Is it possible to build a successful career while remaining a committed parent to your child? This is one of those crossroads that no-one prepares you for, but once you find yourself here the weight of your decision can impact your entire sense of stability. So which path do you choose? Do you pursue a career and pay/ rely on someone else to do the parenting for you, or do you sacrifice your career to focus on raising your child?
I remember being pregnant with my daughter, and being in a position where I wasn’t eligible for maternity pay. I remember feeling a deep sense of frustration over the fact that I had been yet to find the job stability as a writer that I had been searching for in the couple of years since leaving university. From temporary roles to permanent roles that were badly managed, I just couldn’t seem to catch a break! My determination led me to pursue the freelance route, and as much as I gained invaluable experience in self-management, I still wasn’t in a position of stability.
Now as I looked down at my growing bump, I was thankful to be in a position where I didn’t need to work due to Liam’s full-time role. So then, why did I still feel frustrated? Looking back, I now know that I had an underlying fear of not living up to my own expectations that I had placed on myself long before I had even realised.
Fast-forward to when my daughter was born, and by that point I had already set my mind on her being my focus.
The early years of a child are so tender and precious, and they have such a significant influence in shaping the kind of person that your child grows up to be.
I wanted to immerse myself in this opportunity to create a healthy foundation for Inaya, and I wasn’t willing to compromise on letting someone else do it for me. This was my personal decision, and I decided that work could wait. That and the fact that childcare costs are often sky-high, and can swallow so much of a salary that you may as well stay home!
Still, I found that I was back and forth about the idea of starting work. Especially because myself and Liam had the goal in mind to save towards a mortgage. I made it clear to him that I wasn’t willing to compromise, and that I would consider prospective roles when I was ready. This time came when Inaya was around 8/9 months old, and I was at a point where I was determined to help us reach our financial goals.
I wanted to do this for us, but I recognised that I was also considering Inaya and her future stability as my priority.
Even then, I was still trying my best to work around her. I knew that I only wanted to take on something on a part-time basis, and I even considered doing night work if it meant that I could still spend time with her. I had gone from not being interested in work at all, to then experiencing a deep longing to find job security. It was as though I had picked up right where I left off before I was pregnant…
I wanted to be the mother that my daughter deserved and more, but I also wanted to build a career and a financial future that could leave a legacy. Liam recognised my battle one day, and his words helped to centre my focus. He shared that even though he wanted me to find something that would provide an additional income for us, he didn’t want me to push myself to do something that would compromise my wellbeing. He wanted me to do something that would utilise the skills I knew I had, and would offer me the job satisfaction I knew I needed.
I realised that the key to resolving these conflicting thoughts was to be both flexible and self-aware. Flexible to the fact that I could shape what motherhood looked like for myself, and self-aware to remain committed to the kind of mother that I wanted to be.
My perspective changed, and I realised that I didn’t have to choose between my career and my child. I could choose both, but I could decide what that would look like. When I set out to find a part-time role that would offer enough flexibility to work around my daughter, while offering stability and allowing me to do the kind of work I could be passionate about, I was grateful to be able to find just that!
Nearly a year on, and my work continues to fit around my role as a parent. My daughter is thriving, and I can honestly say that I am too.
To any parent or expectant parent that may read this with scepticism based on their own journey, I would say you would be surprised at what can happen when you build boundaries into parts of your life that are often otherwise dictated for you.
Sadly, many places of work are yet to allow the level of flexibility required by parents, and instead create a sense of rigidity that forces you to choose between your career and your child. Sometimes you need to step outside of the societal box and shape your own norm, and then find or create a role that suits that expectation. You may be going to the job interview, but while they are interviewing you, you should also be considering if they are the right fit for you. You may be starting a business, but while you are dedicating time to shape this venture, you need to consider how this venture is shaping you.
The more say you decide to have over the way you live your life, the more satisfaction you will find on the other side of even the most seemingly challenging situations. And of course it’s important for me to say that this doesn’t mean that you are exempt from difficult decisions as a parent, or from making decisions that you probably wouldn’t have made in hindsight, but it does mean that you will find a new perspective. A balanced perspective where your career and your commitment to your child can co-exist.
This is never an easy position for any parent, but I know that many mothers especially deal with the challenge to decide between working or being a stay-at-home parent. Please know that you are far from alone! Every situation will of course be unique to each individual, and you should not feel shamed into making a decision either way. The following questions will hopefully help you to gain some perspective on what direction is best for you to take:
- What do you appreciate most about working?
- What do you appreciate most about being a parent?
- What do you fear most about not working?
- What do you fear most about not staying at home to parent your child/ren?
- If you could offer advice to someone else in your position, what would you say?