I am in my early twenties and hyper-aware of the impact that motherhood is going to have on my career. That is not to say that I won’t welcome those changes with open arms – in most cases, they’ll involve a reduction in working hours and less traveling – but it is something that is on my mind. I often worry that motherhood will lead to a complete halt of the career train, that the more I try to have it all, the more at risk I will be of burning out.
In 2018, Harvard Business School published research that showed that in the long run, children, in particular daughters, of working mothers were more likely to succeed in their own careers in comparison to children of stay-at-home mothers. This ground-breaking work perhaps alleviates some of that feeling of guilt that mothers often have when it comes to leaving their children to go to work.
But I had to hear it from the horse’s mouth. What is it like trying to have it all? How do women maintain a balance between new motherhood, a career, and general sanity? What has to change, or what has to give, in order for circumstances to work?
Three amazing women shared their motherhood stories with me. I was more than touched by all of their collective love for their children and for their recognition of themselves as their own people, including as mothers to their children.
Marie-Claire Lalor, Founder of The Dream Birth Company
Lalor allowed motherhood to become her path into exploring self-employment and building a business that worked around her family commitments. After all, we all only have 24 hours in a day, and it is down to us how we choose to use them and split them up.
“Before having my daughter I always had an entrepreneurial streak and was open to the idea of setting up my own company. I knew it would happen “one day” but it was never the right time and I was always busy with a million different things. My career was important to me but I thought I had all the time in the world. After having a baby, I realised how precious (and limited) my time is, so I really wanted to make sure I was working at something that I believed in and that had a positive impact and then… serendipity! I met my co-founder on a dating app for new moms – we bonded immediately over the dream of an enjoyable birth so we set The Dream Birth Company and now we coach expectant parents mindfulness for birth and beyond. ”
Anna Iveson, Owner of VAZoom
Iveson, who had planned to study an MBA and progress up the corporate ladder, eventually realized that it would be impossible to balance such high demands from work and having children at the same time. To her, the title eventually became fruitless, and her ambitions changed. I think it is commendable, and even courageous, to change a goal that you have built your career on. It demonstrates a level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence that few have.
“I started my career at a global investment bank where I was expected to start work before 7am every day and work 12-hour days. I later had a career change and moved into the luxury industry which turned out to be much worse. I was the real-life girl in Devil Wears Prada with a boss who resented anyone who took time off to have a baby. My hope was to make it to board level within the corporate world but when I looked at the other mothers doing just that, I realized that they’d sacrificed time with their children and I wasn’t willing to pay that price for a big, corporate title.”
Rebecca Lockwood, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner
Lockwood learned a lot out of her experience as a new mother of two. She describes positive changes in her mindset and work ethic as well as a better awareness of what in her life deserved her attention and energy.
“I learned that I can delegate to other people and ask for help. My focus and determination still persist but in a completely different energy. I work so much smarter now rather than harder and I realized that it’s not the amount of time you spend working, it’s the quality of the work I do that will have an impact. [My advice would be to] not have any expectations, be your own best friend, and love yourself as much as your children. You will come so far and you are capable of anything. Settle down, slow down, and trust it will all come together in divine timing.”
I am endlessly inspired by these women, and many others, who have seen motherhood not as a hindrance, but rather as an opportunity to make life-changing career decisions, and ultimately, decisions that work for them. It is powerful, in a world that still seems to tell women that motherhood is a barrier, to see women owning work-life balance and embracing flexibility.
I am under no illusion that motherhood is a challenge in itself. You are trying to bring up a new human being in this world after all. But I know now that it won’t stop me in my tracks, but rather make me stronger in my pursuit.