Mom and career – the perfect combination?

It’s Friday afternoon and my male colleagues all went for lunch. I’m sitting at my desk, checking changing tables and baby cocoons online while eating a sandwich… soon I need to start preparing my workshop in Finland on Monday.

I’m six months pregnant and I recently started to work with a business deal in Helsinki, Finland so I fly there every week and I stay there for 2-3 days. I’m the only pregnant women boarding the flight every week, among all the business men (and some few women). I guess they all wonder if I shouldn’t be resting in my bed instead. I had a hard time convincing my manager by the way to let me lead a challenging project until the end of the year. I don’t blame him at all, but honestly, I haven’t lost anything of my brain capability as far as I know and I’m just as energetic as ever.

I spoke to a wise older colleague yesterday about being a mom and making a good career in parallel and she told me that I just need to accept the fact that it takes longer time for women to do careers in comparison to men – if they choose to have children. However, she also said that energetic women come back from maternity leave with a fresh mind and new energy and can take on bigger responsibilities with a much more mature approach. I guess we normally don’t see the positive effects of women having children in the middle of their careers, it’s almost always seen as an obstacle for advancement. Also, most often people are expected to reach their career peek sometimes between the age of 30 and 40. When it’s time for me to retire, I guess legislation will have changed to only allow people to retire at the age of 70. So if I use my full potential when I’m 30-40 – what will I be doing during the coming 30 years?

My colleague (who has a very good and senior position by the way), has 3 children and she has been on maternity leave for a total of 4 years during her career. She told me that if she could do one thing different she would have chosen to have children earlier, probably at the age of 25. She had her first child when she was 30. The average age for first-time mom’s in Stockholm is 35 (!).

Of course there is a price to pay for every priority in life. I know that I cannot be the most present parent for my child if I want to have a career in parallel. But the good thing is that life is more complicated than that; just because I’m an extremely attentive mother doesn’t mean that my child will develop into the best person she can be. If I want my children to be independent and learn to embrace responsibility at an early age, I cannot be behind their back all day long to monitor their behavior. Also, if I’m a motivated person because I have an enriching job life I will be a more interesting and respected mother.

So instead of seeing motherhood as an obstacle for a good career, I think we should see it in a broader perspective and realize the benefits of becoming better persons and employees (in terms of maturity, leadership skills and discipline among other things) as well as being a greater asset for our company. My colleague put it in a nice way: “when I came back from maternity leave, I came back with new energy and new perspectives, fully motivated to take on my assigned role. I felt that I had grown as a person”.

 

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