Children and career
A girlfriend recently visited me and brought her 4-month old baby boy with her. She has recently gone back to work whilst her husband took paternity leave to take care of the baby full-time. It wasn’t so much a financial question but more of the fact that she really likes her work and would like to continue to be as active at work as she was before the baby. She is also not the first girlfriend I have who chose to go back to work a good 4 months after the birth. And as far as can see, they are all managing well. Yet they all posed the same question to me: Do you think we can manage a high-powered job with a baby or two??
Looking back in the past 25 or so odd years, I chose to forge a career on top of raising 3 energetic kids. At the time, I didn’t really have much of a choice but work. Not just from the financial angle but also from a personal angle. I have been working since I was 14 and used to balancing work and studies at a very early age. I also didn’t have the luxury of maternity leave as I was in the most part working within the family business.
There are pros and cons to every option. It’s not easy balancing work and home but women I know with big jobs and family show it can be done. The autonomy and career capital that come with executive roles help you delegate on the job. You often have the resources to be strategic at home too — and the organizational skills to pull it all off.
If you have a family, you’re managing a complex organization. You’re leading at home and you’re also leading at work. The skill set is no different. The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. She is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.
Structure your work schedule for flexibility. Time is fluid. Don’t hold to certain notions of what can be work time and what can’t be. You can collaborate with people around the world, and still have family breakfast and dinner in most days.
Managing a big career and a big family takes energy. So smart manage your own energy like you would manage an important project.
Work success is all about investing time in others. It lightens your load and gives people the opportunity to shine. When you can’t delegate, collaborate. Seek sponsors and allies too. Get your husband on board!
Build your team at home. Hire help to assist you run things smoothly. Teach kids to be independent when they are old enough. Learning to be responsible and capable early on is not a bad thing. There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choices, and your choices will change at different stages in your family’s life. Trying to balance work and home life can be challenging. You may not always feel in control but there are things you can do and think about to help manage the balance between work and home.
Indeed, when framed the right way, having a family alongside a career is not a handicap. Once you acknowledge the physical limitations to be every where, you release yourself from that guilt. If you don’t prioritize, you can end up spending a lot of time providing little value whether to a corporation or to your personal life. Knowing that makes a big career and a big family possible.
Women who choose to combine career and children are not what Germans like to call “Rabenmutter”, or roughly translated, uncaring mothers. They care enough to also want to financially provide. I have contributed a lot to our cash flow and was able to swing some inspiring family holidays all over the world. Bringing up well-travelled, multi-lingual, cultivated young adults come with a price tag. My kids don’t seem to show any signs of trauma through having a Mom that worked full-time.