornings with Mom – I’m out of there faster than you can say LinkedIn.

    Thank you for being a real one. Xoxo

  5. Thanks so much for this thoughtful and thought provoking post. I have an eight month old baby and I really resonate with this, however I just have an additional consideration that I hope doesn’t come across too negatively. Many women take a step back in their professional lives when they have a child as their priorities change, and this is completely valid, however it is also true that many marriages (well over a third) end in divorce and many of those women are then required to either increase their hours in a paid role that may have stagnated or reenter the paid workforce at an older age for financial reasons and those women might find themselves at a disadvantage when their work as parents and homemakers is not valued by employers. I wholeheartedly agree that women should focus on the things that are most important to them and bring them joy (not just financial success) but it’s also important to consider what different scenarios might look like in the future. Just some food for thought!

    1. I absolutely agree with you. And it’s why I think maintaining your skill sets (however that looks for each individual) is so incredibly important. Definitely something to consider!

  6. I loved this so much! Over the last few months I had a change in my regular employment and changed my side job into my full time job while looking for another role. This time gave me a rest and reset and it gave me a new perspective on what I was looking for in my next role. I don’t wanna work my ass off to eventually enjoy time off. I wanna work hard and take time off and have flexibility to enjoy my time. And find a way to one day be my own boss so when I am able to have a family I can get that flexibility with them. I loved what you said about what you thought success was and how it’s changed. You are such an inspiring person to follow!

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