Many mothers-to-be have probably wondered how having a baby would affect their career goals. That’s partly why some women put off having kids. The timing isn’t right; their jobs are too demanding; they want to advance further along in their career first; or they’re at the peak right now and don’t want to lose steam.
When I was pregnant, I worried that I’d be less driven and ambitious after the baby arrived, and that my work performance might suffer. Would my priorities shift once I had to split my time and responsibilities between work and motherhood? Would I have to miss out on some after-work events, or cut back on overtime?
I knew women in the workplace who returned from maternity leave and spent a total of one to two hours breast pumping throughout the day. Or who began leaving at 6 PM on the dot to rush back to their kids, when they used to stay late. Some of them were more productive than any of us, firing off work emails at home once their babies were asleep. They bounced back from maternity leave and were even more on top of things. Yet there were some mums who seemed to be less “present.” But what I felt for all of these mums was respect.
When my older sister was on maternity leave, she said she didn’t feel like ever going back to work. Office life, meetings, business trips – all of that seemed a world away from what she was experiencing at home with her newborn. Her post-partum days consisted of naps, cuddles, and hours upon hours of breastfeeding. She was happy. Her days took on a different pace. As I watched, I wondered if I would feel the same once my baby arrived, or if I would be desperate to return to work.
Everyone goes through an adjustment period when they’ve not yet recovered from the shock of being a new parent, and are still figuring out how to best achieve work/life balance. Stay-at-home-mums have full time jobs, too, with their own set of struggles and sacrifices.
I knew that once I was a mother, I wouldn’t just be living and making choices for myself anymore. I wanted to live and work in a way that would make my child proud one day. If I could achieve that, then I would know success.
And if there was anything worth sacrificing for, it was the tiny being growing inside of me. My job as a mother was for life. Rather than fearing motherhood as a possible liability to my career goals, I would use it to my advantage. How? By seeing my baby as the ultimate inspiration to work harder than ever.
Here are some tips to deal with any worries about how having a kid might affect your career:
1. Be realistic about what you can and cannot accomplish. If you insist on attending and staying till the end of every after-work function, you can’t expect to be home in time to put your child to bed every night. Perhaps you can still go to the functions but leave slightly earlier.
2. Don’t be so set on the notion of “having it all.” After all, having it all means something different for every mum. Find out what it means for you in your current situation, and allow some flexibility.
3. If it will make you feel better knowing that you at least have the option of giving up your job to be a SAHM, discuss it with your husband. Find out if he’s on board. Look at your family financial state and figure out if/how things could work without your income.
4. Don’t compare yourself to others. Your colleague who’s also a mum might appear to have a much easier time, but that’s probably because she has two helpers and her mother-in-law taking care of her baby around the clock, when you have no helper and must rush back to pick up your kid from the childcare centre. It’s unfair to measure yourself against other mums when everyone’s situation is unique.
By Jenny Tai