Moms Can Be Driven, Ambitious Workers Too
Working moms will think this title just states the obvious, but unfortunately not everybody agrees that a woman who’s had a baby and taken time off work can come back and be as valuable and committed a worker as she was before. This is why I was delighted to find out that this year’s US Open winner, Kim Clijsters, is a mother -and one who took two years away from the game while she had her baby. If you can regain your place in elite women tennis after two years of semi-retirement, then surely you can go back to your office job and perform at the same level as your male peers? Apparently, the answer is not straighforward.
The topic of working women becoming mothers has interested me since I took my first job in corporate America. From the very beginning I realized that here the assumption is that a woman will delay having children for as long as possible, so as to maximize the number of years she can spend fully committed to advancing her career.
Most of my female friends in corporate jobs who dared having a kid in their early 30s complain about having become invisible on their return to work -in some cases less than 10 days after giving birth. They’re understood to have revealed a strong preference for their family life over their job -as if the two things had to be mutually exclusive-, and are no longer considered serious contenders for career advancement.
Worst of all, these assumptions are not only held by men, but also by a majority of women. I’ve heard female colleagues scorn another one who’d had a baby -what had she been doing in this line of work, where full commitment is taken for granted, when all she wanted to do was be a mom?
I’m sad to say that they may have a point in their anger. They fear that the behavior of those who became mothers will reflect badly on them: their bosses could worry that any other woman in the team may be thinking of having a baby soon, and put forward a man -the safe bet- whenever the next promotion comes along.
Unfortunately, I don’t see this state of affairs changing any time soon. We can of course hope for a time when corporations will realize that moms can be devoted workers, and that giving them some flexibility to juggle their job and their children’s needs can benefit everybody involved. But, realistically, from the inside I see no indication that we’re even moving in this direction.
For my part, I’ve given some thought to the possibility of leaving my job and starting my own business once I decide to have kids -for me, delaying motherhood for the sake of my job is out of the question. This is perhaps the easy way out, but I know it’s being considered by an increasing number of women. Many of the mother-entrepreneurs profiled in Secrets of Millionaire Moms mention the flexibility to organize your work-time around your family commitments as one of the reasons why they decided to work for themselves.
Besides, what’s the alternative? Being the last to leave the office and working 60-hour weeks so as to dispel any doubt that you’re as dedicated as the men and the non-mothers? Every time I see a co-worker pathetically reminding everyone that she didn’t turn off her Blackberry during labor, or how easy it was for her to get back to work two days afterwards, I make the same promise to myself: I’ll do everything in my power to never be in their position.