By Ada Slivinski (photo by Marcio Ramalho)
Do an Internet search of “how having kids can benefit your career,” and the top results are all focused on men. Fathers are paid more than childless men – the break and stress-relief children provide seems to stimulate their brains into thinking about work problems in new ways, and thus often leads to promotions and new opportunities.
But for mothers, the popular narrative is quite the opposite. The bookstores and Internet discussion boards are full of cautious tales about why mothers who work outside the home can’t “have it all.” Pregnant women are often told their work will take a hit with all the responsibilities of being a parent. But what’s often overlooked is that parenthood can actually affect work life for mothers in the same positive ways it does for men if we know how to take advantage of the opportunity.
When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I was about to move across the country for a fantastic new job. I certainly remember people telling me that a baby would be a significant career roadblock. I can say that it certainly was a challenge to learn the ropes at a new place while struggling with morning sickness and running out for midwife appointments, but it also helped me connect with my new coworkers and interview subjects on a deeper level.
As a reporter, I have to ask tough questions that often put politicians and other decision-makers on the spot. I was surprised at how many times my growing belly provided the perfect ice-breaker, putting those I was grilling more at ease and thus leading to a better interview. Now that I have a two-year-old, sharing stories about potty training or hilariously misspoken words has the same effect.
Many other mothers who I’ve spoken with who work outside the home tell me they too were surprised at how their career benefited from the new role of parenthood.
Time management. One of the things mothers talk about is how they become better able to manage their time. A new mother, columnist, and lawyer friend of mine puts it this way, “I don’t have the luxury of saying to myself that I will finish something later. Who knows when later is!” Many parents also say they don’t want to bring work home with them, because that’s the time they have to spend with their children, so they learn to work smarter during the day and get things done at the office.
Patience and acceptance. Though being a parent can be extremely draining on your patience at times, it can teach you to be more patient and understanding at work, which can be a huge bonus when working with clients or a team. Having children also helps to put work into perspective. “No emergency at the office can compare to having a child with a life-threatening injury in the hospital,” a publisher with two boys recently told me.
Downtime better spent. It is also a great stress-reliever: a little kid running into your arms after a tough day at work immediately makes those office problems fade away. For many parents who choose to continue with a career after kids, having children motivates them at work – they want to provide for their kids so they may be more confident asking for a raise or a promotion, or further their education because they want to be a good role model. As gender roles shift and mothers are no longer the sole caregivers and homemakers, we can apply all we learn in our new role as parents to our work as well and see the benefits – just like men.