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.


Sophia-Cooper-featured

#lifegoals | Meet Sophia Chambers, a software engineer & young mum proving you can have it all

 

Sophia Cooper

Sophia Chambers, 28, is a Software Engineer at Sky Betting and Gaming.

At 24, Chambers started her degree in Software Engineeirng BENG at Sheffield Hallam University.

Here she describes how she juggles motherhood with work, how she began her career in technology and what keeps her motivated.

Tell me about your young family, how was the change becoming a mum?

What isn’t challenging about becoming a mum? Lol! I have three children in total – five, nine and ten years old.

What challenges did you face practically?

The lack of sleep was probably the hardest thing to deal with! With that, the time management – making sure everyone’s where they need to be with everything they need. Whether that’s making sure each child has their PE kit on their PE day, homework or even extra curriculum activities. Between three, this can become quite a challenge, I believe I’ve truly ‘mastered’ the art of multi-tasking, ha ha, well at least I like to think so!

What challenges did you face emotionally?

Sometimes, I think working parents all get the “guilt” feeling. Putting your children into after school, breakfast or even holiday clubs – sometimes can be quite difficult. I think most parents experience the ongoing circle – you want to work to provide your children with great experiences, but you also want to stay at home and spend more time with them – it’s an ongoing circle of events – the realistic key to this is balancing the two worlds – between work and family.

What challenges did you face inspirationally?

You have to learn to balance the work – family lifestyle. Sometimes, this really can be such a challenge. Ambition to do well in your career, can sometimes make you push back on family time and vice versa. I’ve always had high ambition and a want to progress well in my career, to achieve highly, but sometimes you need to be realistic.

How did you come to decide tech was for you?

From the age of 12, I began teaching myself how to code simple websites using HTML and CSS – even at this stage, it became addictive! I had a keen interest in graphic design and created a small site that provided things like wallpapers, profile layouts etc for users to download. I then went more into the programming world, experimenting with PHP and Javascript – producing small websites for local business’ and family members.

How do you make time to study and balance the needs of the young ‘uns?

My interest in tech, developed into a degree and a career. I’m very fortunate to work for a company that allows me to work from home. I don’t actually know how I would function without the flexible work opportunity that Sky Bet provides. As a Software Engineer and a mum, if one of my children is sick or if there’s a school play etc, I don’t need to worry about not being present or being there – because I can. I can work my hours from home and be there for my children when they need me, it really is invaluable.

What did other people say? Were they supportive?  

It was very “50/50” – some were supportive, some not. I found it most difficult within my first year at university, there was around 4 girls in total, the rest male. Which made it slightly harder to enjoy the degree at first, on top of which, it was even more difficult being a parent. I couldn’t really socialise like others within my year and I wasn’t highly interested in games etc, which made bonding difficult. Thankfully, I had a few people including my Dad, Husband and Grandma that were super supportive throughout which pushed me into continuing with a subject that I loved.

Did you ever have self-doubts?

All the time. Literally, ALL THE TIME. It’s a case of “you are your worst enemy”.  I think one of my worst traits is the lack of confidence.

What kept you motivated?

I genuinely LOVE to achieve – in fact it’s probably an addiction! I enjoy hard work and I enjoy the sense of achieving a goal – completing an ambition. I suppose, I’m a bit of a “weirdo” – I have to be doing something all the time – even on holiday. But through it all the main motivation is the ability to provide my family with opportunities and a good life. On a selfish level, it’s to turn back the years in 40 years’ time (hopefully lol) and be proud of the career I achieved, with the steps it took to get there. Ultimately however, I am very fortunate as I genuinely LOVE the job that I do, being a Software Engineer within a company with such great culture and co-workers barely makes it feel like work at all!

What drove you to take the first step into tech?

Pure interest. Genuinely pure interest. I began curious with how websites and the internet worked (I know, sad right?), which was quite difficult growing up as my interests never seemed to align with those my friends had and I began to feel as though I was different.

Now though I love that I am able to support and inspire those who felt the same as me and support them with their journeys into tech related careers.

Were you ever worried it wasn’t the right decision?

Risking my previous career in Dental, to go back to university to finally start my Software engineering career always had its risks. “Was I going to be good enough?”, “What if I fail? “, “What if I don’t gain employment through the degree?” – I think all these thoughts are pretty standard.

What would you say to other women about managing their life choices?

You have to be in a career that makes you happy, if you’re in a career that you enjoy it makes life so much easier to balance. It doesn’t matter what the sector or job role is, as long as you’re happy you will always achieve – if you’re in a career that you enjoy, you’ll never have to work again. The opinions of our social peers does not matter so much when we get older, so take that risk, go back and do what you enjoy! YOLO!