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Working Moms

The Intersection of Women, Work, and Motherhood – Can we have it all? 

By Ashley Paré - January 04, 2024

No matter what your motherhood status is as a woman, I’m positive you have a story to tell. I bet your body, your relationship status, your intelligence, and/or your paycheck have all been judged through the lens of: “is she” or “will she” become a mom at some point in her career?

Long before I was a mother, I felt the pressure and expectation to become one. I felt that part of my value as a woman would be be weighed on whether or not I became a Mom. Yet, at the same time, I was trying to figure out how to prove my value in my career, which was hard enough in and of itself. For a long time I didn’t want to get married or have children. The choice and responsibility felt like too much. How would I manage “it all” when I was already starting to feel burned out?

As women we are constantly navigating the windy path of society’s expectations and our own desires, dreams, and goals. Society puts so much pressure on women to procreate and then tells us how, when, where, and why (not) to do it all. It’s exhausting!

Our systems penalize us for having children and question us if we don’t. Our healthcare providers believe they know what’s best for our bodies and label us (geriatric pregnancy, anyone?). Our family and friends mean well when they ask when we’re getting married and/or having children, but they may not know our unique journey, decision, or struggle around family.

The amount of energy that goes into managing a family, career, and household is undeniable. No one tells us how to grow and navigate a successful career in which we’re paid fairly as a woman.  And we’re not warned about avoiding the pitfalls of the motherhood penalty.

 

Women are judged for: choosing a career, choosing a family, or choosing to be child-free. 

Here are some of the scenarios you may face and have to advocate for as a woman navigating motherhood and a career: 

  • When to disclose you’re pregnant during an interview
  • When to ask for formal accommodations
  • How to negotiate, manage, and decide on childcare
  • How to handle awkward conversations around motherhood and your relationship status
  • How to ask for a competitive raise even if you leave the office at 5pm everyday
  • How to define and articulate your skills after a career break
  • How to manage your schedule after a major life change
  • How to explain to others that opting out of the workforce means you have 1 full time job now instead of 2

An interesting story: I’m sitting on a plane flying home to see my family after giving a talk at a career conference. I’m trying to sleep because I’m exhausted, but I’m still riding the high of being on stage and connecting with so many amazing people.

I notice the woman sitting next to me, dressed well, and clearly trying to sleep but not having any luck either.

She taps on her phone and I notice her wallpaper picture.  I guess that her two boys are close to the same age as mine, so I ask her, “How old are your kids?”

We chat and realize we’re both working moms traveling home from business trips with two young boys waiting up for us. I share that I am a career coach for women and she opens up and tells me her story.

It goes something likes this:   Her boss told her she’d be promoted – the position was hers.  But, she found herself about to go out on maternity leave a few months later with a promotion that suddenly evaporated. It “unfortunately” had gone to someone else.

She goes on to tell me, and this really got me, that her boss let her down at her most vulnerable moment.  At the time, she didn’t know what leverage, options, or power she had to do anything about it when she was about to go out on maternity leave.  Ultimately, she walked away.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard stories like this from women.  What about you?

  • Maybe you were passed over for a promotion, yet again, for another (white) guy.
  • Maybe you haven’t taken a real vacation in three years without checking your email.
  • Or, maybe you’ve been trying to get pregnant and wondering how you’re going to hang on to the career you worked so hard for.

So, can we have it all? And if so, how?

It may seem like we can’t have it all, but what I know for sure is this: we don’t have to navigate it all alone.

After speaking with hundreds of women trying to navigate career, family, and a personal life I’m sure there’s been a time when you’ve felt ignored, undermined, or dismissed in the healthcare and/or corporate system because of your journey to, from, or around motherhood.  And at the same time, maybe you’ve experienced immense joy, happiness, and freedom in your journey! Whatever your journey, your story matters too.

We’re too often suffering in silence, feeling alone, and trying to manage our anxiety without letting on that we’re really not okay.  Or, we’re minimizing our joy and happiness to make others feel more comfortable. Owning your worth and advocating for your needs doesn’t just matter at work, it matters at home too! It matters for your health. It matters for your future and our children’s future.

The thing is, “having it all” is about more than just setting boundaries, saying “no”, celebrating, and negotiating for more.  I believe it’s deeper than that – and it’s personal.  Having it all is ultimately about loving yourself, unconditionally

Your ability to love yourself impacts your courage to advocate for your needs, plan and prepare for different phases of life, ask for help, and build financial wealth.  And all of these things matter in creating a fulfilled life, where you have it all, on your own terms.  You don’t have to do it all alone.

Come share and celebrate your unique story! Together, we can manage the joy and hardship of life, career, and a family at the For Every Kind of Mother event where we discuss the complexities of corporate life, healthcare systems, and societal expectations faced by women and all the tools we can use to combat them. Register for the event here: Get Tickets!