Where I come from we, girls, are taught to believe that we have to choose between having a successful career and being a stay-at-home mum of three. And those of us who become mothers in business often find ourselves negotiating the high cultural expectations of “serious” professional and “good” mother, roles which don’t coincide neatly. Supposedly, serious professionals put career first, while good mothers prioritize family above else.
In today’s world is it really impossible to balance motherhood and a successful career?
I am seven months pregnant and this question has been poking my head for some time now. Do I have to give up my career aspirations in return of the recognition “a good mum”? Or is it possible to juggle both a fulfilling day job and a happy family?
Family-friendly policies are being adopted in western societies where reduced working hours for mothers, home-office and flexible working time are some of the options offered to working mothers. Unfortunately, in many underdeveloped countries, there is still a stigma attached to using these policies and a significant bias against mothers in the workplace, no matter how qualified and productive they are. Nevertheless, society has walked a long way in the last hundred years towards providing women with different opportunities to combine career and children. And more than half of women in the western world are confident that having children would not wreck their career.
I don’t support the belief that children are career killers. I would like to believe that if a woman wants she could “have it all”. I also believe that ruling out having children when you are 20 because you want a successful career might lead you to feeling very miserable when you are 35. One reason is simply because it is very difficult to predict your future self and it is not only the biological clock that changes things: as we age, our assessment of the relative value of material success and career advancement versus the simpler joys of human connection often shifts.