Motherhood and your Professional Identity

This week I spoke at the 92Y in New York City on this topic as I do a few times per year. The talk is geared toward new moms who are in some type of career transition—either heading back to work after maternity leave or taking a career pause. While each group is unique, there are some universal themes that are touched upon each time. The following are some take-aways from the talk:

·      Keep a foot in the door. If you decide to stay home with baby for a while, don’t close the door on your career. The longer you stay out of the workplace the more difficult it is to get back in. Some tips to keeping your career alive while staying home with baby are: stay in touch with your network; keep your key skills alive and up-to-date; and keep current on your chosen field through reading industry news and attending professional association events.

·      Work/Life Balance cannot be measured daily. Creating a good work/life balance is perceived as the holy grail for working moms. I believe in taking the longer view here. Instead of measuring and stressing about this each day, look at the balance you can achieve each week, or month. We all have some weeks where we are working non-stop or traveling for business. In those weeks we may be devoting more time to our careers than our families. This is okay. Look to carve out time on your less busy days or weeks to spend more time with the baby. Get home for bedtime or bath time when you can and disconnect from the office.

·      View career growth as a staircase vs. a ladder (temporarily). This is one of my favorite pieces of advice to share with new moms. We are all taught from very early on that our career trajectory should be up, up, up that corporate ladder. What if we looked at the ladder as a staircase instead for a few years in early parenthood? So many moms I speak to talk about wanting to scale back their first few years after having a baby so that they can spend more time at home, but they don’t want to leave their jobs. For those feeling that way, this is a good time to “hang out on the landing” of the staircase rather than climb. The ladder will be there when you are ready to begin climbing again.

Finally, remember that no stage lasts forever. That crying baby in diapers waking up three times per night will be heading off to pre-school in no time. If you step off the fast track for a few years, but don’t close the door on your career, you will be able to pick up where you left off again before you know it. Enjoy the journey!

Pamela Weinberg