Working mum

Yes, you CAN do it all: making motherhood and a career work for you

Working mum I think the idea that women often have to choose between a career and being a good and present mother is definitely a myth.

There’s still an established perception that we’ve inherited from previous generations, a bias in fact, that being successful within your career will, and even sometimes should, be in direct conflict with motherhood. This is especially true within professions like management, and stems from the archaic belief that women shouldn’t pursue a career or work, as this will have a negative impact on their children or family.

There are strong social expectations and standards around ‘good mothering’, which we have built from an inherited story. Unfortunately, this story has still not been reconciled to reflect the lives of successful, working women who are mothers, too. I have heard startup investors boast about being “the one responsible for most divorces”, or claiming that you need to put everything at risk - including your family - to succeed. Although these are statements you will not hear every day, it shows that there is still a certain attitude or culture that exists that can be frightening to women who have or want families. I believe it has an adverse impact on women’s beliefs about whether or not they can have “both”. I also believe we need to put this culture to a stop, once and for all.

There’s no magic shoe that will fit all women in this situation, for a start. We need to acknowledge that every woman is different when it comes to her career needs and her family balance and that’s fine! What’s important is making sure that there’s no shame about motherhood or balancing it with a career. Personally, I am fortuitous enough to be married to a man who supports and encourages my career - it’s always good to have someone cheering you on! However, the key thing is about finding a balance that works for you personally and being clear and open about the boundaries you need to set in order to make sure that your role as a mother and your role as an employee are complementary to each other, rather than in conflict. Letting work govern and swamp your life is not the recipe for success!

Here are a few top tips to keep motherhood and work manageable:

  • Acquire the balance that works for you - Some women will want a focus on their career, whilst others will want to maintain a focus on family. Both of these are perfectly acceptable results, and it’s likely that women will swing between the two depending on their aims and family demands. Find a balance that works for you and don’t be scared to adjust it when your circumstances or desires change.
  • Educate yourself and others - Understand, retain and sometimes even re-educate your peers that this balance, including motherhood, is a central part of your success. That finding this balance you will thrive as a person, including in your career. Not everyone will have family demands or a knowledge of the toll they can take on you - make sure they are aware so that they can better understand and support your ways of working.
  • Recognise societal boundaries - Be aware that the story of motherhood is based on history and inherited perceptions, as well as an established bias - something we can refer to as the maternal wall. You need to recognise these boundaries, as they may be something you come up against in your career. Equally, remember that ‘motherhood’ is a story and that you are writing your own version of it - it is up to you how you live your role as a working parent, and no-one else.

About the author

Solfrid Sagstad, Executive Markets Manager at age-tech startup, Motitech (www.motitech.co.uk). Solfrid is also a mother to two children: Tobias, age nine and Lisa-Maria, age six. Before joining Motitech, Solfrid was working in research and education. She has a PhD in Biomedical research.