I love my job, but I also want kids
The challenge and fears of starting the journey towards motherhood, as ambitious, career-loving women in the 21st century.
I was catching up with an old school friend over the weekend. We used to be inseprable. She now lives in Dubai with her husband whilst my other half and I live in the UK. It was wonderful to reminisce about what was. But, as friends naturally tend to do, we spoke about our futures as well.
The predominant topic of choice: the challenge and fears of starting the journey towards motherhood, as ambitious, career-loving women in the 21st century.
Yes, that old chestnut.
It seems that despite all the strides women have taken thus far in proving ourselves worthy of becoming successful entrepreneurs or professionals in our own right, we still find ourselves wrestling with the imbalanced reality of wanting to pursue and succeed professionally, whilst building families.
Common fears that plague us both:
'Will I be able to jump back into my field after taking an undefined amount of time away from it?'
'Will my boss consider me for the next promotion knowing I am approaching this next chapter of life?'
'I love what I do and I want to grow in it, but will I be able to once kids come along?'
'I might love becoming a Mum. Heck, I might even want to be a full-time Mum. But at this moment in time, I love what I do and I'm afraid I'm going to miss it when I take the plunge.'
'What if I want to go back full-time? Will I be judged for that? Will I judge myself for that? Mum guilt is a real thing!'
All these fears are real and I'm sure there are more women out there who share them. There may also be some who have conquered these worries and have sage wisdom to pass on. If this is you, whatever boat you are in do get in touch with me using the IG handle below, I'd love to hear more from you!
Personally, my anxiety about this next step stems from an underlying expectation that "the woman stays home." I know, it sounds so traditional, so out-dated, how could this still be an issue, right? I recognise that for some, depending on your environment and societal structure you might be experiencing this differently to me. I am also aware that this is also influenced by our up-bringing.
My childhood was a bit of a mixed-bag when it came to parents being at home. During my primary years, my father had cancer so spent most of those years in hospital. This meant that my mother had to solely look after me, work and continue her medical degree. Talk about a triple threat.
Therefore, for those years my Mum had to rely on babysitters a lot. I look back now and I don't feel less loved by that. In fact, knowing how tough adulting is, I look back at my parents and my Mum in particular, in awe. She was (and still is) a power-house! I'm not sure how she did it to be honest. To top it all off, I still have distinct memories of her taking the time to braid my hair over the weekends, #thatblackhairlife. I may not have always acted grateful in those years - especially the teenage ones - but all I see now is years devoted to showing me love the best way they could. I'm very grateful now.
Compare that to my spouse who had a Mum home, full-time until high school. When we discuss how we will go about parenting, he doesn't see it fair to leave our children in nursery for even a full day, let alone a few days a week. I understand his side of things and I don't begrudge him that in the slightest. But there is no doubt his opinion is one formed from his own upbringing.
Childhoods aside, let's also for a moment consider societies' legal structure when it comes to parental leave. The UK for instance, has maternity leave for up to 52 weeks, paternity leave for up to 2 weeks or shared parental leave up to 50 weeks if you meet the requirements. Yet, despite the availability of shared leave, a statistic in 2019 showed that fewer than a third of new fathers took parental leave and in 2018 only 1% took shared parental leave. Reason being? Most parents cannot afford the pay offered under the scheme.
From a policy standpoint this highlights that even 'well-meaning' government policies aren't working for the everyday family. Fathers don't seem to have leave in their own right, it is dependent on maternity leave. It also shows that mothers still take the brunt of the childcare responsibilities. It is still less common for fathers to stay home with their kids and for mums to be the sole breadwinners. Even in our today, the today where we boast of a lot of progression and change; this is still a struggle.
I'm not sure what the answer is. I think in conversation, most people would say there has been a mindset shift, that they are open to things being different. However, there seems to be a disjoint in practise which still affects the choices we make as women, as wives and as professionals.
I would love to hear your opinion, your thoughts. Follow me on instagram @healthy.thoughts.byk and drop me a DM.