As a working mother, I am passionate about helping other new mums get back into the world of work. My adjustment back into work after baby #1 and #2 both presented their own challenges and opportunities, and the daily juggle continues until this day.
However, since being a working mum I have noticed how much women – both with and without children – hold themselves back. They do this almost like it is an unspoken rule. Something that is just meant to be that way.
Let me explain.
Firstly, some women, choose a job when they are young and building their career based on how that company will treat them when they get to their motherhood years. They think ahead (a good thing) and choose employment based on how that will fit into their future life. This choice can sometimes not be in their best interest for their career or the most financially successful for them. But yet this is what they do.
When I was in a long-term relationship I chose a job with the most significant factor being that the organisation paid more maternity leave than was heard of at the time. Now, I ended up marrying and having children, but this was approximately 2-3 years after I starting working for them and during that time, I could have advanced my career significantly more had I made a smarter choice to pick me and my future instead of that of my unborn family….
Secondly, some women, once they do become mothers, then start to put the brakes on their career. Now this is sometimes needed but why is it expected? Not so much from others (although they do) but from ourselves?
Just this week I interviewed a candidate for a role. She had an excellent resume, lots of experience and could do the job with her eyes closed. It was certainly a step backwards in her career. When asked why she was applying for the role, her answer was simple. “I have a 2-year-old. I need something that is not as challenging so I can focus on my family.” The role also was closer to home so logistically provided a better option for her.
Now I listened to her with both understanding but also with fire in my belly. Here is this amazing woman. She has a significant education, extreme experience, presented amazingly and clearly was an ideal candidate for any organisation. But yet, here she was, choosing to step back.
Now, being there for your children is amazing. Something we all aspire to do. We want our little ones to be able to rely on us, we want to help them as parent helpers at school and pick them up every day and be that perfect parent. I also understand that not everyone wants a career – some people work simply because they need the money.
But I question, why, as women are we still expected (our expectation or others) to be the one that does that. Is it just that society hasn’t moved far enough ahead of the “olden days” when women were the primary carers and therefore that level of family attention is still what people use as a reference point and it is just the norm.
It is hard to work like you aren’t a parent and parent like you don’t have work – so why haven’t we moved forward enough yet to do them both, with both parents in the family?
Why is it still abnormal for a dad to stay home with the kids and the mum do a few more hours/days/months/years at work? Why is childcare still so hard to find and still super expensive that it makes it nearly impossible for (primarily women) parents to get back into their career?
And what about our men. Where is the support to assist them in this transition? The mental shift that needs to occur is hard for men to adapt to. They grow up with the expectation that they need to be the money earner, they need to support the family and if not then they are not doing a good job. But that is not the case. Many men these days are extremely hands on with their kids and families – more so than ever before. But yet they are also now expected to work after their kids are born and keep up the same momentum, when really, they want to be able to be the parent helper or coach the soccer team and be a part of their kids lives more so than their fathers before them.
I am not sure of the answer, but I feel a great place to start is for women to have more confidence in their ability and to be able to look at ways they can have both a successful career and a beautiful happy family. Sure at times you need to lean out – but do it as your choice and not a choice you think you need to make – there are other options.