Do Women Have to Choose Family vs Career?

Family vs. Career?

Do Women Have to Choose Family vs Career? image NewMoms NicoleFamily vs CareerMy friend recently had a baby and is getting ready to go back to work. When my husband and I talked to the new parents, painstaking memories came back – after 5 years, we can finally laugh at them.

I told them “brace yourself, you will cry for days, but it gets easier the second week.” My husband told them “you will think your wife has lost her mind, and have no idea how to fix it so just nod your head and listen, and hold your breath until the second week.”

That was true. No one had prepared me for being a working mom, the guilt, the whispers from other moms, young and old, and the looks of disagreement. And most shocking for me – the sudden confusion over how to manage my career drive. As a result, I cried for a week straight. I couldn’t take my new daughter to daycare, because I was sure I would return home in 5 minutes… with the baby.

I cried through dinner. I cried as I left daycare. But, thankfully, I can say never at work. It was a rough first week, but I found my grove and came to accept this new person I had become. Suddenly I found myself at a crossroads between family and career? But I always wondered, could things have been smoother? Why didn’t anyone prepare me for being a working mom?

This is why I appreciated a recent article written by Stella Bugbee, entitled “Want More Women in Leadership? Help New Moms.” Having recently joined a Diversity position within my organization, this struck a chord. We spend a lot of time talking about developing and advancing women, mentoring, sponsorship even, but not on helping them navigate the initial crossroad between family and career.

Many women are lost to their careers early on, caught between their career and their family and figuring out how to manage the two together. Bugbee discusses a way to keep women in the workforce is to help new moms adjust to their new life, by making structural changes within the organization. I couldn’t agree more.

Since I was young, I think I was a little naïve to think I could work the same pace, have the same drive and still have a family. No one talked about balance, about managing this change and how to integrate family and work. I think back to my friends who had babies at the same time as me. Half of whom returned to the work force, and half of them that left within 6 months.

We were all struggling with the guilt of returning to work. A very real guilt that can only be supported by some shocking statistics, most notably that only 12% of the public believes a mother should work full-time, 40% will accept women working part-time and 42% think mothers should not work at all – and this is 2012!

Looking back at that time in my life and career, I really needed someone to provide perspective and support from within the organization, perhaps a program to help me navigate this period of my life. It would have even been great to have someone help my husband understand it better than I could communicate between sobs.

It wasn’t until I received a mentor that it all came together, and just like that my career had been kick started again. I went from feeling like I was limited, to understanding that I could do anything with the right amount of flexibility.

I bring this topic up because I am interested to hear others stories. Would you, woman or man, have benefitted from a program like this? Does your organization have programs like this? Any ideas on what we, as organizations, can do better to help these new moms… and dads?

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