I have watched many women struggle with the choice – career or babies?
An increasing proportion of women are postponing children due to work pressures and societies expectation that women are the primary caregivers.
I admit; I did it all wrong. I focused solely on my career and hoped that a baby would fit in at some point. I did have children, but my career has suffered for it.
There is a problem with my approach. When I reached my ideal age to have children, I was in my 30’s and experiencing massive career progression. I soon faced a choice – career or babies. I chose babies and my career has stagnated.
Many women in their 30’s decide to focus on their careers. Many of these women find themselves childless and struggling to fall pregnant in their 40’s. The Human Rights Commission of Australia state the percentage of women over 40 without children has grown from 8% to 12% in 10 years, and they believe this is due to women delaying starting a family to pursue their career.
So how can you have it all without choosing between your career or babies?
When you start your career, add babies into your career plan
Instead of ‘hoping’ babies will fit in somewhere, actively plan when you want to try for a family. Of course, this is dependent on finding the right partner, but there is no harm in having a plan in place so you can make sure your career is ready for children.
Plan your career 2,5,10 and even 15 years in advance and allocate when you would like to have children and how many. Most importantly, consider how your career will progress after having children.
A degree of flexibility is required with your career plan as there are many factors that may not go to plan. But by actively planning children, you can focus on your career without worrying when you should have children.
Choose the company you want to work for when you have children
A few years before you plan to start a family, find a role in a company that has great maternity leave policies and a family friendly culture. Working for a supportive company will make a massive difference to your leave experience, and more importantly, how you adjust to returning to work as a mother. Some question to consider are:
- Do they offer paid maternity leave?
- Do they have a program in place to keep you up to date when on leave?
- Do they offer part-time positions or job-share opportunities for women returning from maternity leave?
- Do they offer flexible working arrangements such as working from home or flexible hours?
Consider child-care arrangements
Child-care arrangements are essential as a working mother.
If you return full-time your partner could stay home with the children. This is an ideal scenario if you are focussed on growing your career during your 20’s and 30’s.
However, if you partner continues working, or you choose to return part-time, you will need childcare.
Family care such as grandparents, is often a great choice when your baby is young. Otherwise, you will need to explore other options, such as child-care centres, family day care, or in-house Nannies.
Create a supportive network of family and friends
Being a career woman and mother is a juggling act which is much easier when you have family and friends to support you. Many women relocate in their 20’s to pursue career opportunities and create new experiences. Before having children, it is worth considering a move back to family and lifelong friends.
Develop a strong professional network and personal brand
Having a great professional reputation of delivering results is a great way to protect your career. If you have a strong network and a reputation as a capable and skilled professional, your career will easily rebound when you return to work after taking leave.
You will change once you have children. You will experience a depth of love for this little creature that is stronger than you can anticipate.
Be prepared – you may not want to return to work once you become a mother. The thought of leaving your beautiful bundle of joy with someone else can be heart-wrenching.
Once at work, you will battle with ‘mother’s guilt’ and a plethora of new emotions that come with keeping your boss happy, and your family connected. When planning motherhood and work, be realistic about the pressures of raising a family and growing a career.
You don’t have to choose between career or babies, but you do need to prepare and plan. Keeping your career on track, while starting a family is difficult but possible if you set yourself up for success.