View Full Version : Working mothers who are professionals - is it possible?
I'm interested to find out whether those of you out there who are professionals are finding it next to impossible to get any work/life balance with a young family.
I'm an accountant with a 1 and 2 year old. I have found that although many workplaces subscribe to a family/life balance, this does not seem to apply to professionals.
I was expected to work a minimum 40 hour week and was made to feel guilty if I left early, ie: before 5pm (regardless of the fact that I left home at 6:15, to get in for 7.30am so I could leave at 4:45 to be at childcare in time to pick up the kids before it closed, eventually getting home for 6:30). When I countered the situation with senior management they said that the long hours were part of being a professional and that if I wanted to get ahead I had to put in the hours.
So I'd leave work, guilty that my team were still working whilst I was leaving. Then I felt guilty an hour later when I picked up my children from childcare as they were the last to leave (they were the first in as well). Because my husband is also a professional, he worked many weekends and many nights as well as a 5 day week so all the childcare and household duties were left to me.
A month ago I came home, exhausted, and just cried and cried and realised I had not had an hour to myself for over a month and had not called my girlfriends for a chat for so long that it would almost be embarassing to call them now.
So I quit work altogether.
I feel betrayed by a profession that I have studied so hard for and given so much to, but who were not prepared to give back to me when I needed it. But I feel at least that I'm doing the right thing for my kids.
Have any of you also been in the same boat?
Sounds like your industry could use a bit of a shake up. Fortunately my employer is very, very good about working parents. We have part-time, job-share (even for managers), flexible hours - I am on mat leave, but I was starting at 7.15am and leaving at 4.00pm every day.
A couple of my friends had issues though and they have ended up joining temp agencies (one is a nurse and one a pharmacist). That way they pick & choose when & where they work and can accept or decline whatever is offered. Takes away some stability, but at least they are in control of things.
RuthK I really relate to where you are coming from. I used to work for Government and while there is flex time, part-time etc, the ethos of the environment is those that work the longest hours are the most hard working and therefore deserving of promotions. If you looked at who was getting promoted it certainly wasn't part-timers with young families!!
It was also hard that if there was a deadline or something urgent to be done you would have to stay back and finish it, you couldn't just walk out. Fortunately dh and I could share the load a bit but if we had sickness and had to take days off work that was another hassle. I would feel guilty if someone else at work had to do some of my work because I couldn't come in. It doesn't help if you are a perfectionist and therefore have to give 100% of yourself to a task.
I worked part-time when ds was little and did a 5 day a week job in 3 days, I also took work home and came in on the weekends just to manage the work load. When I went on Mat leave with my second child and got pregnant with number 3 I quit as well. Just couldn't manage work with 3 kids. I plan to go back when they are at school which scares me a bit.
I guess I decided to have kids later so I could do the career thing. I don't miss work at all and am grateful I can be with my kids. I think there are a lot of industries that are conducive to family friendly practices but I agree professionals are more difficult as a family unfriendly culture exists.
I think the real losers in this situation is the employer. By not being family friendly they are pushing loyal, dedicated staff out of the work-force.
I hate the attitude that you are only doing your job well if you work long hours. Surely being able to get all your work done in office hours shows you are efficent, often you find people who are still working late at night have spent their days on long lunches and personal phone calls!
Now they are talking about getting single mothers back into the work force and skill shortages, until workplace attitudes change this just isn't going to happen!
Yes - this is a bloody HUGE problem isn't it? Even before I had a child and when I was on the "career-path" - I knew that the best way to get ahead and noticed was to give "over and above" what the job actually paid and/or stated were the required hours - if you don't - you aren't really respected as a "serious" contender for promotion in a lot of industrys :mad:
I'm not sure what the solution is - the media have started to make this issue much higher profile in recent years - but it doesnt' seem to change much does it? I think perhaps the ONLY way it will change is for women (and men!) to do what you have done RuthK - vote with our feet!! And make sure we tell our employers that the reason we are leaving is because of these unrealistic expectations.........also - we all need to start sticking up for each other a bit more. When we see unfair things happening or "gossip around the watercooler"....we need to speak up and say something AT THE TIME!! Don't let people get away with putting down colleagues who are trying to achieve some balance.........
Glad you have stood up for yourself - I'm sure with your qualifications and experience you can probably do "freelance" work or find yourself a part-time position with more family friendly employer........try not to be too disappointed - you did what was right for you and your family.......jobs come and go - but children are only young once and we only have one chance to get it right.
Thanks for your replies. It's great to know I'm not alone.
I'm on Day 2 of being a SAHM and loving it. I've decided not to feel guilty any more. I might not be using my qualifications in a workplace environment, but I intend to use them to make my kids the healthiest, well-adjusted kids I can have.
Just another shock story for you. A good friend of mine is 7 months pregnant with twins (has a 2 y.o. at home) and her employer has had her working back til 10 every night of the 3 days per week that she works. She's just finished up work to go on maternity leave and not before time. I think her husband was ready to kill her boss.
My employer could not see my kids and be constantly reminded that I was a mum of 2 small children, but my friend has a belly that a blind man couldn't miss!
A friend of mine had a very similar problem but she opted for a nanny/housekeeper who cleaned the house cooked the meals and watched the children. This was much better for her as she could leave work later if needed without worrying about childcare and everything was done when she got home so she could spend time with the kids and relax when they went to bed, the downside was she felt like she never had enough time with her children so she ended up quitting and staying home with her children. She decided that she could always go back to work later but she couldn't wait till her children grew up as they were growing everyday and she didn't want to miss it.
So Ruthk my thoughts are enjoy your children as they grow up much to fast as with all your qualifications I'm sure you will get another job when your ready and your old boss will be the loser!
But you do need an understanding employer. I know that I've been pretty lucky in that when I told people I was only coming back to work 3 days a week (actually short days, as its a 20 hour week) they said "fine". Which has been great - I can keep up with my clients and skills and I also get to be a Mum and take my girls to swimming lessons. I do the same job as before but just work fewer hours.
It might also help that I'm not looking to climb any corporate ladders (in fact I hate the thought) and I'm not interested in management positions (I just like to get on and do my work). I've always been much more interested in technical progress than management progress. I used to worry that I wasn't as "professional" as before kids, but then I decided that it wasn't my level of professionalism that had changed. My kids are a higher priority than work, and that it the way it should be and I won't be apologetic about that to anyone.
So here's hoping that other employers become more flexible and are GRATEFUL that you still would like to work for them and cut you all a bit more slack (because WE ALL DESERVE IT). and now I'll get off my high horse...
Cheers (tonight's the end of my working week :cool: )
I read your story and am sorry to hear you had such a poor experience in the workplace. The sad thing is it doesn't surprise me at all, and is the exact reason that after much soul searching and discussions with DH that we decided that I'll be a full-time domestic controller once our baby arrives, rather then trying to go back to work. I work in IT, and the industry is extremely male dominated, and saturated with the idea that you're only "putting in" if you're the last person to leave the office in the evening. I know my industry is an impossible one for mother's to work in, get to see their family, and be taken seriously by the largely male management and customer base.
Meshan, I laughed out loud at this comment "I hate the attitude that you are only doing your job well if you work long hours. Surely being able to get all your work done in office hours shows you are efficent, often you find people who are still working late at night have spent their days on long lunches and personal phone calls!". I've thought exactly that for many years now, and it's reinforced by the fact that the people working back late are usually the disorganised and lazy types. :)
I think that the way forward for working mothers involves a major cultural change, but there are small signs that it is possible. I did not have a great experience when I was working (as a lawyer) part time as mother of one and pregnant with another - lots of comments from the "boys club" about the "mother's club" in the office and the cruisy life we lead as part-timers (yeah right!!) with no recognition that most of us were carrying a full time load but doing it in 3 days or 4 days and only being paid for the 3 or 4 days while they took long lunches, drinks after work etc for granted........ :mad:
But a friend of mine who is a lawyer who is trying to juggle family and career (as opposed to job - I hear you MarthaM) had a positive experience recently when a senior partner came to see her to talk about her future ( a novelty in itself) and explained that he understood the long term benefits of the firm looking after her, so her billing hours were reduced, she was given time for networking and building client relationships, time to study, and several other steps to recognize that she needs flexibility as a part-time working mother. It all made sense when he explained that his wife is also a part-time lawyer and mother of three young children..........so maybe there is hope when our husbands and partners join us in trying to effect change in the workplace, and employers look at the big picture and realise that happy loyal workers are more effective than tired, resentful, overstressed workers.
In the meantime I am waiting to win lotto, or invent some fabulous way of making lots of money, using my brain and my skills, and still being a good mother, and one who is home more often than not.......any ideas?? :D
Now that most of my friends have started having babies I am hearing similiar stories all too often. I have been able to combine work and bub (so far), but was quite strategic in how I planned it. I applied for a posting overseas (which I got) and specifically chose one that entailed a long period of language training (only in the mornings - afternoons free as I study at night). So I still get to spend all afternoon with bub. That said, when I became pregnant I was acting in a more senior position and work "kindly" allowed me to start my language training early so my current demanding role wouldn't be too taxing for me :mad: I am sure some people think pregnancy is a sickness!! The big test will come when I return to normal working hours at the end of this year. I am still considering how I will juggle my responsibilities then.
At first the thought of my male colleagues getting promoted more quickly really upset me, but I have now come to the conclusion that I can live with it. Realistically I am no longer willing to work the hours I used to (and my male colleagues still do), so I have to accept I won't be promoted as quickly. I like the saying "you can have it all - just not all at the same time" which is pretty much the working mums mantra.
I have found though that bosses who have young families and/or working wives tend to be more flexible in their views on working mums. Personally though I think our biggest stumbling block is our own expectations and expectations of other women. We are so hard on each other and ourselves. We need to stop trying so hard on living up to everyone elses expectations of what a "coping" working mum should or should not be doing and concentrate on what our own priorities are. In 20 years time I won't care what others thought of me, just whether I devoted enough time to what I care most about.
The company I work for are really family friendly. They even went so far as to look into the option of putting a child care center on site for employees with small children. Unfortunately it wasnt possible due to public liability issues, but the thought was pretty good!
They also offer 3 months PAID maternity leave and a futher 9 months unpaid.....with the futher option of taking any annual and long service leave in addition to that.
On top of that they offer up to 12 months unpaid maternity leave to male employees, where they will be the primary care giver of the child. :)
Also, when you come back to work after your maternity leave, however long or short you choose to take....you can work part time until your childs 2nd birthday. They also encourage job share, and some people even "work from home" a couple of days a week.
As far as family friendly employers go, Ive got one of the best.
Ive already spoken to my boss and told her I'm trying to get pregnant. Once I leave work, I'm planning on taking 3 months maternity leave and then coming back to work 3 days a week.....monday thru to wednesday.
I think some professions really need to get a grip and realise that people, esp mothers need to have the chance to spend time with their children! How are we suppost to raise tomorrows leaders, if we cant be there to give them love and attention!
Good luck girls! The more we make a noise, the more people will start to listen!
Like you my work is very family friendly and we have a work-based childcare centre (which i work at) i justed started back two days a wk in the preschool room and my son attends the nursery there. Its great and Im so so lucky, my sister on the other hand was only given 3 months off without pay and has to return full time. She is devastated but financially she cant not work. Her boss is so nasty and has made it extremly difficult for her. She starts back next monday and not only has to deal with the trauma of leaving her 9 week old baby boy for the first time but having to face a horrible work environment where she isnt appreciated!
very sad :mad:
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