Motherhood vs. Career. Why the dichotomy?

I read an interesting blog post by an Australian mother who argues that the way Western society sets up motherhood creates a massive psychological problem for many women. It’s either go against your natural instincts and parent a certain way (i.e. let your kid cry, give her a bottle to get your own space, put her on a routine) or do things according to your intuition all the while feeling like a massive weirdo and failure in the eyes of the rest of society.

There is a lot of information out there about parenting and how one is supposed to do it “right.” In our culture a lot of that is associated with detaching from the baby – allowing other people to take care of our little ones so that we mothers can get back to business, back to being ourselves and carrying on with our careers or the other important things we were doing before our kids came along. But why are these things more valuable than spending close intimate time with our kids? I didn’t choose to have my daughter when I did, but she came and for the past three years she has been and will continue to be the central focus of my life.

I think that there are many women in the West who fear having children young because it means that their dreams will not be realised. Whatever career objectives they have will be sacrificed, whatever hopes they had for travel or adventure will be drowned in a sea of PTA meetings and family dinners. I hope that I’m not in the minority when I say that having a child, or soon-to-be children, has helped me to figure out what it is that I actually want from life and what I want to do with my career. I never could have set out writing a book had I not had April when I did. It was because I was on maternity leave that we could afford the time off to travel for four months down to Mexico. The money I got from the government to write my book? Also a direct result of having a child – funding through a program aimed at helping young people break into the fields of their choice.

Now that April is three and there’s another baby on the way, I can easily acknowledge the hard work that goes into being a mom. But I also believe that it’s only through embracing motherhood as a vital creative driving force in one’s life that women can go on to achieve their dreams. Rather than rejecting our biological makeup and trying to ‘act like men’ in the workforce, I wish that more moms, more families, could figure out creative ways in which women can be both fulfilled and be mothers at the same time.

3 Comment

  1. I was having one of those moments where I was wondering if I’ll be able to do all the things career-wise that I want, because of the kids. Then I realized I have a heck of a lot of time. My mom’s careeer took off when I was in my late teens. I don’t think she really lost anything keeping it low-key for awhile while we were young. Even with that example though, it’s hard!

    1. Lauren Jane Heller says: Reply

      I know what you mean. I think it’s a bit harder these days for families to afford for only one parent to work, but I think it’s important to do whatever it is that feels right — whether it’s getting back to work or staying home more and finding other ways to fulfill your career objectives!

  2. love your thoughts! you are so right, we shouldn’t be acting like man, we are woman. motherhood has totally changed me and for 2 years i just couldn’t imagine going back to a normal job, I was a full-time mom. What an amazing job that is! for me it’s an “investment” in the really important phase in our kids life, the 3 first years is where so much happens, never a child learns and evolves so much as in those 3 first years, they are so precious! you are right that we need to find ways to conjugate having a career and being a parent, for example for me: now i have my own business that permits me to work when my son goes part time to daycare, during naptimes or in the evening when he sleeps.
    hope all is going well with the second pregnancy!
    see you at the park soon! :o)

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