Sustaining a career post childbirth while preserving your happiness

If you are a mom, with a child between 0-5 years of age, you might be able to relate to this best. So let’s say you are a working mom. Don’t tell me – let me guess – every day is very challenging to say the least. You have these guilt pangs on a daily basis, find yourself stretched at all ends and to top it all, feel unappreciated on most occasions. It is not surprising at all that what you want and what you like to do for fun are at the end of your list. Guess what! That is the reality for most moms I know! While it is heartening to know many of us are sailing in the same boat, if you are in a full time job, admit it – you feel just a bit envious of other moms at times, you have chosen to not work or to take an alternate path to focus on their child and family instead. In our heart of hearts, it is what most of us want – to be there for our family.

While career is of high importance to us as women, as we seek stimulation, challenges, achievement and enrichment in our work, choosing between family and work is a very challenging task and a very stressful one too if done on a daily basis. Which is why, many women, and you may be one of them, choose to slow down, take a less demanding position or seek new career options following childbirth. Data shows that this may be due to the father not contributing adequately to child raising responsibilities or lack of viable child care support or other cultural or economic factors. Professional women like yourself, find themselves caught in a double bind between the competing models of the ideal worker and ideal parent and often struggle to make a choice. Persistent conflict can lead to burn-out and related issues such as emotional exhaustion, reduced sense of personal accomplishment and decreased psychological wellbeing. Increasing attention has been given to high-achieving women who appear to be leaving their careers in favor of staying home full-time to raise children. Some interpret this trend as reflecting these women’s embrace of a “new traditionalism,” a rejection of feminist goals in favor of more traditional gender roles.

Although family concerns figure prominently, that is not the major reason behind most women’s career decisions. It is also possible that because mothers spend less time at work than non-mothers, mothers have smaller and less close internal networks. Specifically, women have cited the lack of a network of contacts as being a barrier to re-entering the workforce.

In summary, the key issues related to working mothers are as follows:

1. Lack of networks

2. Self esteem at not being at par with peers who are working full time

3. Frustration on not getting adequate recognition at work / home

4. Conflicting life interests

Not surprisingly, then, in a survey I conducted of 100 moms across countries, the top most priorities for working moms emerged as how to lead a less stressful and happier life followed by how to earn more money.

Despite all known challenges and attrition rates, employers perhaps have not yet cracked the secret of retaining working moms and sustaining their engagement levels. In the same survey of 100 women, following emerged as the key characteristics of their current/intended work life that women would not like to compromise on included (in order of priority):

a) Flexible structuring of work day depending on ability to work given personal situation,

b) Ability to take a varied level of responsibility as and when required,

c) Ability to take time off as and when required for as long as required

While employers take their time to figure out how to model some innovative careers around these preferences, want to know what other moms around the world are doing to sustain their careers? Recent surveys have also shown that the women with children have also made significant advancements in management. Though they are:

a) working for little less hours per week but still they are

b) progressing by utilizing their past experiences and

c) training and development sessions.

Women with children,

d) use education as a way to enhance their knowledge while they are on small career breaks.

I am one of them. I started by deciding I want to live my life by design. I crafted an ideal week for myself and worked backwards to see what I would need to do to make that a reality. Quitting my job was a critical step for me, without which, I knew I would continue to live in the world of stress which is so not what we aspire for.

So, what choice would you like to make? Will you choose to gift yourself a life of happiness that you know you deserve?

To consult a life and career coach who can help you choose the answers that lie within you, write to me at namrata.arora.singh@gmail.com

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