I recently received a comment titled, “If I Start A Family I’m Convinced My Career Will End”.
It weighs heavy on my heart to hear women speak about the dilemma of whether or not to have a baby for fear of it being the end of their career. This is such complex and emotional issue. What I can share with you is how I have done this in hopes it will help you see yourself succeed.
What Kind Of Mother Are You?
As a new mother and preparing to go back to work, I remember how hard it was for me to incorporate my new role and go back to my old one. It wasn’t until I left my son at his daycare that it all hit me like a ton of bricks. Who was this awful person to leave my weeks old child with someone else? How many of us women do this to ourselves?
After getting very honest with myself, I knew I had goals I wanted to achieve at work, promotions I wanted to try for, and a career I wanted to chase. Getting to know this about myself was in some ways, very freeing. I was able to get over the guilt and be free to like myself for who I was in my new role as a working mother. If I wasn’t true to myself then I couldn’t be true to anyone else in my life. If I wasn’t true to myself, how could I be the mother I am meant to be?
Motherhood changes you. It should change you. But you need to be confident in who you are and what you want in your new role. If that is being a working mother, then you need to stay true to that person. If that means working or a career isn’t a priority anymore, then accept this and move on. If being true to you means staying home with your children, this is great too. You are a woman and a mother, which gives you the right to make the best decisions for you.
Find Your Village.
Once you are confident you are a working mother, you are going to need to be okay with leaving your kiddos. Trust me, this is easier said than done. This is why I say, your confidence in who you are and why you are pushing your career forward is critical. Some people will understand what you are doing and why; others won’t. If you have the confidence about who you are, you will rise above this noise and do what you were meant to do.
If the father of your children is supportive of your career and is willing to play a major role in raising his family, then you have the makings for success. There is nothing wrong with going to work and leaving your children in the capable hands of their father. And better yet, if you have other friends and family who can support him and help out as needed, you certainly have no reason to be worried.
When my children were small, the demands of my job meant I had to be away a lot. And it’s because of these, my kids have formed some special bonds with their Dad. It’s because of my work absences that my kids have learned to stay overnight at grandma’s house without their parents. Never feel guilty when you’ve got a “village” to help you out. If you don’t have a “village”, start creating one.
It Gets Easier At The Top.
For many positions, the higher up you go, the more autonomy you have. Lower graded positions are generally less flexible, have tighter supervision, and require you to be physically located at the workplace. If you are on a career track, you need to realize what you may be experiencing is a “short term sacrifice for a long term gain”.
After climbing the ladder to management positions, I found it easier to leave meetings early to pick the kids up from school or to attend their ball games. I wouldn’t be afraid to ask one of my employees to take a meeting for me so I wouldn’t have to go out of town. I also flexed my schedule to do what was needed of my demanding job, yet be there for my family.
It’s all about quality, not quantity. When I didn’t have much time, quality time meant the household chores could wait, supper could be from the microwave, etc. The only thing our kids want from us is us. So when quality time really mattered, my phone would be put away and other distractions held to a minimum. It was getting on the floor and playing, reading, and playing some more. It was about cuddles and nap times together too.
Think It Through.
Make sure your absences from your children are for a good reason and there is a clear gain. I was asked to attend a national conference and give a presentation, which required two overnight stays. I was so honored at the invitation (“national conference” played to my ego), I didn’t think through the small venue that it was with only 40 participants. I enjoyed the event, but I can honestly say I didn’t get much benefit out of attending in either the short or long term. And what’s more, it didn’t have any benefits to my career either. I wished I had looked into it more before I blindly accepted. Lesson learned.
In summary, it’s clear there are no right answers. Only you hold the answers that are right for you. Do some soul searching as start out with the big one, the type of mother you are and want to be. After you know this, which again, may not be until after you have a family; do what it takes to be true to you. This, in turn, will result in the best person you can be for your children, your spouse, your village, and your work.
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