Career ruining kids?

Kids and career. Those two words seldom sit comfortably together and when they do, it’s usually in an up-down 'Seesaw Marjorie Daw, who shall be mommy's master?' kind of a way. Or at least, that’s how it’s always been for me. My career changed irrevocably the day my son Sam’s nanny called me up at work to say ‘He’s walking Rosie! He just stood up and toddled all the way down the passage in his Spiderman socks.’

While I shared her excitement, I did have to nip into the staff bathroom to mop up a disappointed little cry before I dashed home to witness my one-year-old’s once-in-a-lifetime milestone. Why wasn’t I there? Did we need the money so badly that I had to miss my baby growing up?

Years of trying to work out the answers to those two nagging questions have made me realise that there aren’t any, and for almost a decade, I’ve felt like a victim of working mom statistics. But hopefully, not for too much longer now folks because women tip-toeing the balancing beam may well be learning how to maintain equilibrium. According to the 2009 Female Nation Survey, only 37% of women feel that having kids affects their careers and while just over half of the 8 641 respondents were moms, only 33% of those moms indicated that having kids stunts their professional growth.

Reyana Nacerodien, a kickass project manager and preggie mom to a preschooler, doesn’t see what all the work-life balance hoo-hah is about. ‘Having kids has been good for my career because they've given me new goals and different things to strive for, but I am one of the lucky ones. I have a super supportive husband.’ Are her feelings based on the fact that her partner is so accommodating? Perhaps, but the survey suggests otherwise. Those with a partner in parenting were more likely to say that children affect careers.

Wendy Hague, a single mom to a 10-year-old son and financial manager for a chemical company echoes Reyana’s sentiments about being motivated to perform in the workplace because of (and not in spite of) motherhood. ‘That doesn’t mean that being a working mom is a cinch,’ says Wendy. ‘It takes nerves of steel to stand up in the middle of a late afternoon meeting and announce to the boardroom that you’ve got to go and fetch your child from aftercare.’ Wendy senses that society is largely to blame for this conundrum. ‘Parenting is not valued as the noble, unremunerated occupation that it is and the corporate world needs to acknowledge the responsibilities of parents.’

Perhaps the business community’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude towards kids is exactly why childless women are afraid that mothering will negatively impact their careers. The survey revealed that 41% of women without children think this way. But if those women are hoping to someday bring a baby into being, they shouldn’t wait too long because mothers over 40 are more likely than their younger counterparts to believe their offspring are detrimental to their occupations.

Is there a way to stop the female pendulum that swings between children and work? There could be if more women were able to work from home. Three in four women said they would work from home if they could and I can certainly count myself as one of the fortunate few. I do still feel like I’m walking a tightrope without an umbrella, but I will definitely be around to hear my son’s voice when it first breaks. For further information on these stats, click here.

Have you ever wished to be a house mom for the sake of your children?

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