I am often asked “Is it really possible to combine a career with a family?” and my answer is always “Yes!” I believe it is possible: when you do it on your own terms, when you are empowered to find your own unique balance, and when you are willing to make your job work for you. However, to do this successfully 2 things are important:
1. That you know your own worth, and
2. That you know what is important to you.
Shortly after returning to work after the birth of my second daughter, I approached my manager about expanding my responsibilities at work. His response was to ask me if I wanted to have a career or be a mother. What a choice! So often we feel that we are failing at what society defines as career, or expects of us as parents. But today young parents are redefining career: “For me, having a career is about having choices,” says Katja, an Economist and mother of 2, “To have the freedom and possibility to develop myself in the direction I want, with a manager that supports me.” And it’s not only how we define career that is changing, families are redefining themselves too, especially where both partners play an active role. Falco, father of 3 and Project Manager says “I want to do my best, and I want to advance here at work, but I want to balance that with my family and friends. So yes, career is about advancement, but I can’t neglect my life outside of work either. If I manage to do both successfully, then I have a successful career.”
I have moved on since that day when I was faced with a choice between having a meaningful career or being a good mother. I no longer believe it is necessary to choose one or the other. I know I have something valuable to contribute, and organizations are recognizing that it is beneficial to offer more flexible working models.
Every day I meet parents who are making their jobs work for them, and still being involved at home. Young parents are seeking interesting positions with meaningful work. They have invested in their education and are not willing to give up their jobs for a family. At the same time, they are not willing to leave parenthood inexperienced, says Adrianna, Regulatory Affairs Manager and mother of 2: “I studied for a long time, I did my PhD. I love to be a mom, but I also need the professional challenge of working. My definition of career has definitely changed since becoming a mom. It's still about finding satisfaction in my work, but going forward at my pace.”
To balance work with family is not an easy road, but many parents believe it is worth it, says Ayami, mother of 2 and Strategic Marketing Manager: “Work offers me another way of life, it gives me a place to contribute. At home, I do something for my family, for my children, but I don’t have a connection to society. Work is the place I am connected to society, and can contribute something in the larger sense.” Knowing your own worth and what your contribution brings makes it easier to negotiate for that flexible working model that allows you to balance your work with your family, or to go for that new role your heart wants.
It’s definitely not about striving for perfection, and some days will always be more challenging than others. But if we can be kind to ourselves, recognize our worth, and have goals to work towards then we can make our jobs work for us. In the end, it all comes back to knowing what’s really important to you. Asking yourself the questions “What do I want to achieve at work?” and “What won’t I compromise on at home?” Setting boundaries, but no limitations!
parents@work is a peer coaching program with the goal to help parents prepare for parental leave – and ease the transition when the return. For more information about how your organization could implement this sustainable program, please visit www.parentsatwork.com