The Balancing Act: A Story of Motherhood and Careers

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Jen Hayes, a force to be reckoned with, balancing full-time work, motherhood, friendship, entrepreneurship, business ownership and a dedicated yogi, reveals her journey as a new mother among the demands of her career. She confronts the universal question many women face: How does motherhood influence career trajectories?

Growing up in East Lansing, Hayes had a successful career as an accountant for over a decade. However, her life took a turn when she had her daughter, Rachel Hayes, in 2000. Determined to embrace both motherhood and her career, Hayes quickly implemented a new way of living that would allow her to be both a mother and an employee. 

By working from home for part of the week and taking her daughter to work was a successful system until new owners took over the company. They didn’t allow Hayes to keep working remotely or bring her daughter to the office. Faced with the uncertainty of the future, and being the primary provider of her family, Hayes made the tough decision to leave her position to watch after her daughter. 

Hayes’s experience is not unique to her, unfortunately, it’s common for women’s careers to be impacted after having kids. “Motherhood and its Impact on Career Progression,” by Ronald McQuaid, Anne Munro, and Parviz Dabir-Alai research provides insight into the concept of the “motherhood penalty” and highlights how women experience disadvantages in their careers more so those who have children under the age of 5. In addition, this observation is not common for men, and becoming a father has been found to improve men’s career progression. 

The problem of women’s identities being reduced to merely a single role after becoming mothers, which is primarily defined by caregiving responsibilities, is deeply rooted in patriarchal norms. Hayes, an impressive individual, refused to accept these constraints. She continued with determination, refusing to be constrained by these typical norms. 

“I was not willing to not be with my daughter, and I think your children have to be as important as making money. There are unconventional ways to make money for your family, and you can make choices like that. You just have to let go of the fear,” said Hayes. 

With her ex-husband owning a small construction company business, Hayes contributed by doing the bookkeeping, marketing and promotion for the business. Alongside starting a playgroup in 2001 to connect with other moms out there with young children. During this time her friend asked her to take her yoga teacher training program to which Hayes responded “Sure, why not!” 

“It was really hard and challenging for me. It emotionally and intellectually opened up a whole new way of thinking for me. It was like alleviating stress and the more that I practiced, I loved it more,” said Hayes. 

After an amicable divorce, Hayes found solace in yoga and embarked on a journey that would change the trajectory of her life. With both control and a hint of impulsivity, Hayes opened up her own yoga studio in East Lansing, “Yoga State of Mind, Body & Soul,” in 2006. As well as, her second Okemos location in 2011.

Despite limited funds, Hayes transformed what was once an old comic book store with no walls into an oasis that fosters self-growth and community connectedness. Devoting countless hours, Hayes curated the perfect space that is a reflection of herself. 

By purchasing the materials and constructing the studio herself Hayes was able to save money and had the opportunity to let her creativity run freely. Spending countless nights working on studio projects and involving her daughter as a means of quality time and connectivness. You’ll find small murals from pebbles placed within the tile that both Hayes and her daughter exclusively worked on together. Yoga State became a mosaic of Hayes’s truest connections with her loved ones and herself. 

The community that Jen has fostered pushes everyone to live in their truest form, Marlee Schuesler, a student enrolled in Jen’s teacher training program, talks about the personal growth she’s experienced having Jen as a mentor.

“Even though she can be intense, she’s always reminding you that you’re so much stronger and more capable than you believe. She honestly inspires me to push myself not only in yoga but in every facet of life. She’s such a confident, self-assured woman, and I feel like it’s important to have a role model like that in the community. Yoga is extremely healing and she takes the responsibility of teaching very seriously,” Schuesler said.

Hayes leaves advice for those who want it: “I believe in learning from everyone, regardless of gender, to deepen our understanding of each other. Many of our stresses stem from choices we make, feeling overwhelmed, juggling work, and parenting. Taking moments for practices like yoga or meditation helps us reconnect with ourselves and reassess our choices. If a decision doesn’t bring joy, find a way to change it. Don’t prioritize money over happiness. Be open to new opportunities and don’t let fear hold you back.”

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