How do you maintain career momentum after parenthood?

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I’m a woman approaching 30, and I’d still class myself as a junior in my profession. Kids are definitely on the cards for my partner and I, but so is having a career. My mother worked all through my childhood, and I think it had a great influence on my sister and I, so I know working parents are good parents. But my mother worked for the government and I work in the creative industries, putting in 14 hour days and having maybe one or two weekends off a month. I see almost no women in the more senior positions in my industry, and those that I do see don’t have kids.

I truly enjoy my work, but I feel like my concerns — that having both a career and children isn’t possible — don’t get taken seriously. When I’ve mentioned it to other women in my industry they either tell me to never discuss it again, lest a potential employer find out, or reassure me that after I have kids I won’t want to work so much. Both possibilities scare me.

So tell me, working parents: how do you make it work? Is it possible to maintain momentum? Can we have a discussion about work and parenthood? — Susan

Comments on How do you maintain career momentum after parenthood?

  1. I’m a teacher, which I think might be one of the best professions for being a parent. But a lot of my friends feel the same as you. I have one friend in particular who has a job that sounds a lot like yours, and one of the things she’s done is poke around her (huge) networking circle to find out who has kids. She’s discovered that more women in her field have kids than she thought, they’re just not on the jobs that she does.

    That doesn’t exactly answer your question, but might be a helpful first step?

    • Yes! I just want to second teaching as often being a parent/child-friendly career. (Of course, it depends on the school and having to work on credentials while raising kids would make it much, much harder.)

      I’m lucky because elementary-aged students can walk or get bussed to the public middle and school schools and can hang out in their parents’ classrooms for that last hour of the day. (It’s really not distracting!) There are other childcare options, too, but it’s so nice having that support. I wish other workplaces also had such family-friendly options!

    • I am also a teacher and a coach which definitely stacks up the hours I spend away from home. Even though we have “parent friendly” careers, I think the mindset still changes a bit – I find it easier to really leave work and go home without a second thought of staying later and finishing up grading those papers and whatnot.

  2. I’m four months pregnant myself so I have no words of advice, but I’m sick of people telling me how I won’t want to work when the baby gets here or how there’s no chance we can keep working from home (we’re both freelancers and have our office here) even if we take turns with work and baby duty. They say “now you think you’ll do it, but just wait…” Hearing so much advice from people who have never been in my situation (stay at home moms, moms who work outside the house, childless freelancers, etc.) makes me sick!

    • Oh and the same goes for “now you say you want to use cloth diapers, but you’ll see how once the baby is born you’ll want disposables” “no daycare from the beginning? trust me, by the six month mark you’ll be begging to have that child taken off your side” blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

    • I am a mom and creative-type who owns her own business and has worked from home for nearly all of my 6.5 year old daughter’s life, part of that time as a single mom. I am now expecting my second child. I will say, working from home with an infant was incredibly difficult for me, even with a family member here to care for her a few hours a day. It may have been my daughter’s temperament, or my temperament, or simply my own inability to compartmentalize my mind and focus on my work, but it was SO, SO hard to get what I needed to get done when I could hear her crying, fussing, playing or laughing in the next room. Emotionally and physically. (Leaking boobs much?) Once she was mobile and realized Mommy was behind the door, it became even more challenging. I eventually ended up needing to find outside-the-home childcare when she was about 18 months. This is just my experience, and I’m eager to see how it works out with this baby. I am going to try to avoid childcare until she is at least six months old, so will be trying to work from home part-time with her here from the time she is about 3 months old until then. I would love to hear more stories from moms who have successfully negotiated this.

      OH, and I am totally getting the same thing with the cloth diapering… I didn’t do it with my first daughter and so many people are being discouraging about it!

      • Thanks for your input! See, this is the kind of experience I like reading about, because you’ve been there. Our planned strategy for now is to have the parent “on baby duty” out of the house as much as possible and possibly try to find a co-working arrangement for 2x/week.
        And now I’ll stop here because this is not what the original post was about 😀

      • We have a similar situation; I started working at home when we moved to a new town, because there was no support network. It’s definitely exhausting and hard to manage, but it can still work.

    • I just wanted to offer some anecdotal experience from my situration (especially since it’s a similar one to Gracia’s – work from home). I have a 8 months old and my husband and I are both PhD students. My husband’s in the sciences so he’s at work and in a lab all day. I started a dissertation fellowship that funded my last year of writing the month that I gave birth.

      Everyone told me to expect the first month or two to be unproductive, and so they were. Around month three is when we felt like we had a hang of things and we brought in a babysitter. At that point, our daughter didn’t feel as “breakable” to us and we felt like we could handle someone else watching her.

      What we did was this: I would have the sitter come between her two naps that at 3 months, were more or less predictable. At least the morning one was, so they’d come at the tail end. Then have her for about 2 hours while I worked from home in the other room. I actually wanted to be there, to hear her if she cried, and didn’t find it destracting as much as reassuring. It felt scarier to leave my 3 months old with a sitter than just know that I was there if something was needed. I’d usually put on some music to tune out their chatter and get to my writing.

      With time, this arrangement got better and better. Once Spring hit and our daughter was bigger, time slots to work got longer, etc, we started changing things up. I now meet the sitter in town, she takes C. in her stroller on walks, to the park, to the library and I sit at a local coffee shop and write. We all love it, I get out of the house, so does my daughter, and it’s a really enjoyable rhythm to our day.

      I supplemented my work time from the sitter with extra time in the evenings after C. was in bed or early mornings (I’d stay up after ler last nursing session while she’d go back to sleep and work for a couple of quiet uninterrupted morning hours).

      I’ve been able to figure out writing with my parenting schedule and plan to continue to do this in the next couple of years. I want to continue freelance writing and working from home and using a babysitter for those weekly work hours (rather than daycare). This system just has worked really well for me. I also liked the flexibility of the sitter (cancel when I need to without having to pay for that day anyway) and the one-on-one attention my daughter got.

      To answer the initial question on this post: my tip would be to find someone doing what you want to do and have just one model of it. I had only one colleage in my entire (large) dept. who had a baby and then still finished her dissertation within a year while on fellowship at home. Any time I dispaired, I clung to her example and told myself, this is doable. It can be done. Just keep pushing forward.

      (Also, Gracia, we do cloth diapers and it’s not really that big a deal. I got the same comments as you and look, we’re doing them (as are a good number of my mom friends) and we hardly think about it).

      Good luck new moms!!

      S.

      • I’m sending your comment to my wife (a humanities PhD student), who I think has some incredible fear that this isn’t possible. Like you and your colleague, we need more models of people who insist that it must be possible.

        • Cal – please do! And if your wife ever wants to talk about this, I’d be happy to chat (simplybike {at} gmail). I think that academia in particular lacks a model of parenthood and career mixing and that culture won’t change unless we challenge it and set new examples for the generations to come.

    • The work issue can be so irritating. I have a 3 year old and a 9 week old. I went back to work at 7 weeks, not because I had to but because I wanted to. There were 12 nurses in my department that were pregnant around the same time and I was the only one who didn’t take a full 3 months off. I got the distinct impression that people felt like I “left” my girls too soon. I have the luxury of only working weekends (two 12 hour shifts) and the girls stay at home with my husband, so I don’t feel like I’m leaving them at all. My co-workers just couldn’t understand that I WANTED to come back to work.

      • You really should. I send that article to every expectant mother I know when she asks for advice on parenting (especially on a social media site like facebook). To me, it’s the best advice you can give someone coming up against a major universal life change.

      • When people say “you’ll seeeeeee” it makes me even more determined to prove them wrong and do it my way. 🙂

    • Just wanted to say that I work full time from home, ALONE (my husband is gone until 7:30 PM each night and I have no close family in the area), and it’s awesome! I’m blessed with a baby who sleeps really well in my lap while I type (ha!) and a job that isn’t too high-pressure or time-sensitive, but just wanted to say that it CAN be done! Funnily enough, I can never seem to get any work done when my husband IS home for the day. When it’s just me and my daughter, we develop a natural rhythm of work and breaks that works for us.

      Cloth diapering, on the other hand… well… she’ s 6 months old and I have bought fabric to make cloth diapers twice and have so far sewed only one complete diaper. She has worn cloth diapers for about three hours, total. Oops.

      The funny thing about the you’ll seeeeees is that some of them DO turn out to be right… but if something is really important to you, you WILL (usually) find a way to do it despite the you’ll seeeees.

  3. I don’t know how it would be possible to have a baby and have your priorities not change at least somewhat. Working a 14-hour day and most weekends means you’d never see your kid, which I think would be heartbreaking because once you have one the ONLY thing you want to do is see your kid. That’s not true forever, clearly, but I do think it’d be unrealistic to expect nothing to change (either actually change in your time management, or just change in your heart) once there’s a baby there. That said, people get nannies or good daycare setups and go on about their careers all the time–I just think it’ll be harder than it sounds to maintain the current arrangement, and probably seem less important, at least when your kids are very young. Curious to hear everyone else’s opinions, though.

    • Hey, I’d be careful about what you say – as much as I love my son, seeing him is not the ONLY thing I want to do.

      There are still so many other things that I want to do in my life, and when I read a comment like “You’ll only want to see your kid” it leave me feeling like I am doing something wrong, even though I know I am not.

      Thanks.

      • Completely agree!

        Without soudning rude, I need more mental stimulation (work) than whats on offer at home

      • BUT, I do think it’s important for people to hear the many emotional reactions to having children, one of which may be the overwhelming desire to be with your kids. I experienced this: I never expected to want to stay at home, or make career sacrifices for the sake of my children, but when they came into my life, I felt very different. It is POSSIBLE that the original poster may experience those feelings and that can mean she might want to seek a different schedule or something like that. I found way too often that people expected nothing to change when I had kids: my advisers, my friends, my bosses: everyone acted like life would roll on just as it always had within a few weeks of my children being born. Having kids dramatically changed my life and priorities. Now I am seeking part-time work so I can be home with my kids when they are done with school. I don’t want to be away from them any more than that, and a lot of parents feel that way (a lot of parents don’t). In that case, it can be really difficult to navigate career waters. I’m taking what feels like a huge career risk by not pursuing serious/full-time employment, but I won’t put work ahead of my family. I have found workplaces and schools (I’ve also done grad school) tremendously unaccommodating of my desire to spend time with my kids, and that’s a real problem. I think it’s reasonable to say that for some of us, having kids does change your priorities and desires and relationship to work, and that can be difficult because workplaces do not accommodate mothers.

      • I love this quote, and although she’s talking more about the pleasures in life, I think it can also be applied to wanting to spend time on work and career.

        “American women typically demonstrate their commitment (to their children) by worrying and by showing how much we’re willing to sacrifice; whereas Frenchwomen signal their commitment by projecting calm and flaunting the fact that they haven’t renounced pleasure.” Pamela Druckerman, Bringing Up Bebe

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to leave your child to go to work or do something else “for yourself”, and admitting it. I REALLY look forward to going to work many days, then by the end of the day I REALLY look forward to coming home and seeing my boy. It’s not a one-or-the-other thing.

    • I agree with Kate: You can’t make assumptions about what other people will want/do/think/feel/whatever.

      However, buried underneath that I think Isa has a good point: Working 14 hour days and not taking weekends off honestly doesn’t seem like a workable situation for having a child (or, frankly, living – but that’s just me. I’d wilt and die under those conditions!)

      So of course you can do both. But probably something has to give: A different position in the same industry? Your partner staying at home with kidlets?

      Anyway, my husband and I are super unsure about whether we want to have kids or not. Something I am very, very clear about is that if we do have children, I will not want to work.

      Not because I believe it’s better for the kids (I don’t really believe in “better” – I think families do things different ways and kids turn into who they are going to turn into), but because it would be better for ME. I know myself. I’m am introvert who already struggles with the amount of social energy it takes to just go to my cheerful, friendly, nonprofit job every day. There’s no effing way I could add a child on top of that; it’s one or the other for me.

    • I love that this perspective is so personal. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to see your kid ALL the time. I respect the ladies who want to work and believe in choices for the mamas. Can’t say many people understood the I- want- to- be- home- with- the- baby- attached- to- me thing I was up to. Sometimes I feel there is so much more pressure to work work work, craft, create & be interesting! (Well there was from my friends and family) I was in baby world for two years and loved it plenty of time for everything else now.

    • Many, many men work 14 hour days and on the weekends with a wife (or nanny) at home, but we think it’s acceptable for them to not be thinking, “the ONLY thing [I] want to do is see [my] kid”. Sure, two partners working 14 hour days means childcare needs to get worked out one way or the other, but why couldn’t a husband stay home with the kids while a wife works her “high powered” job?

      Ugh. Why are we still having the career/mommy discussion in 2012? (That is to say, why do we still NEED to have the career/mommy discussion in 2012, not that Susan should just shut up about it already.)

      • We still need to have it because nothing has changed in regards to how things change after a baby enters the picture (no matter how it’s handled–things change), women have more and more choices in regards to how they live their post-baby lives (it’s no longer assumed that they will quit working after baby), and finally because physics says we can’t be in two places at the same time…and someone has to be with that darn baby every minute. Add in emotional reactions that cannot be foreseen, a different perspective on life in general and all the other can’t-know-til-you’re-in-it stuff and…here we are.

        • But with the exception of actually having the baby or breastfeeding, there’s nothing a cisgender father can’t do that a mother can. So why is okay for people to expect that Dad will just keep working and Mom won’t?

    • So as a follow up to Isa’s original thought. I went back to work after 3.5 months. It was hard. I work a lot out of an office. He goes to a daycare he’s totally happy with.

      The amount my son has been growing/changing/learning is so exponential that I *am* sad that I miss a majority of his day.

      I’m the primary breadwinner for our family. I love my job as well and I excel at it. Seeing my son is not the “only” thing I want to do, but I have to say, when I look at my available 24 hours in a day, subtract my work time and commute time and sleep time. You can be damn sure I think spending an hour or two with my son of my only free hour or two in a day is a higher priority that my creative stuff, or my housework, or my workout, or my… whatever. Those are *my* priorities, they might not be everyone’s and that is ok.

      It’s a struggle, because there are a lot of other things I am interested in and that I want to do, but there isn’t time everyday for me to fit them all in. There used to be when I wasn’t a mom and when I had more energy and sleep and only belonged to myself.

      Anyway, while the wording might have been poorly chosen, the gist of what Isa said is true for me. My priorities shifted, and when something has to give, it’s rarely my son that loses out. If we could afford to have me home, I would be doing that. And pre-baby, that idea would have been laughable to me. Make the space in your life for things to be different, and internalize that you don’t know *how* they will be different. That way you’ve planned to be flexible, which will come in super handy.

  4. I’m a 27 year old mum of a 12month old, and I’ve been back at my nursing job since he was 4 months.
    If you want to be a working Mum, its suprising how you can make things work.
    My way of thinking changed when I went back to work: I could no longer stay back that 45mins to finish up paper work – I have a baby at home who is waiting for me, so finish time is my home time now. I think of work as a break from baby stuff.
    I know from my experience, going back to work early was the best thing for me learning how to juggle family time, work time, cleaning time, and ME time, because I knew I was going back to work no matter what.
    I juggle my washing and housework on 2 of my 5 working days so that my days off can be spent relaxing, spending time with my family, and doing things I want to do.

    BUT I MUST STRESS – none of this will be possible without a seriously strict routine that you follow right down to the very minute (google: “Save our Sleep” by Tizzie Hall – my baby BIBLE/lifesaver/saviour and book I simply can not live without as my son has slept for 12 solid hours every night from 9weeks old from following her brilliant routines). Routine is the key, I wouldnt of been able to go back to work without my son being in a solid routine, 7pm – 7am… its simply heaven!

    I’ve been back at work 8 months now and wont look back. When the time comes to make the choice, you will know the right thing to do, and you will make it work for you : )

    Best of luck x x x

  5. I work full time and have an 8 month old at home. All I want to do is stay home with her. She is all I think about all day and as a result don’t focus very well at work. BUT money is tight and I have to, there is no other option for me. I am up Mon-Fri at 5:30 am and take her to daycare. She loves daycare and they love her so it feels good and she has learned a lot from being with other babies. Also once is awhile it is nice to be at work with other adults. All I can say is you will make it work. You will be tired and most likely call is sick a few times due to the exhaustion but if you like your job and they like you then they should understand. I am lucky to work for a company that is flexible and understanding and that makes it much easier. You can do it, it is possible.

  6. For me? Boundaries. There are days where I work 14 hours, all weekend, etc, but they are balanced by normal days where I can leave work at 5 and hang up my hat at home.

    But then again, I work for a company that already supports this – much of our workforce is unionized, and we acknowledge that while we might require and inspire start-up level emotional commitment, we don’t have silicon valley salaries, so to make up for it we are committed to a 40 hour work week.

    The problems that I have are not the hours, but when the work bleeds over into family time. Even if I work 14 hours, I have to be able to turn off work for long enough to rock my kid to sleep, or help with homework (in future) even if I turn it back on and go back to work after that is done.

  7. hi, i worked a fairly intense job (surgical resident, working 60-80 hours per week) before i had my now 10 month old bub, and felt the same way that you do about going back to work. i stayed at home with him for 7 months, and while i tried to cherish the time i had with him, i missed the adult contact and the use of my brain so much. i went back just before his 7 month-aversary, with my partner taking the child care reins full time, and i miss him just so so much. there are days when i leave the house before he is awake, and come home after he is in bed, and it just kills me. i try really hard to be home between 5.30 and 7.00 (dinner / bath / bed) and go back in after that if i need to but it just isn’t always possible.

    that said, i have no plans to quit my job anytime soon, but i feel incredibly guilty and just plain sad a lot of the time. but i do cherish the time i get to spend with him, and when i’m not on call i tend to put him in our bed to sleep, just so i get to hold him.

    don’t know if this helps but it’s my two cents …

  8. I’ve been working at home, for a large corporation, for over 5 years. My son was born almost 2 years ago. At first, I tried splitting my day, working in the morning before he woke and the evening after my husband got home from work. That was not a workable solution for me. Around 12 months old, we enrolled him at the Montessori for half a day. Now, I work in the morning before he wakes, take him to school, then pick him up at noon. He naps and I can finish my work and be done for the day by the time he wakes up. It works really well. Especially since I’m on the West coast and most of my co-workers are on the East coast. They love that I’m available for 9 am calls (6 am my time).

    Now, for the question about momentum. I’ve discovered that my career is taking off now, after I’ve had a baby. I’m shocked. And realize, I know it’s not related to having a baby–but I never expected for my career to grow after becoming a mother. But it has. In fact, in the next year I’m moving out of my home office and into the headquarters. The whole routine is about to change. My husband is going to quit his job and become a stay at home dad and I’m going to trade in my yoga pants and head into the office.

    Some one earlier said, it’s about balance. I’m sure there will be a 14 hour work day here and there, but I feel it is important to maintain a level of expectation with management–that can not be the norm, no matter how high you rise. There is work time and home time and the two must balance for a person to be a healthy contributing member of a team. I highly recommend Seth Godin’s Linchpin for ideas about how to really position yourself to grow in your career.

    Ultimately it’s all about what you want to do and what’s best for your family. If you want to stay home and let the career go, then you can find a way. If you want to have both a family and a fulfilling career, there are ways to do that too. Just don’t be to hard on yourself and don’t drive yourself crazy trying to be perfect. Do what you can, when you can, to the best of your ability. It’ll all work out.

  9. I was happily doing 12-13 hrs a day in a very low paid creative industries job – when I got pregnant. Surprised and horrified when my supervisor said “Wow ok well lets scribble a few years off then come see me” I was determined to get back into the game ASAP and show em’.

    In my case I fell head over heels in love with being at home with the baby. Work didn’t enter my mind at all. She was my boss and if she was having a bad day so was I, we had deadlines milesstones and routines I was busy and happy and loving it. She was my work, but she wasnt my lifes work… one day BAM I woke up and LONGED to go to work. .. . to put on shoes, to drink coffee, to earn money and to find a little bit more of me.

    I didnt think this would be difficult on everyone in the family – there were knock backs, sweaty interviews, painful negotiations, public tears *everyone* and private tantrums. I had a daycare to pay for and had to pick that kid up before they shut, so I had to reject offers *shock* – I had to go against my insticts and the creative industry rules and hold out – I had to not take things that could turn into other better things ‘somtime maybe’- i had to put the big girl pants on be realistic and know my worth.

    Eventually the job showed up and I got it and yup its not overly creative, it is not what I studied at uni and its not forever &I haven’t given up! No regrets!

  10. In my experience with a lot of high-powered professionals, if your normal work day is 14 hours and it bleeds into the weekend, you have three choices: a stay-at-home spouse, a nanny who does laundry, or stepping on to the “mommy track.” I don’t want to be discouraging, but 14-hour days are a 70-hour week, and you will barely see the baby, and you will basically require someone full-time to take care of your life once there’s a child in it. My husband was a litigator when our first child was born and worked hours like this. People in higher-end law firms who make partner either do it before they have kids, or have a stay-at-home spouse and don’t see the kids as much as they’d like. If you want to spend any time with the kids on your short times off, you need someone who cleans the house, prepares meals, shops, makes doctor appointments, takes the pets to the vet, sits at home to wait for the plumber, deals with ear infections, can take time off for sick kids, etc.

    All the couples I know where both parents were doctors or lawyers or architects or similar, working extended hours, had one parent (not necessarily mom) step back into something with more regular hours or hired a live-in nanny.

    I don’t mean to be discouraging, but having even one parent continue on such a strenuous work track is difficult with a baby; having both do so requires hiring a lot of help.

    • My cousin is a nanny for a family like this. It’s unfortunate that there is not more support for families in these industries, but you can make it work if you can afford the help. As an added bonus, if you choose well, you can have an extra person in your child’s life who genuinely loves and cares for them.

  11. I went back at 8 weeks and I was so glad! I love my kid but I enjoy my work too and missed having interactions with grown ups. I work wacky hours and sometimes long days (I work as a nurse). We’ve survived by being flexible with our expectations, having a childcare provider we like with longer-than-normal hours, and sometimes myself or my partner basically parents solo for several days because I’m working 12 hours a day for three days. You have to find your personal balance, and that changes over time too and that’s ok!

    When I feel guilty I remind myself that getting socialization and learning to interact with other grown ups at day care is good for my son, and the extra time alone with dad is good for both of them. The only thing that was a real struggle was pumping at work, but that is a separate thread entirely.

    • So nice to hear this. I also work in healthcare (speech language pathologist at a rehab hospital), where working from home is not on option professionally, nor would it be personally as working with my patients is what I love about my job. I’m 28 weeks pregnant, and already feeling guilty about working weekends, leaving my partner with the kiddo, and feeling even more guilty that I believe I will be enjoying myself during this time apart. Thanks for your insight!

  12. From the above comments it’s pretty clear that this is a really personal decision. It works different for every family. When we got pregnant our original plan was that I’d go back to work after 6 or 7 weeks and work full time, my husband would continue working full time at nights. But then we had 27 week preemies and I took a 6 month maternity leave. Then due to my daughter recovering from heart surgery and my son’s breathing issues we were encouraged to not put them in daycare if at all possible. So we changed our plans again. Now that they are a year old and don’t need bi-weekly check-ups we are changing our plans again.

    For us the work-life balance was hard to realize and we still don’t feel balanced but we try to make it work as best we can. It took us a lot of planning and compromise.

  13. I work in a design agency which, I’m sure you can imagine, can be super intense. I didn’t work here before I got pregnant, I was actually laid off during my pregnancy and got hired on when my daughter was 4 months old. It was tough, very tough, I was on a super demanding project that had me working 80 hour weeks for about 3-4 months. And I was torn, I wanted to see more of my daughter and my husband. We are a very active family so cutting into their time was not ok for me. So I found a balance. My rule was, they could have me as late in the night as needed, but from 5-8 pm that was family time, period. They have perks such as paying for dinner while working and cabs home if after 8pm, I arranged it with them that they pay for the cab home so that I was home in time to have dinner and some time with them and I would work from home in the evening until my job was done.

    We had hired a nanny and I arranged to have her bring my daughter to work for lunch as often as possible. And at other times, my husband would bring her to the office for dinner instead of me coming home (if I needed to be present with the team).

    There’s no denying it was tough, but it worked. I have received a promotion and wages to reflect my hard work. I’ve been here for 2 years now and things have calmed down completely now. Of course there are meetings out of town, we skype and family sometimes comes in to town to help us out if we need it, but it is completely possible.

    What I can say is you have to set your rules, especially if you worked at a company before, it can be really hard for them to learn that 14 hour days every day and all weekend is not acceptable. The co-workers have to better manage their time and you have to set their expectations. Let them know that after a time, you are offline, you’ll keep an eye on email, but unless it’s urgent they won’t hear from you until the next day.

    Frankly, in my experience, in creative companies, younger employees do not make the best use of their time. I know this from both personal experience and observation. Their priorities are different and they are often perfectly comfortable working late into the evening/night, but then they also come in late in the morning. This makes the people who are timely to work suddenly work longer because they’re waiting on those late people, and it becomes a domino effect. Don’t get that statement wrong, it’s not a judgement on younger employees, their focus is just different as are their work habits. You have to find better efficiencies. Spending face time at an office does not equal working harder, just working longer.

    Getting your company to support you is possible. And, in fact, there are multiple mothers at my company who have become associate partners within a year of having their children. After becoming a mom, I have found I am 100% better organized and strict about time. That is the biggest key to cutting down the hours. And in doing that it’s up to you to set the foundation in your workplace. This is something that is often very hard to do, especially when you worked at the company before having the child.

    But I think I can say a “you’ll see” here. At least I hope you’ll see that through becoming a mother, you’ll learn when and how to hold your ground and to set the precedents necessary for you to have a good work life balance. Because you’re the only one who can set it for you.

  14. This is *not* an easy dilemma, and you are not alone!

    As a mother and career woman working her way through your exact questions at present, I would respond by saying that motherhood alongside pursuit of a career is an ongoing work in progress. An acceptance of the fact that life post-baby consists of a series of decision points that may change outcomes as your answers change over time may help (I’m talking about everything from deciding which childcare method works for your family, to your particular disciplinary style, to how/what your child eats, to whether/where you work, if your work is full/part time, and everything in between).

    From my experience, there’s not one singular “end all be all” moment where you decide once and for all “I’m going to work full-time at my career with my child in full-time daycare and that’s the end of discussion”. It has helped to remind myself to go easy on myself– what works right now might not work later. Being open to the possibility of change over time has felt like a good way to remain true to myself, to allow for the ebb and flow of life, feelings and aspirations (both personal and professional).

    For example, I never saw coming my ultimate desire to step down from my leadership role as Executive Director of a non-profit, a job I truly *loved*, after my son was born. I was on a career path and thought I would just fit my child into it somehow with support from my husband and family. I never realized or perceived within myself a desire to be a great mother… that is, until I had my son.

    All that said, however, once my son hit 2, I found that both my son and I needed other things– work things to think about for me, and peer socialization for him, especially. So staying home together full-time wasn’t working for us anymore. Now I work part-time, from home, and it’s allowed for the happy balance we need… “brain candy” for me with a non-profit I’m passionate about, and social time out in the world for my son that seems to nurture his being a happy, communicative, inquisitive near-3 year old.

    I guess my take-home message here is that it is *not* easy to answer these question, and also that one way I’ve found to navigate this question is to keep re-visiting it with personal check-ins, and adjusting as needed.

    Good luck to you, and keep us posted on your journey!

  15. I think it’s safe to say that no one will be able to predict the outcome of your situation. You’ll just have to live it out in the way that fits your life, not anyone else’s. I stayed at home for the first 3 years my kids were little, then decided to go to school and get myself a career. Now that I’m working full time, I really miss my staying at home with my kids more than I thought I would. Life is one big balancing act, and you’ll figure it out one way or another! Good luck!

  16. I come from a very similar background as you, I’m an architectural designer (working on becoming a registered architect). If there is one thing that I have noticed about architects, its that most of them don’t have kids (whether they be male or female architects).

    In school we were taught that architecture is your first love, your only love, and that you should sacrifice everything for it. I really struggled with this mentality for years, and spent my days working 12-14 hours like yourself.

    I have always wanted life to be balanced between play and work. So when I had my daughter I worked really hard at making sure I spent time with her, while still developing my career. Neither takes precedence, they are equal players. I left the architecture firm I was working for, and instead aligned myself with another designer and an architect that have the same interests and beliefs as myself. We are now working on building our own firm together, and once I am registered I will be a founding partner (which is super ridiculously exciting for me, I’ve always wanted to own my own design firm).

    I never gave up anything when I had my daughter, and in a lot of ways I fast-tracked my career. I work hard though, and rarely have true “down time” (my downtime is usually playing sports or the gym). I’m also still struggling to get a lot of hours in, and it can involve working at strange times of the day. But, it is totally doable. It does take a lot of getting used to, but its so worth it.

    • One major note though, as I don’t know your locale. I am from Canada, and had a year paid mat leave, which I took. I used 3 months of my mat leave to work part time (it is allowed as long as you don’t make over a certain amount), to develop my business plan and practices.

      It would have been a lot tougher to do all this if I would have had to go back to work at 8 weeks.

  17. My desire to work has never waned, but the way in which I work has changed a lot, mainly in that I now have to consult my husband or a babysitter when I want to take on a project that will require several long days/nights in a row, so that I can make sure someone else can watch my son. Because my husband is very supportive and we have a couple of reliable sitters, this has worked out pretty well, and I rarely turn down jobs.

    That said, I’m a freelancer, so I make my own schedule to a degree. If you are tied into an office 9-5 that is really 9-9 every day (or whatever), the situation will be different from what I’ve faced. But I think you can absolutely find a way to make it work – I know many women who have. They all have a different combination of daycare/nannies/stay-at-home partners that allows them to keep their careers moving forward. The choices they made have just varied depending upon their kids, their career paths, and their partners, but they have all worked it out somehow.

    I find it odd and unkind that the women you’ve talked to have been so unsupportive. Maybe they are dealing with their own insecurities about this issue? I hope you keep asking, and can find a woman in your industry who will tell you how she’s done it, rather than ask you never to mention it again.

    Good luck!

  18. I think I’ve changed my mind about this very topic about 400 times since I had my daughter, and she’s now two. In some ways, I was lucky – no one told me “you’ll see” and I got very little advice other than to do what I needed to do for me and my family. Sounds great, but what about when you don’t know what you want? I’ve been conflicted for the last two years, and I finally decided that it’s just OK to feel that way about work and life.

    When I went on maternity leave, I had just been promoted to a pretty awesome job. And I thought I was going to make it work just fine. We even had a deposit to hold a slot at a daycare! And even after she was born, the first few weeks I didn’t even think about it. But the more I did think about going back to work, the more I felt sick about it. I didn’t want to be there, I wanted to be with her. Which TERRIFIED ME. I had just worked my butt off for 3 years to get to the place I was in my job…what in the heck was I supposed to do now?

    Finally, I decided to stay home with her and work part time from home in the evenings. I’m not saying that’s a cure-all for the conflicted feelings, but it worked for me. For a little while. After about 7 months at home I was really unhappy. I missed work, people, and myself. I ended up going back to work full time after she turned 1. BUT – I worked from home. She went to daycare, but I was at home so there was no commute to fuss with, which meant more time together.

    Again, it worked for me at the time. I went back to work at a high-level position, and I thought “this is it! I didn’t miss a thing!” But the truth was (and is) that I’m a different person now than I was. This career just doesn’t fulfill me like it used to. And yes, that STILL scares me to death, because I’m not sure what I’m “meant” to do.

    Fast forward another year later, and I recently “demoted myself.” The high level position that I took when I came back was sucking the life out of me at home, too, and I couldn’t handle it. So I took a step back and I’m now doing a lot less. Again, it’s working for me. I’m still conflicted, still unsure, but I think the thing I’ve learned over these two and a half years of being a mom is that there is no one right answer to the best way to balance this. And there is also NO WAY TO DO IT ALL. I thought somehow I could be perfect at all of it…and it’s just not possible. I am really good at most of it (life) but I’m imperfect. And I’m learning to be OK with that.

    Sometimes I am really grateful to drop my daughter off at daycare because I need that time to myself, even if it’s working. And sometimes I wish she was home with me every minute. Sometimes I hate my job, sometimes I love it.

    If I could say one thing to you, it’s trust yourself. Even if you’re unsure, you’ll make it work. That’s what being a mom is about. And don’t be afraid to change your life if you change your mind. We’re all just doing the best we can. I really believe that.

  19. This is not my experience at all but I love this super supportive thread! Mamas make it work. I took my son into work with me until he was eleven months. It was so hard to be productive at work with a sweet baby there but I was and it was obvious. Routine was what made the most of my time. Best of luck to you!

  20. As my husband and I get further through grad school (and begin to see the light at the end of that proverbial tunnel) I get more and more anxious about this. My husband is beginning his clinical years in medical school and will be applying for an emergency medicine residency and I am a student nurse midwife. I don’t know why I had this picture of us both working full time and enjoying our careers while raising kids all with smiles on our faces (maybe I thought we’d be giving birth to a 2nd grader). I think the realization that something has to give is what makes me so nervous. My mom thought it was really important that we had a parent at home and as a result is going back to community college at 46. She’ll tell you in a heartbeat that she doesn’t regret a thing and that it was the best job in the world, but she got pregnant young and didn’t really have a chance to explore career possibilities before deciding to become a stay at home parent. I love being a nurse and I’m passionate about midwifery. I just want to do right by my kids too. I’m hoping between the two of us we can establish a balance, which I’m aware will probably mean one or both of us cutting back at work a little with possibly a little outside help.

    And you’d be consistently nauseated at the “Oh you’ll seeeee…” you get when you’re married to a physician or soon-to-be physician. From people who have NO IDEA what on earth they’re talking about. People watch too much Grey’s Anatomy…

  21. You can’t. But it’s really a matter of how you see your career trajectory.

    I’m the mom of a 1 year old about to return to work after a year long mat leave and the mom to a 14 and 16 year old that we adopted five years ago and I took a 7 month parental leave with them.

    You can have a career and you can be a Mom, but at some point in time, something needs to give. You can’t be everything to everyone.

    You don’t have to give up your career to be a Mom, but I’d say that the trajectory certainly changes. Instead of lots of promotions in quick succession, or advancement every year or so, I’d say the pace really slows down. You can’t put as much into your job as you used to, and it may or may not take a priority to the kids. Someone needs to do daycare drop off and pick ups. Someone needs to take sick days. Someone needs to do all of the appointments with the kids.

    Kids are shared responsibility in our marriage, but I did chose to take on more of the stuff that happens during daytime hours. My Wife makes more money, and as part of that, has more rigid hours and works way more per week at her career. Her career is still advancing, but not quite as rapid.

    If I had of continued on the same trajectory, I would be much further ahead with more senior position and salary. But I value flexibility in employment more. I want to get my work done, I want to excel, but I don’t want to give 60+ hours a week to my job. I’m fine with the 40 or so hours it requires, and I’m an uber productive person, but the other 20 hours a week go into raising my kids.

    I won’t be where I thought I would be at 35 years of age in my career. It will take me to 40-42 to achieve those goals. But I’m okay with that. I wouldn’t miss my kids growing up and the investment we’ve put into them is priceless.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with a lot of what Koimichra wrote.

  22. I also work in the creative field (I’m an editor for a tv show) and was working freelance before recently starting a fulltime job. I’m also a semi-pro bellydancer. Our daughter is 8 months old.

    The main thing I found was that everything I thought I knew about how I would feel after the baby came was put TOTALLY UPSIDE DOWN once she was here. It is literally impossible to know how you will feel. I figured I’d go back to work at around 3 months with no problem…it turned out to easily be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Working from home with her was totally not an option…I need long stretches of focused time and that just did NOT happen even with someone watching her. And she was an easy baby! I ended up working random freelance jobs (usually working when my husband was off work) until she was about 6 months old before taking my current job and putting her into a nannyshare. It is incredibly difficult to leave her (although I’m kinda numb to it now) and seeing her at the end of my day is always the best time of day!

    As for cloth diapers…we do cloth and it’s fine. Although my folks did gift us a year’s worth of diaper service which is a godsend! So much time saved and not really that expensive either. We do use disposables sometimes but overall the cloth has been great.

    Lastly (sorry this is so long!) I would say to seek out moms in your field and talk to them. In my work in film/tv I know lots of moms, and not one of them finds it anything close to easy to keep up their career like they once did–myself included. I’ve also talked to fellow bellydance moms about how they keep it up. That is an important part of my life and I do NOT plan to give it up, although my days of taking late night gigs every weekend is probably over. However, my new role as a mom has opened up a whole different part of life that I could not have imagined, and the trade-off is incredibly worth it. It IS hard. It IS a life filled with sacrifice. Being a creative person and juggling parenthood is ***no joke***. You will find your path, although it may not be remotely what you thought it would be. And I’m betting if you stick with your career you will one day be the mom others come to for advice! Good luck!

    • The best laid plans..

      I really relate to this. I think that as women, it can be difficult to predict exactly how we’ll feel after giving birth. I *fully* expected and planned to be back at work after 8 weeks of giving birth. When my daughter was born (and my world turned upside down) I found that I wasn’t even close to being ready that soon. Honestly, I was shocked and thought I failed somehow – disappointed in myself for not being ‘strong’ enough to leave my newborn daughter.

      Two years later, I’ve finally figured out how to cut myself some slack.

      • Totally. 2-3 months sounded totally doable…umm no. I would more than happily stay at home all day with Olive, but alas we are very much a two-income family.

        Sometimes people ask me what the biggest difference is between pre- and post-baby, and I always say: everything! All of my priorities, my perspective, my anxieties, my goals, and my ideals have shifted completely. This isn’t to say that I don’t still value my career or my dancing. But now it’s all intertwined with this new life that is mine (and hubby’s) to take care of completely! It’s hard, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything 🙂

      • I agree that we may not know how’ll we’ll feel after becoming a parent. I’m way happier to be back at work than I thought I would be. I adore my daughter, but on the weekends when I’m at home and my husband’s at work… oh my god, I think I’m going to go crazy. I’m just glad I didn’t cut off my options by quitting my job or anything.

  23. On top of a few other things here… you can make it work! And so much of this has to do with being open and communicative with your partner. Both my partner and I make close to the same amount of money with our jobs. We both love our jobs. He works forty hour weeks but has three day weekends every weekend, I work 40 hour weeks (with my commute… I’m an adjunct professor) PLUS have grading, lesson planning, and my own writing for publication to do at home. Also, we have a toddler. He’s 20 months old and deeply in love with both of us. He also has an incredible relationship with my dad whom he spends the night with once a week and my grandparents who watch him another day a week. I was able to finish my Master’s program, land two seperate teaching gigs, attend training, and present at conferences all since getting pregnant with my son. It is TOTALLY possible. It’s not always easy, but it’s possible. And what makes it possible is you and your partner sharing the responsibilities — all of them — cleaning, cuddling, comforting, diapers, feeding, discipline — with each other. The best advice I can give is to be flexible and ALWAYS be talking to your partner about how you feel. If a situation isn’t working you do have the power to change it until you find a balance that really works for your family.

  24. It’s great to see this thread. I’m four months pregnant and planning to come back to work around three months (while my husband stays home for months 3-6, most likely). We’ll probably do daycare after that, but it’s possible that one of us will stay home for a while.

    Personality-wise, we both think that my husband is better suited to be a stay-at-home parent. He likes nesting a puttering around the house, whereas I need to go out and have adult contact on a regular basis or I go stir crazy. While it’s certainly possible that we’ll change our minds on that, it is the plan for now.

    It’s been difficult to convince anyone at my job that I’m actually quite motivated to continue having a career post baby. In terms of pay and promotions and everything, I’d really prefer to be viewed as a soon-to-be-breadwinner, and not someone who should mostly be ignored because I’m going away on maternity leave never to return. But I have the uterus, so no luck there.

    I’m sure we’ll work it out (and in my field switching jobs post baby is a viable option), but it’s scary! Both the not knowing what we’ll want to do and the not knowing where the money will come from. Anyway, good luck! I’m sure you’ll figure out something that works for you, even if it doesn’t look the same as your career before.

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