*Children or career? You can have both! is a guest post. If you are interested in writing for A Modern Mom’s Life, please visit my guest posting page.*
During my recent annual exam, the Nurse Practitioner I see, who genuinely knows me and engages in real “what’s new” conversations with me, asked how my work life had changed since having my daughter. I was happy to hear the question and gladly explained that I work significantly fewer hours than I did prior to becoming a parent.
I noticed a change in her disposition before I could finish the last word in my sentence. She shifted from seeming genuinely interested in hearing what was going on with me to visibly agitated. In a bitter tone she said, “It’s unfortunate that women can’t have careers after having children.”
Who says women can’t have careers after having children?
I was confused by her statement so I asked what she meant. She shared with me that on many occasions after having children, the MDs she worked with made comments about how she wasn’t the same dedicated professional she was prior to having children. After a little more prying, I learned the MDs in her office believed she wasn’t the same dedicated professional after having children because she was sticking to her scheduled hours instead of working two to three extra hours a day like she did before she became a parent.
Hearing about her experience was disheartening. From my perspective as her patient, she is no less dedicated than she was prior to starting her family. I’m sure her colleagues are noticing a difference in her ability to pick up some of the administrative work she used to assist with during the extra hours she put in. I am noticing a difference in the amount of time and effort she gives to serving me and her other patients.
For her to be the parent she wants to be, she has to prioritize her family when her scheduled shift ends. This means that her time in the office is limited. She understands that spending the limited time she has in the office focusing on serving her patients well is the best way she can serve her organization. This isn’t the behavior of someone who lacks professional dedication. This is the behavior of someone who is trying to responsibly fulfill her responsibilities as a parent and as an employee.
What makes a career?
I wish I could say this was the first time I found myself engaged in a conversation in which I believe someone was defining career as far exceeding the expected number of work hours, instead of the impact made with the work done. From my perspective as her patient, she is no less dedicated than she was prior to starting her family. She still gives me the excellent care that drew me to her in the first place.
Her colleagues are noticing a difference in her ability to pick up some of the administrative work she used to assist them with, but her ability to do her actual job hasn’t been impacted. She has limitations she didn’t have before, but the work she is doing isn’t any less valuable or impactful because of that.
From my perspective as her patient, she’s more impactful now because she is spending more time with me and every other patient who comes in to see her than she did prior to becoming a parent. I only receive this level of care and attention from her and the other MDs in the office who are parents. I don’t think that is a coincidence.
So, why am I sharing this story?
Because so many people believe that we can’t have a successful career and be great parents. We can’t “have it all” because we have to give up one to have the other. They believe this because they have bought into the false narrative that a successful career requires long hours at the office.
This is not true. Successful careers do not require long hours at the office. They require us to fulfill our job responsibilities well. We do much better at that when we know what our priorities are. Becoming a parent brings your priorities into perspective quickly.
Related: How I survive as a working mom
The next time you find yourself in a situation in which you believe someone is accusing you of lacking dedication because you are leaving the office on time, take the time to explain that you see it differently.
Explain that what you’ve done is establish what you believe are healthy work/life boundaries. Tell them you believe these boundaries make you a better employee than you were before you had them, and give them solid examples of how that is true (projects you’ve successfully completed, changes you’ve successfully implemented, etc.)
Worst case scenario, the other person will disagree. Best case scenario, you shift that person’s perspective in a way that leaves them feeling more empowered to “have it all” as well. Children or career should not be the choice.
Abigail Church is the Organizational Development Manager at Trophy Awards, Mfg. Inc., a company focused on helping organizations express authentic appreciation to their employees and team members through meaningful acts of celebration (www.trophyawards.com). She is also a writer, editor, and blogger whose material focuses on building healthy relationships and leadership in parenting. Be on the lookout for the launch of her new blog, Abinormal Adventures in Parenting, in Summer-Fall 2019! Follow her on Twitter (@abinormallife) and Instagram (abichurch83).