The balance between career and family life has always been an issue people have talked about but has especially become a trendy topic in recent times. With the number of working women being larger than ever and their traditional roles in the family changing, we can’t help but think deeper about the effects motherhood has in both parts of life; work and home.
Most women say that having a baby changes you, and people assume that it means that it makes you care less about your career and focus on the baby, hence family. But according to a research, having a baby changes you in a way that benefits your career as well. Therefore, the notion that women lose their abilities when they become mothers is wrong in its core.
The motherhood penalty
Many mothers fall victims to this kind of mentality, which perpetuates the notion and idea that a working mother is not a valuable asset to the workplace. Women are usually discriminated by the assumption that they lose interest in advancing their careers and job performance. Women’s earnings drop substantially, for a fact, after they have kids.
Men are usually seen as the “workers” of the family and women as the “caregivers”. But what happens when women are career-ambitious but want a family at the same time? Societal norms have a tendency to change slower than personal opinions, so mothers are left to juggle both roles.
The term mommy brain is commonly used to explain the changes that happen to the brain after women give birth, and science has proven that it is a real and detectable change.
Studies done on women during pregnancy and after, show significant changes in the brain. The brain literally grows, especially in the areas where survival instinct, emotional regulation, and hormone production are regulated.
But these changes are usually misinterpreted and used against mothers in the workplace. They are overlooked and never analyzed on how they can be used to increase job performance. This would be beneficial for both, the mother and the employer. By starting to see these elements as features and advantages, we get to use our skills in a way that is the most beneficial.
The question is, what if we apply the thinking that goes into raising a child into the work we do? All these new instincts and skills, applied to the workplace could mean a new and advanced way on how we solve problems, how we work with others and how we get things done.
The motherhood advantage
Although it takes up a lot of your time, motherhood actually makes you more productive in your workplace at the time you’re there.
While researching for her book, author Alissa Quart found that fundamental workplace skills like listening, leadership, reasoning, and scheduling had enhanced after mothers got back to work after pregnancy. Moreover, they learned management skills from taming their toddlers. She continues, ‘a number [of women] told me they used their working hours better than they had before they had children, with improved concentration.’
Women are more organized after having their babies and going back to work because they MUST be so in order to manage to balance it all.
This issue was also discussed on another book by Sara Ruddick. She elaborates on how parenting is a discipline. We know it demands flexible thinking in relationship to children, but could it also be incorporated in the professional sense?
Well, yes. Mothers do have cognitive capacities and understandings of virtue that go further than just to their mothering.
Motherhood teaches you to adjust and multitask
Not the healthiest of habits when done uncontrollably, but a very valuable one to have. Multitasking is something you will need to do at some point, be it at your job, or in your personal life. Most mothers do it all the time. Motherhood gives you the ability to not just multitask, but to use every ‘spare’ moment productively. There’s always something that needs to be done, so better do multiple things at once.
This results in using time wisely at work, and getting more stuff done than other childless colleagues. Even motivation and creativity seem to arise after having a baby, as this blogger states:
‘When I started the full time copywriting job […] I wasn’t hugely motivated. Until I had my baby. I gave birth to my daughter and within days, I had poem ideas, blog posts to write, articles to pitch, Instagram accounts to start, new blogs to set up, short stories to write. I was full of ideas. But I was also tired.’
Motherhood makes you more empathetic
Mothers are very nurturing by nature. They are equipped with the ability to relate not just to their children, but to their colleagues too. This empathy that not many have makes them great leaders in the workplace.
Successful leaders might have traditionally been defined by their power and prestige, but a study shows that empathy is the most critical skill of overall performance. Companies that value empathy perform better as per Forbes’ article on What Successful Companies Are Doing Right: Empathy.
In return, as expected, non-empathetic employers are losing their best employees. Writing that resignation letter when circumstances are not satisfying is not fun for any employee, but when faced with apathy after sharing a genuine problem with the manager, leaving seems the best thing to do. And it’s plain obvious that cases like that wouldn’t happen if the manager was a mother. Mother leaders take a moment to reflect on the situation and offer a kind word, and assistance before jumping to conclusions and being quick to snap judgment.
Motherly lists empathy as being the first reason why moms make exceptional leaders. If a company is wondering what makes a person empathetic and how to cultivate leaders who can see a problem or situation through the eyes of another, then the answer is having a mom on your team. As they put it,
‘It takes deep humility and emotional empathy to understand and address the wants and needs of a small person who can’t yet communicate them. This kind of empathy is an invaluable skill that can not only help cultivate talent, but also shape the morale of an entire organization.’
We need to get people to understand that “mom brain” is not a disability but a kind of focus that can be helpful in the workplace! The sooner companies realize that, the sooner they use it as an advantage rather than a penalty. Both sides thrive in the end.