Former VP of Chase Manhattan Chases Childhood Dream Instead

margaret-headshotMargaret McSweeney, of Barrington Hills, Illinois, always wanted to be a writer. Instead, she became a vice president at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City with a Master’s degree in International Business from University of South Carolina. When her children came along, she recognized Manhattan was no place for kids, and her lifestyle as a harried investment banker was equally unsuitable. In 1993, she and her husband backed their bags and headed West – mid-West to be exact.

Her story of work-life balance rests in her childhood dream of becoming a writer.

People always say that you end up doing what you loved to do in third grade.  For me, that was writing. 

CLH: What caused you to downshift?  
Margaret: When my oldest daughter was born in Manhattan, I realized that I couldn’t continue the fast paced life of a New York City banker. My mothers-hearthusband, originally from the Midwest, obtained a transfer back to the Chicago area. We have raised our two daughters in the same town where he grew up and live close to his family. Having a child, quitting a career and moving were all huge events to occur at once. However, I welcomed the opportunity for change and reassessed my professional objectives during that time. Unable to find part-time work in banking, I instead chose to do some free lance consulting work with my former employer on a project by project basis. Everything was done from home. After the banks started merging, this opportunity was no longer available, so once again I reassessed the situation. People always say that you end up doing what you loved to do in third grade. For me, that was writing. A weekly neighborhood column opened up at a local newspaper, and I applied for that position. I decided to attend some local writers’ conferences and submitted my work to visiting editors from publishing houses.  My first book, A Mother’s Heart Knows, was published in 2005, and I continue to follow this new career path.

CLH:  How do you view work-life balance today?

Margaret:  My work-life is balanced. I am able to work from home and attend just a few out of state conferences to continue improving my writing skills and expanding my network. The real challenge is balancing the schedule of my two teenage daughters with their school and social activities.  
CLH: What advice can you offer others who are struggling to manage it all?
Margaret: First, I would encourage everyone to think about what he or she loved to do in third grade and see if that remains a passion and possibility for today. Regarding the time management struggle, I am a big advocate of “to-do” lists. Technically challenged, I use a spiral notebook and calendar to coordinate my schedules and lists. Writing down the daily goals/activities/scheduled meetings and checking them off one by one helps keep the mind clutter organized and enables me to focus on the most efficient way to complete what needs to be done. Also on that list, include something fun for you to do just for yourself at least once a week and be sure to check that one off, too!

CLH: Thanks so much!

Margaret: Thank you!

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