Anwen Robinson shares five great reasons to hold your head high and prosper in your professional life.
For both the employed and self-employed career mums, the constant push-pull forces between work and home will be familiar. Whether it’s the sleepless nights, illnesses, the challenges of being a new parent, or the sheer busyness of life, it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed and question your choices. Our culture and environment do little to quell these feelings (let alone overturn them), and as a result, we can often overlook the enormous value that a career mum brings to the workplace, and to our economy.
In 2017, we’d like to think women are supported and validated whatever their decisions are regarding staying at home with their children or returning to the paid workforce. Admittedly, however, mothers still contend with guilt and judgement (assumed or otherwise) whichever camp they find themselves in. If you have chosen to return to your career, I’d like to encourage you with five reasons why you should hold your head high and feel good about what you’re doing.
1. Your contribution is important 💠
As a career mum, you are raising the next generation, whilst also contributing your skills and experience to your workplace and to the economy. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
Educated women are having fewer children – childlessness is 18 percent for this group, compared with 10 percent for women with no formal qualification. This suggests that the proverbial ‘career humps’ faced or anticipated by women having children could be playing a part in influencing fertility decisions.
These ‘career humps’ are real and they result in leaked and under-utilised talent as women drop out of the workforce, return to a lower-skilled role, or curb their career progression following childbirth. A study by Price Waterhouse Cooper showed that three in five ‘highly skilled and qualified returning professional women’ could end up in lower-skilled, and consequently lower-paid, jobs. This comes at a time when businesses are experiencing a skills shortage and are striving to increase gender diversity.
As a career mum, allow yourself to think positively about the contribution you make to both your family and society, and channel this energy towards positive actions that will help you thrive.
2. Dividing time between work and family can benefit everyone 💠
Whilst, of course, children benefit from being with their parents, a mounting body of research shows there are social, economic and educational benefits to having a working mum. Daughters are more likely to complete more years of education, be employed, take on supervisory roles and earn higher incomes. Meanwhile, sons of working mothers are more likely to spend more time assisting with childcare and doing the housework. Returning to work can also offer women a sense of self-fulfilment and valuable interaction with other adults, away from their children. Finding the right trade-off in time between work and family can also enhance the quality of time the family has together. Focussing on this can dampen that feeling of guilt that often accompanies returning to work.
3. You are helping others believe 💠
Whether you realise it or not, you are a picture of a career mum. Others will see this, and are likely to be influenced in one way or another by the fact that you work, and by the subconscious messages you convey through your body language, behaviours and actions. Embrace it. Being a career mum isn’t easy, and you needn’t pretend it is, but allow yourself to feel good about what you’re doing, despite the challenges.
4. As a career mum, you are changing the working landscape for women 💠
Gender diversity is not only an ethical imperative; it has also been shown to improve business performance. Despite this, women only make up around 19 percent of senior positions, and 17 percent of governance roles. To achieve true gender diversity, and grow the number of women succeeding in business and senior decision-making roles, we must get better at supporting women to re-engage their career following childbirth. Career mums have the potential to boost the pipeline of women progressing to senior roles, and to positively influence mindsets around career and parenthood. So next time you have a workplace ‘parenting’ need, put it out there for discussion. In addition to fulfilling your own needs, you may also be helping to shape a better environment for other working parents.
5. You can make flexible working work for you, and for others 💠
Flexibility is a key enabler for women looking to re-engage their career following childbirth, whether it’s in the form of part-time hours, flexible hours or working remotely. This can bring its own set of challenges (particularly if few others in your organisation work in this way), but a growing body of research does show that offering flexible work arrangements to employees supports better business performance. Businesses are slowly recognising this, and are developing programmes to support flexible working. So as well as improving your own work arrangement, your valuable insight could also inform the development of a successful flexible working programme for the wider business.
💠 Take positive action and prosper 💠
Little prepares us for the challenges of being a career mum. The realisation that you can’t do everything can be hard-hitting. Just getting out the door in the morning can be an achievement worth celebrating! Amid these challenges, allow yourself to appreciate the importance of what you’re doing and why, and to frame a positive mindset around it.
This positivity will go a long way towards empowering you to succeed in your dual role, by helping you to take control of your experiences at work and at home. Put yourself forward for new opportunities to bring you that new challenge you’re craving. Reschedule your weekly team meeting to take pressure off your morning drop-off run. Push back on work or switch off after hours to help you get a better night’s sleep. Lean on others to reduce your ‘to-do list’: share domestic chores with your partner, employ a cleaner, engage a junior colleague.
Our ambitions are a big part of what defines us, and the ones that are truly important will not disappear after having children. So allow yourself to progress towards these ambitions, and to feel good about it. Chances are, those around you will also benefit.
Anwen Robinson, mum of two, and founder of CareerMum, knows first-hand the challenges of progressing a career after having children. Anwen combines this experience with her corporate background to offer fresh perspectives on the topic of gender equality and to improve the working landscape for career mums. Read more at careermum.co.nz.