If I asked you, as a woman, if you think it is possible to be happy in your career, you would likely say yes. Whether you are currently happy in your career is another story, but in principle the concept of being able to find a career that makes you happy shouldn’t feel impossible.
But what if I asked you the same question as a mother?
Motherhood can put the brakes on the most successful of careers. Why? Because mothers are doing the work of mothering within a patriarchal system that has not been set up to meet our needs.
We are, essentially, stuck between two ideologies: The capitalist, individualist ideology which fits well with our careers before babies come along, and the self-sacrificial ideology that we are conditioned into believing goes hand in hand with motherhood.
We may find ourselves conflicted – on the one hand we want to work but on the other hand we want to be with our children, which can create feelings of guilt.
Most women also experience a huge identity shift after becoming mothers, both personally and professionally. Our values – what is important to us – may change, and this can have a profound impact on our careers.
Our lives are essentially split into two spheres: work and home/family. And often the pressure of trying to do well in both without dropping any balls – an impossible task – can cause stress and negatively impact our well-being.
On a practical level, when we return to paid employment, we also have very real challenges such as childcare arrangements which may not synchronise with the hours of our working day.
In short, it can feel like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole – which of course impacts our happiness.
And if our employers and colleagues are not understanding and supportive of our situation we may experience discrimination and marginalisation which can further negatively impact our well-being.
So what do mothers need in order to be happy in their career?
- To be able to align ourselves with the ‘good enough’ mother stereotype instead of always feeling the pressure to be ‘perfect’.
- To have our needs understood and met with kindness by our employers and colleagues.
- Access to flexible working practices that fit around family life.
- To be offered the same opportunities as colleagues without children – instead of handing us part time roles that are essentially demoting us.
- Adequate childcare arrangements/support to enable us to fulfil our career obligations.
If you have returned to work and feel that 2-4 in the list above are not happening for you it may be time to re-evaluate your current situation.
Coaching can help to gain clarity and confidence around returning to a career path after having children. If you are at this crossroads in your life now, consider making the investment in a good coach who can help you feel less alone as you navigate the transition back to paid employment.
This article was written by Belinda Batt one of our partner coaches who uses evidence-based coaching and positive psychological tools to support mothers in feeling less alone, less inadequate, more fulfilled and more in control of life – enabling them to flourish. To find out more, get in touch via her profile page https://www.careeringintomotherhood.com/coach/belinda-batt/.
July 1, 2023