7 Mothers Share How Having Children Affected Their Careers

By | Wednesday, February 10, 2016


When I was a freshman in college, I wanted to be a broadcast journalist. However, I was very aware of the fact that this dream could mean moving constantly or working very late hours, as opposed to a typical work schedule, which is not necessarily conducive to having any kind of family life. During my second semester, I took a journalism research class — which involved a 30-page research paper designed to scare off about half the major — and decided to focus specifically on how women in communications balance work with family life. I spoke with broadcast journalists who had chosen to not have kids at all because of their careers, and with women who juggled early morning news shifts with family commitments. While I have not wanted to go into broadcast for a few years now, and though I don’t really see myself having a big family, learning how other women balance their work and family life has always been an area of interest for me. Seeing as it’s been about six years since I discussed this topic at length, I wanted to ask career women of all ages about their experience with having children, and how their family has affected their careers (and their finances). Here’s what these seven unique women had to say:

1. “When my children were born, neither my husband nor I could afford to stay home, and we were so lucky that my parents lived close and were able to help out a lot. I make more than my husband, who is also closer to retirement than I am now, and I don’t think it affects our dynamic, but I like that my children are able to see that this family structure works well too. My children have not affected my career in a negative way, but learning to balance motherhood and full-time work has been incredibly challenging for me. I spent so much of my early motherhood years worrying that I wasn’t doing anything right; there was always something at work or something at home that I wasn’t getting to. I felt like both suffered. Luckily, I outgrew those feelings, for the most part, and finally became content with the balance I had.” — Patricia, 49

2. “When I had my first child, I was actually in graduate school. While I appreciated that I was able to have summers off and a flexible schedule, it was challenging because even though my degree was paid for (mostly through grants), I wasn’t able to contribute any additional income. I worked for two years, banked some money, and then took three years off (after having my second child) and stayed home with my kids. Then, I went back to school to pursue my (funded) PhD. I got a lucrative job after my program, and that made our life much more balanced financially. I would say that my children have not affected my career negatively, but they did put it on hold. My husband was advancing his career in those three years that I was staying home with the children. I would also say that my career has seriously affected my children’s lives. I was not always home for dinner, or there to pick them up at school. I do not think this is a problem as a parent, but it is worth noting that their experiences were different from other children’s.” — Karen, 54

3. “I just had my first child, and I’m 26. I had been teaching for three years, but I decided I won’t be going back to teaching for a few years. My husband and I can afford to have me stay home, and it is very important to me to be there during my son’s early years. Will this affect my career? Yes. I have to openly admit that. It is a change I am willingly taking on. However, I want to go back to my career eventually, and I am legitimately worried about falling behind. In four years, what will make me more appealing than new graduates with a year of Teach for America under their belt?” — Hilary, 26

4. “I went to law school at Duke, and that’s where I met my husband. After we got married, we both practiced for a while, and made similar amounts of money. We had children fairly ‘late’ into our marriage — about five years after we wed. We both continued working and raising two children, and we employed a full-time nanny, who also helped us keep the house in order. When my youngest turned three (and my oldest was seven), I made the decision to stop working. I saved a lot of money during my career and was proud of my work, but I was burnt out. If my husband ever wanted to trade places, I would go back to work, but I know he doesn’t, and I love our arrangement. It is a treat to be able to volunteer for the kid’s school activities whenever I want. I also took on some consulting work last year when I had the time.” — Ellen, 42

5. “When my child was young, I worked four days a week. (I’m also not married, so I didn’t have help from a spouse, but my parents and sister helped a lot.) It was a ‘hindrance’ to my career because I sort of plateaued at my job. I didn’t really qualify for a promotion when there were people around me who were working full-time. However, I recently became full-time again, and it’s going relatively smoothly, though it does mean I’m very busy, and I need to put my foot down and leave my office at 5:30 PM so I can go spend time with my daughter.” — Laura, 34

6. “I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. And I was, from two years after my first son was born, to when my third child (my only daughter) was five. I went back to work when my husband got laid off. It was a trying time for my family, but as a nurse with fairly good connections (I have many other friends from nursing school who were willing to help me get a job), it was not difficult for me to go back to work. I was happy and fulfilled as a stay-at-home mom, but when I went back to work, I realized how much I missed it. I don’t regret one day as a stay-at-home parent, but it did require me to put my career on hold, and I’m glad I went back.” — Jane, 56

7. “I work full-time, but I have a deal where I work from home two days a week. My job has benefits, and my husband’s does not, so it’s extremely important that I stay full-time. The two days at home make a big difference. I still have upward mobility, and I have a great reputation for the good work I do. Having a child does not put too much strain on my job or my life, but I do sometimes feel like my husband is picking up my parenting slack on the days I work late: he spends time with my son after the babysitter leaves, makes dinner, etc. However, I have more responsibility on the days I work from home. So, it’s an equal partnership. I’m proud that I’ve been able to keep up with my career goals and be a big part of my son’s life.” — Tera, 35

Image via Unsplash


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