Updated: Aug 17, 2022
An honest reply is that this is an extremely difficult decision to make and it is a sad reality that even today women have to make this decision.
You are well educated, you are empowered and raised to be financially independent. You have been earning your own money for the longest time you know, and then you face the challenge of choosing between career and motherhood, or worse the choice of balancing career and motherhood.
Even today, we do not know how to solve this problem but we could at least have an intelligent discussion about it.
And we could start by admitting and accepting the fact that in order to find the balance between career and motherhood there is one parameter that suffers the most and that is the woman herself.
Being a mother can be beautiful and extremely rewarding in so many ways, but it can have negative effects for moms who want to pursue a career while raising a family or even for moms who decide to quit their career for raising their kids.
When and Why Women Choose Children Over a Career
There are many reasons that mothers choose to stay at home with their children. Remember, there is no right or wrong choice. It is a very personal decision which can be made only by you. It is not easy to quit your career and embrace motherhood by being a stay-at-home-mom. But, if this makes you happy then go for it. And, this decision does not have to be a lifetime commitment, but it has to be a choice that the family can support and makes everyone, especially “you”, happy.
Some of the Reasons You Might Choose to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom
You may have no support from your extended family and it may not be economical for you to opt for Day Care, and it may be easier for you and your partner if you chose to stay at home.
You may not have the peace of mind when your baby is being taken care of by other people, staying home with the baby may make you feel less stressed out.
You do not want to miss the baby milestones as you know that you will never be able to get back this phase of your baby’s life. You want to be the one who is raising your kid.
But there are also downsides of being a Stay-at-Home Mom
It can be lonely. Being with a baby all the time and having no interaction with an adult for the most part of the day can make you feel extremely lonely.
You may make yourself your last priority. Kids may almost always come first and caring for yourself may take a back seat.
You may miss your life as a working independent woman you once were. After being a SAHM, even simply getting out of the house may seem like a huge task.
You may miss earning your own money and being financially independent.
Can you enjoy motherhood, be a good mother and have a successful career?
Yes you definitely can.
First, set similar expectations from yourself and your partner. If your husband and you, both are working then household work and parenting should be equally divided.
Create a support system, it can be either your parents or in-laws or friends, create a back up for yourself, just in case you and your partner are stuck at work and need somebody to pick the child from the daycare or school.
Outsource household chores if possible. You need not do everything all by yourselves. Activities like cleaning, laundry can be outsourced, so that you can save that time to spend with your child.
Do not stereotype motherhood. Motherhood has many facets. It is a different experience for every woman. However, in our society the only kind of motherhood that is hailed is the conventional kind, where the mother quits her career and takes up the full responsibility of the house and children. No woman needs social judgment, motherhood is a choice and every woman should get to decide how and when she wants to experience it.
Most importantly, Ask for Help, whenever you need it. Raising a child was never the job of only the mother, even back in the days when career was not even an option, the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is true and holds good even today. Plan your support system.
Give yourself a good start by understanding and gaining knowledge about your postpartum period. Accept the fact that “with a baby a mother is born too”. Motherhood is a transition and not a switch that can be turned on instantly.
Tips to help you balance career and motherhood:
Fill your cup First. Remember, you cannot give from an empty cup. If you are exhausted, you will end up being angry and resentful and trust me this will have a negative impact on everyone and everything around you. Make a conscious effort to do something for yourself everyday, it can be anything from a workout to maybe even just having some alone time with a cup of tea.
Learn to say NO. Say no to all the activities or social gatherings that are not important to you and drain your energy. Do not be a people pleaser. Instead choose to invest your time wisely on things that are really important and add meaning to your life and fill you up with energy.
Leave work at the office. Do not carry it to your home. Even if you are currently working from home, after you are done with the office hours, let go off the work stress, relax your mind, and set intentions of being with your child for the rest of the day. By doing this you will be decluttering your mind and creating a state of happiness for yourself and your baby.
Do not try to be a perfect mother. In fact there is nothing as such. With all the Insta moms posing perfectly with their kids, your mind may be in a constant race of comparison, Nothing good will happen with this. Stop comparing your life to everyone else’s. This is your life. You choose to live it in the way you want to live it. Drop the need for everything to be perfect.
Respect your decision. If your career is important to you, this is one of your values which is a beautiful thing to honor and feel empowered by. If you’re someone who must continue working for financial reasons, honor the fact that you’re doing what you need to do – what you feel is best for your family.
Let's talk about The Hidden Penalty of Motherhood
The motherhood penalty is the assumption that mothers cannot maintain the same professional footing as their male colleagues or women who don't have children. This can play out in the workplace in several ways, but perhaps the biggest sting is how it affects a woman's earning potential.
According to a report from Third Way, a national think tank, the typical mother sees her earning power drop by 4% for each child she has. Interestingly, the opposite is true for men. Upon becoming a father, men see their income rise by 6%. That inverse relationship suggests that employers may still largely view men and women in traditional roles, with women as caregivers and men as breadwinners.
The motherhood penalty can manifest itself in other ways. The 2021 Women in the Workforce study found that one in three working mothers have considered leaving the workforce or downgrading their responsibilities to care for children during the pandemic and the following economic circumstances.
It can become even more difficult for women to advance when they're mothers. Employers may question a mother's ability to meet the demands of her professional role. Consequently, they don't offer opportunities for advancement, and the result is that many mothers plateau professionally.
The Pressure Is Real For Working Mothers
Even today, being a mother is highly underrated. The different tasks that a woman does in order to keep a little human alive and very much thriving is highly underestimated. Motherhood is uniquely complicated and fraught with unforeseen circumstances. Mothering is in the details. It’s in the number of grams your baby has gained. It’s in the amount of water your baby has consumed. It’s at the exact time when your baby naps. It’s in what your baby eats. Motherhood is constant, demanding and exhausting.
Now, add the cost of returning to work in this equation. Going back to work after maternity leave is tough, most women are overwhelmed and unprepared.
Your baby doesn’t seem to disappear when you are working. It is very much there. Every mom has this thought at the back of her head almost constantly.
At work, there is an expectation to act as if nothing has changed at all. You have this feeling to constantly keep proving to yourself and to your team that you have it all together and wouldn’t miss a beat. And, if you say ‘no’ to late evening calls, weekend working, you are immediately tagged as being less capable than your other colleagues who are enthusiastic about this harmful work culture.
This is the kind of pressure New Moms are experiencing, not only in India but throughout the world.
This is the reason that we have so few women at the top level in any company, because most women decide to leave rather than continue.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, said that he is ‘excited’ about the prospect of flexible work in future. He further stated that they want to make people’s work and personal life more fulfilling.
With more such actions, we may eventually be able to see more mothers continuing with their careers.
We as a society need to understand that women choose to have children because men cannot. And this is not just the problem of the woman, it is an issue that needs to be addressed by the entire society. And women employees who become working mothers are no less committed to their job.
Female employees who are mothers are professional, they want to get their work done on time, they want to leave work at the office and spend some quality time of the day with their baby. They want weekends to be real weekends. Is this wrong in any way?