How to manage your career and motherhood
Women often tend to take the back seat when it comes to work versus family. We start to lose out on challenging projects and promotions. Is there anything we can do to plan our career trajectory more smartly?
When women become mothers, it becomes very challenging to keep all balls in the air. And often, it is our career that suffers. Moreover, we feel guilty that we are not “perfectly” fulfilling our roles as mothers and professionals. For expat / international woman, there is an additional challenge that comes into play; the differences between cultures and the role of the woman in said cultures.
I remember when my first daughter was born. I was struggling a lot with defining myself as a mother and professional. The fact that I was transitioning my career from the corporate world into owning my own business was not making it any easier.
I felt I was failing on all fronts. It became painfully evident when I was deciding whether to put my one-year-old daughter in the creche. My Dutch social circle could not understand why I was waiting so long and why she was not at the creche already, while my Polish one was thinking I was completely mad to be doing this to my little baby. I felt I was being pulled into two different directions.
The answer actually came from the realisation that there is no “one-fits-all” solution and that by following what I (together with my partner) feel is important, is the only way to sanity. But how do you discover what is important to you, when you are bombarded with all of these different opinions?
Your core values
One of the most important guiding principles for me, and what I also want to convey to my clients, is looking at your life / career decisions from the perspective of your core values. Values are the things in our lives we find important and they lie deep within us. As human beings, we have a huge need to be consistent in our behaviour. What does that mean? It means that in order to be satisfied in your life, your actions need to be in line with your values.
Usually, career and family are within our top five values and those values can clash with each other. As mentioned, we have a strong inner drive for consistency, so when we experience internal conflict, it becomes a source of frustration and anxiety. In order to deal with it, we need to consciously decide what goes first. The important thing to remember is that this is a decision and as such, it can be changed with time.
For me, it meant that I decided to keep my daughter at home for another year (I decided to put family as a value first), while slowly working on my business. After a year, when I felt ready, I changed the hierarchy.
Having said that, I know many women for whom their career is very important, and they continue their career at a high pace. In such cases, it is often the case that their partner takes over for some time and supports the family. In some cultures, this is easier than in others.
Deciding to put something first, for some period of time, doesn’t mean we need to let go of the other thing completely. While staying at home with my daughter, I was still investing time, money and energy in my career, but in a much more relaxed and planned manner. I had my priorities and boundaries set in the right way, so I could make decisions. The pressure was off.
Once you got your priorities / values straight, you can start planning things that are within your control. When we look at a professional path globally, there are three key components in any successful career trajectory:
- Your experience (doing your job)
- Your knowledge (developed through doing your job but also through training, courses etc.)
- Your network (people you know)
If you are active in your career, most likely you are busy with all three. In case you are having some time off, it often happens you let go of all three aspects. And that is a mistake. Obviously, you cannot keep up with the first one, but you can invest time and energy in developing yourself by learning new skills and by nurturing your network.
To summarise, these are the main points to consider:
- Become aware of your core values
- Choose your priorities
- Let go off things you cannot control
- Nurture your network
- Stay active on LinkedIn
- Educate yourself
- Organise a support network for yourself, one which will help you to stick to your plan.
What do you find challenging about managing your career and motherhood? And what are your top tips to manage them? Keep safe and healthy.