Balancing motherhood and work

Opening Up a Dialogue About Motherhood

Mother’s Day is a special day set aside to celebrate motherhood in all its forms. But what does motherhood mean for women in this modern-day? More importantly, what decisions and challenges are women experiencing or considering when it comes to balancing motherhood and a career? And how does the outcome of these decisions compare to common beliefs?

This Mother’s Day, to get answers to these questions, we wanted to open up a conversation to share the vastly different experiences and beliefs surrounding motherhood.

So we posed some questions to the OneUpOneDown community, a community of ambitious women in business and technology who are hungry to learn and grow, personally and professionally.

Has motherhood or the idea of it impacted your career choices, and if so, how?

“Yes. Deciding to work part-time verse full time to spend more time with kids and take flexible jobs over career progression. Exploring freelancing and starting my own businesses’ came from wanting freedom around children. Motherhood is confronting, but it lets you see what you do want from a career and how it might be a big part of your identity.”

“Yes. Absolutely. Being a mother definitely took priority over advancing my career for around 15 years.”

“Yes, I chose not to have children. I was free to take low-paid, startup and risky jobs that I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.”

“I have decided not to become a mother, and it has impacted my view of my career immensely. I never worry about finding the right “time” to get pregnant and having it fit into my plans for my company. I’m not worried about following my ambitions to live and work abroad when opportunities present themselves.”

“I chose to be an independent contractor in early motherhood to be flexible-then there were times that I chose a career as a paid manager for the stability and benefits. In both cases, my family was my top consideration. Going to work was never an option; it was a necessity.”

“It hasn’t affected my choices or goals, only my execution.”

It hasn’t, but it will. I’m now angling for development opportunities that will allow me to work from home in preparation for working potentially reduced hours to allow for child-rearing.

“Yes, I went for a stable job.”

“Yes definitely. I have left a high ranking senior role, and the guilt of putting my career first and spending “too much” time at work has meant I have taken a sideways or backwards step in my current role.”

“Absolutely. I started my own business to fit around my children to be home as much as possible.”

“I organised my job around my children so I could always be there after school. I could have taken a managers role opportunity that involved a lot of travel, but I choose not to, as it would mean I would have been away from my family for too long. I have no regrets about this decision.”

“Not yet, I am starting to think about having a family, but I am quite concerned about how it will impact my work.”

What are some things you are (or were) afraid of when it comes to having a career and a family?

“Not being happy about someone else raising my kids. Missing out on milestones. Missing out on career opportunities. Feeling left behind my partner. Being a single mother and not having a career/way to stand on my own two feet. Wanting to be a role model for my children. Being a present mother. Feeling like I give my job half my best and my kids half my best – but neither my full best.”

“I didn’t have any fear when approaching motherhood.”

“Loss of income, workplace prejudice, falling behind in my learning / best practices.”

“I sometimes worry that I will be alone when I’m older without children. But having children for that reason seems incredibly selfish. The love I have to pour into children is the same love that I have to pour into lifelong friendships, partnerships, and my community. I won’t be alone.”

“I don’t intend to have children, and I often wonder if people will expect me to over-perform in my career because of it.”

“Nothing anymore but back in the day I put a lot of pressure on myself, thinking I had to manage/control so many things to stay in place. I bought into the juggling multi-tasking myth that makes us scared and stressed.”

“Time – being able to balance without neglecting one or the other, and fear of slowing down and no longer progressing.”

“Spending meaningful time developing small humans who have no concept of time-division, i.e. work time and attention time etc.”

“Will I be able to support myself and my family as a single parent?”

“Never being able to get back on the career progression track. Not being considered for high ranking or senior roles. Having to work double hard in big roles being a parent and a woman.”

“Balance.”

“Juggling children and work is difficult. I think if each person respects the other person’s career pathways and nurtures this and sharing parenting, this can work well.”

“There will be different times when each person’s career may need to be a priority, and therefore the other person takes over the parenting and vice versa.”

“I love my work, and I am scared about what will happen to my ability to work if I have a family. How can I be both a good mother and a good founder or employee? I already do so much and don’t know how to fit in being a mother.”

What are some of the learnings, realisations, or questions you have on this topic that you’d like to share with other women?

“You can never know too much and that it’s OK not to be 100% up to date on your area of expertise. Asking for help is not a sign of failure or weakness.”

“Not being a mother makes you no less of a woman. Maternal love and compassion take many different forms. For me, I feel maternal care for the people who work for me, and the community I serve. This is as fulfilling, if not more so, as having children of my own.”

“I imagine there is a myriad of business benefits to hiring women who chose to have children. I would love to have these discussed so that if there is ever a question around hiring or promoting a person because they have children, I have a quick list of benefits that I can rattle off in their defence.”

“Don’t try to please everybody…you are not chocolate. Be true, know your center, ask for help.”

“Prioritise, create the time where it’s needed.”

“I have worked with a mother who is, in my opinion, a mum first and a worker second. She does operate in a very western traditional household and relationship structure, but she is very good (from my perspective) at being firm in her “no” with work when it encroached on her family time – and I think employers need to be staunch in respecting that boundary.”

“Don’t think too much; otherwise, you might end up delaying beyond age. And rely on your family if you can, not your partner.”

“There is no right answer. Nothing is perfect. You will figure it out as a family. Listen to your gut. If your gut is telling you this is the right thing, DO NOT LISTEN TO SOCIETY OR ANYONE ELSE – then do it. You have one life. And what works now will be different to what works when kids are of different age. You can’t get the younger years back – but you also have to be happy.”

“I will always experience Mum guilt, it’s inevitable, all you can do is your best. Kids don’t care about all the small details. They just want a loving, caring and present parent.”

“Parenting is a full-time job. If one parent is happy to take a career break while raising a family, they should be very happy with this decision. The other parent who continues with their career should be very grateful as you are making their life much easier as juggling both is hard work.”

“If you want to continue with your career pathway, don’t try and do both on your own (unless you are a single parent). Ensure you have shared parenting right from the very beginning and shared exercise time, cooking, friends catch up time etc. Everything has to be shared equally right from the very beginning.”

“Some of the people I am closest with have had babies, and it has spurred some very interesting discussions about the realities of having kids. I have learnt about what they were worried about before having a baby and then seen the fact afterwards. I think there is a lot of unnecessary anxiety created around the idea of having to choose between family and career. The more I speak to women who have been very successful at both, the more I learn that the “one-or-the-other” idea is BS. I would like to have more conversations about this to truly believe it and learn how I can have both in a healthy way for everyone involved.”

Is there anything else that you’d like to share?

“Motherhood makes and breaks you at the same time. It’s an invaluable experience that adds to your resume – but we don’t often see it like that.”

“It’s absolutely amazing to be ‘out the other side’ and to be able to fully embrace the world of the career again.”

“I think more women need to know what is and is not acceptable to be asked at an interview. I was asked (aged 26 and married) if I was planning a family and I didn’t know the law or whether this was something I should answer or not.”

“Parenting is hard. I’ve learnt more about myself and my capabilities more in the last six years than in the 25 years before that!”

Conclusion

There is so much diversity around the concept of motherhood. From women who have chosen to have children, those who have not, those who have experienced the pain of not being able to, or losing a child. Women who have raised a child with the support of others, or have done it alone, have found a balance between family and careers, or have not. There is such breadth and depth to these experiences, and so much can be learned from the experiences of others. What’s important is having an openness to these conversations, knowing that there is no right, wrong or one answer, but many to explore to find the right fit for you – whether that is having a child, or not.

If you would like to share your experiences, we invite you to answer the above questions in our anonymous form:

Thanks and happy Mothers Day!

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