If you Google, “Why Having a Child Was the Best Thing for My Career” the search results at the top are are a mix of questions on Quora that go something like this: “I’m 30 and crushing my career, and want to have a baby. How screwed am I?” and posts like, “When Women Chose Children Over Career”. It’s disillusioning. Having a baby is not the end of your career and neither does everything have to take a nose dive before it turns up.
We planned to have our daughter and I didn’t actually think too much about the impact on my career, I knew some things would ultimately change for us lifestyle-wise but I saw no reason why they had to change for me career-wise and here is why:
I Challenge Myself More
The first reason why having a child was the best thing for my career, is that I had a reason to challenge myself right off the bat. I didn’t want to go back to the job I was in when I was pregnant. I knew I wanted a role that was challenging as well as flexible and the things that were important to me when I was child-free were no longer important to me career-wise when I had my daughter.
If you read my interview with Lisa from CityRunMum.com, you can read how before I was pregnant I was working in the legal team of one of the best-known brands in the world, friends and family thought I was mad to leave when I had my daughter, but I knew what I wanted. I wanted engaging work that I enjoyed, flexibility, a role with space for senior progression, to make a real difference to the business and no longer be a small cog in a big wheel. My role at that big-time brand couldn’t offer me that post-baby.
I left that company and went to work for a much smaller owner-managed company, who at the time, was making waves in the industry. I was given more responsibility as I was their only lawyer and it was a big change considering I joined when finished my maternity leave. Stepping up to take on more responsibility has benefitted me hugely in my career for obvious reasons, more exposure, more recognition, more flexibility as a senior exec and more of everything that comes with that, including more pay.
I’m More Confident
Another reason why having a child was the best thing for my career is one of the most important. I’m more confident. I’m more confident now than I’ve ever been in my life and that may be down to age and maturity, I’m not entirely sure.
Having a child means that you have to make so many decisions that you’ve hadn’t considered before in your life. It’s no longer just about you – your choices impact you and your child and their wellbeing. Making decisions under these circumstances gives a certain level of confidence when you do it over and over again.
I’ve learned how to trust my own intuition over lots of unsolicited parenting advice, how to communicate with a non-verbal baby and make important decisions about child-care and education. When your child is thriving and happy you can’t help but feel confident in yourself – you’re doing an amazing job! That spills over into everything else. Career included.
I Know How to Have Difficult Conversations
Ah the art of the difficult conversation. I rather welcome confrontation, and not the drama-filled conversation, but being able to confront a situation head-on and get things sorted is something that so many people shy away from and it does nobody any good.
Since having my daughter I’ve initiated and been on the receiving end of difficult conversations with lots of people; nursery staff, doctors, friends and family and my bosses. If it’s a conversation about not giving my daughter too many sweets, questioning medical advise and medication, discussions about discipline, or talking to my bosses about what I need at work – things have to be discussed.
It’s no longer acceptable for me to skirt around issues or ignore them, I’m my daughters advocate, I need to use my voice for her because she can’t yet. As a parent I had to get comfortable being uncomfortable and that has only benefitted my in my career. A lawyer that can’t have difficult conversations is about as good as a Rich Tea biscuit in a cup of tea in my opinion – cultivating this skill this means I do better for my clients by having those conversations on their behalf too.
I’ve Learned How to Prioritise Effectively
You can hear my co-host and I discussing prioritising on our new podcast, Not Wonder Woman, here. With less time than I had BC (before child) I had to get better at managing my time if I was going to be efficient and get sh*t done. I outsource things that I can to make time for the things I want and need to do. Admitting that I can’t do everything at home has given me the insight as to how to delegate things effectively in the workplace too.
Effective delegation is an important skill, lots of people (myself in included in the past) take on too much and buckle under the pressure of it all – trying to spin all the plates. Learning when, how and to whom to delegate is necessary as a leader and I first learned how to do this properly as a mother.
I’m More Productive
I fit more into my days by maximising productivity having finally given up the terrible procrastination habit I’ve had since I was a student.
I have more of an ‘up and at em’ attitude seeing as I know I have less time to waste. Since having my daughter, there is a new commodity I’m chasing and it’s not money – it’s time. This is the single most important thing to me and I won’t waste it or have anyone else waste it if I can help it. I forget about being ‘busy’ and focus on being productive and efficient instead. I actually get stuff done instead of saying I’m going to do it or procrastinating.
Related post: How I Have my Most Productive Days Ever
I Make More time for Self-Care
Making time for self-care doesn’t just apply to parents, it applies to all of us. Even when I had lots of time on my hands before I had my daughter, I was
partying socialising like most of us were, but I don’t think I was taking time to consider what I really needed.
I need to make time for myself so I can rest and recuperate and invest in my health and wellbeing. If I’m ill, feeling overwhelmed, or stressed there is a knock-on effect.
Eventually, I’ve learned to be selfish and get what I need to manage a full schedule. This has been the longest new habit in the making – nearly 3 years before I had a night away from Poppy. But small things like making and sticking to routine medical appointments, making time to meditate and exercise, getting in downtime and prioritising little things like having my hair done and wearing nice pajamas, allow me to feel human instead of a machine on a perpetual treadmill.
Identifying when I may be feeling overwhelmed allows me to be more self aware. Getting what I need ultimately helps me to be more resilient which is a much needed quality anyone needs in this day and age for navigating your career.
I Started Blogging
Corporate Style Story is actually my second blog, I started a parenting blog when my daughter was one year old.
Unless women choose to stay at home after having their children, lots of mothers have returned to work in the UK a year after taking maternity leave, whether part time or full time. When I was back at work, there less opportunities for me to meet and connect with other women who have similar things going on as me. I needed to finish work and get back to looking after my daughter.
That first blog was amazing at helping me find other mothers online, to read their stories and advice and discover their product recommendations. I looked forward to Twitter chats twice a week and writing my blog (albeit sporadically). Blogging allowed me to connect with the mothers behind the blogs; savvy business women whom I still pick up the phone to now (you know who you are). I’d recommend blogging to any mother wanting to connect with other mothers in a similar situation to her.
If I hadn’t started my first blog, then I definitely wouldn’t have started CorporateStyleStory.com, this blog is turning into more things than I could ever imagine and as such this has been the best thing for my career. It allows my to be creative and use my business head at the same time, I’ve learned so many new skills and I get a lot of satisfaction from that.
I’ve never been happier and I think that’s because I have all the things I want. Don’t get me wrong things are not a walk in the park every day and some times its really tough trying to juggle it all.
My daughter is my world and I’m so grateful to have her in my life. I’m sure I could have cultivated all of these qualities over time without having had a child, but it just so happens that for me, having her has made such a positive impact on me and my career that I wanted to share this to encourage women that having children can be the best thing that ever happened to your career. I don’t think women should think that it has to be one or the other. Assess the situation and decide what’s best for you. This post isn’t about encouraging women to rush out and have children willy-nilly, it’s about women considering their options and not thinking that having a child is detrimental to your career, it certainly isn’t considered that way for men. Motherhood is amazing gift. Having a child was the best thing for my career (which is obviously just one of the reasons motherhood is amazing) and it could be for you too.