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.

2009 US Open Winner Kim Clijsters with Daughter Jada

US Open Winner Kim Clijsters with Daughter Jada

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.

In the press these days:

  • 09/15/2009 @ MoneyCNN.com:
    Have a Baby and a Career Too – Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg urges working women not to pass on the next promotion to start a family.

TALKBACK

  • If you’re a working mom, what was your experience going back to work after having your baby?

  • How do you think the challenges facing working moms could be addressed?

PLEASE SHARE YOUR OPINION HERE

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Secrets of Millionaire Moms

Learn How They Turned Great Ideas Into Booming Businesses

On the road to $1M rating:

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They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and the saying applies literally to Tamara Monosoff’s Secrets of Millionaire Moms: if you can look beyond the shabby cover and the flat, black-and-white inside layout -betraying that the book was originally published in ebook format- you will be pleasantly surprised.

Monosoff draws on her own experience as an entrepreneur and those of 17 other women -all of whom decided to turn their ideas into start-ups and eventually grew them into multimillion-dollar companies- to illustrate the steps needed to create, manage, and grow a business.

The first original aspect of the book is that all the profiled entrepreneurs are women, many of them in their 50’s and beyond -while I think it’s safe to say that the typical image of a self-made, millionaire entrepreneur would be that of a man. And there is a further catch: as the book title suggests, all these women have kids, and have had to work hard at achieving the elusive work-life balance, coming up with ingenious ideas to be able to enjoy their children while they worked hard on their businesses.

The fact that the book focuses on moms doesn’t make it any less of a business book. Apart from a chapter about juggling family and business, all the topics covered are of prime interest to anybody considering starting their own venture: how to turn your life-fantasy into a workable business plan, the importance of understanding the finances, how to raise capital, administer assets, or manage employees.

I think that most readers would define Secrets of Millionaire Moms as female-oriented. Being told from a female perspective, it often touches on issues that are typically considered of more interest to women. For instance, references abound to the internal critic that continuously reminds you of the reasons you can’t do something -it’s usually assumed that this nefarious inner voice is more commonly a problem for women, although I suspect that many men will be acquainted with it too. There’s also a discussion of the guilt factor from being away from your kids which, if the readership of blogs on the topic is anything to go by, is also of greater concern to women than men.

This is not to suggest that men won’t find the book useful and enjoyable. The times when a man could -and would want to- spend all his life working while leaving his wife to take care of the household and the family are long gone. Men entrepreneurs will at some point in their lives come across the difficulty of juggling work with family life, and the fact that a business book tackles this topic head on should be welcomed as a refreshing novelty, in step with modern times.

In the end, the book is extremely inspiring without lacking realism: while it continuously underlines the importance of believing in yourself, it doesn’t hide that being an entrepreneur can sometimes be difficult -you may have to spend birthdays away from your kids, have money troubles, feel anxious and stressed, or be obliged to fire employees. The ultimate message, however, is a positive one. All interviewees agree that the sacrifices they made were worthwhile, and more than compensated by the gains in terms of flexibility, outlets for their creativity, and financial independence.

I loved reading a business book written by a woman who was able to achieve her dreams through hard work. While I cannot stress enough that both male and female readers will enjoy the book, it’s still harder for us women to find entrepreneur role models. Thanks to Secrets of Millionaire Moms, I’ve found several to add to my list.

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