I have been listening to many Interesting conversations following the recent Columbia University study (the story covered by Campbell Live, TV3, 2nd August) on the effects of children with working mothers. The study has found that mothers can go back to work a few months after the birth of their child without the baby’s wellbeing suffering as a result.
Their conclusions will hopefully provide some comfort for thousands of women who re-enter the employment market before their child is one year old. The key point out of the study shows that the effect of the parenting itself is the key factor. As quoted, “It is hugely important how sensitive you are to your child’s needs. Even women who have to work more than 30 hours a week, can make things better for themselves. They just need to take a deep breath on the doorstep, dump all the office worries behind them and go in the door prepared to pay attention to all their children’s cues”. This is good news for all mothers. So the saying “It’s not what you do but how you do it”, really applies.
Successfully integrating mothers back into New Zealand organisations is an area of passion for me. Being a mother who has recently transitioned back to the workforce after baby number three and working with many mothers during their transition back, I understand the impact and hard work it takes to make a career and children co-exist.
We work with many leaders who transition into new organisations or to a higher level. When you transition from one stage to another, from one job to another or from one management level to another, there come challenges and the need for support, both within and outside the organisation. The extra layer of complexity for mothers returning to work is the fact that we have many roles in our lives, often entailing a career role and a mother role including the reality that home life responsibilities still tend to fall on the mother of the household, even when she is working.
Where others have succeeded they suggest the following:
Be clear on the purpose of your role
Whether it is your role at work, your role as a mother or your role in your community, it is important to get clear on the purpose of that role.
Understand what balance is for you
Is it working 10, 20 or 40 hours a week? What does a successful week look like to you? How much time do you have with the kids, your partner, yourself?
Know what you stand for
What do you want to be known for? What do you want your colleagues, peers, friends, family and your children to say about you? How does this measure up to what you would like them to remember you for? Understand what this is for you and let this be the underpinning foundation for you in your everyday life.
Be true to yourself
Be authentic in what you do and who you are. We are all unique individuals and so striving to be like Mrs Jones up the road or down the corridor, isn’t being the best that you are. Work out your strengths and the thing that makes you stand out from others. What is the best thing about you?
And of course have fun!
If you enjoy what you do, whatever it is, you are more likely to succeed. Having fun should be the rule rather than the exception, and let’s face it, people who are happy within themselves have more substance in what they have to offer to those around them.
I believe having a career and having children can co-exist, but that’s just me. As a working mother, whether you choose to have a career or choose to be a stay at home mum (or perhaps both) be clear on your role, what success means to you in that role and commit to being the best you are!