As I work with women in different stages of their lives it’s becoming crystal clear that they can be divided into 3 groups – especially once they have a family:
Women who prioritize their career (often combining it with having a family), those who’ve decided to opt-out and stay at home to be fully present for their kids, and those who managed to find lots of flexibility by reducing their working hours.
There is no ideal choice, and each one has pros and cons – as well as will impact your life long-term. What should we takie into account before deciding to either quit your job or return from your maternity leave as soon as possible?
We often regret in life not knowing, how out decisions may impact our lives. The most important ones, among others, are choosing a life partner and the path we follow to combine work and private life.
As a coach and a young mom I see that almost all of us struggle sometimes – and our anxiety peaks after we welcome a baby. We used to give our 100% at work or at home, and now our lives require additional 100% to care for a baby – this is mathematically impossible.
I’ll write about each of the paths in more depth in the next post – detailing the long-term consequences. There are always exceptions, nevertheless the below categories have resulted from my work with women, as well as a plethora of scientific research that followed the lives of women in question over many years. I’ll introduce a concise psychological profile of each of them.
Women who value their professional accomplishments and satisfaction their jobs give them. Hard working and ambitious – struggling to imagine a life without the fulfillment and adrenaline, as well as being financially independent. They are ready to sacrifice a lot to grow professinally – studying to get new credentials, doing MBAs, moving to a new location or travelling are a part of their lives.
They often rely on help both in terms of childcare and keeping their homes clean – that’s the only way they can function normally.
They realize that something has to give – and are ready to miss out on some of their children events at school or agree to work longer hours – as it becomes a part of the equation.
Those who don’t have kids often made it a concious choice and see other ways to have a meaningful life.
Their partners often make less than they do – and help more at home.
A great example is amazingly talented Helena Morrissey, who has made a name for herself working in C-level roles in the largest financial institutions in London despite having 9 kids. Many wonder what’s the secret behind it, despite the fact that her husband decided to stay at home after they welcomed their 4th child.
It used to be an exception to find a woman who wanted to stay fully active once she had a family – 50 years ago the prevalent model for women to follow was stay-at-home mom.
Women who stay at home prioritize their families’ well being over professional success. They are oftentimes very ambitious and well-educated, yet decide to take a break when their families grow. Nowadays it’s a decision they make ‘for now’ – they can’t stand the thought of having someone they don’t know at home with their small kids. It’s also an economic calculation – finding good quality childcare can be as expensive as their salaries.
They know that their partners can support the family however plan to go back to work (described as more flexible and friendly) when their kids grow up. Their partners support them staying at home as it gives them more room to focus on their careers knowing that children are well taken care of.
They often make the decision once their attempts at making their current job more flexible didn’t work out – as many of them would like to work less or work remotely not to lose time commuting.
They are still ambitious and find ways to manifest that by being active in their communities or charity work.
On the downside some of them worry that they won’t be the best role models for their daughters if they decide to stay at home. They also see how exposed they are in case of getting divorced or their partners losing their jobs – as their families financial well-being depends solely on them.
Women who value work, however being able to spend more time with their families or having more free time is hugely important. They know they won’t be able to give their 100% both at home and at work and as such negotiate flexible arrangements or decide to look for another job that accomodates the demands they have. It’s not uncommon to decline a promotion knowing they’ll have to work more. They look for meaning in what they do – which is way more important than a high salary.
These are women who often decide to start their own business in pursuit of financial freedom. They plan to work more once their kids go back to school.
In the next couple of posts I’ll show you what impact each of the chosen paths MAY have on your life – based on both the research and my observations. Our careers, unlike the male ones, aren’t linear and oftentimes women may find themselves in different categories at different stages of their lives.
Before you decide to go back to work – or quit – take a moment to think about the pros and cons not only today, but also the way your decision may shape your life in 5 or 10 years.