If you read a lot of literature on working motherhood, you can be forgiven for thinking that building a career while raising kids will turn you into a hot mess. You’ll be Mommy-tracked in your job. You will be racked with guilt. And say goodbye to work-life balance, because you’ll never sleep again.
It sounds bleak. But as I learned researching for my book I Know How She Does It, and as I continue to study women who succeed at work and at home, most tell me they don’t buy into all the doom and gloom. Here are five reasons why.
01. They know that plenty of accomplished women do have kids.
There’s a stereotype of the lonely corporate woman who scaled the ladder at the expense of human connection. But all an ambitious woman needs to do is take a quick look at Fortune’s list of the Most Powerful Women in business to find this is false. General Motors CEO Mary Barra has children. So does Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson. So does Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. No doubt all have faced challenges and trade-offs, but clearly, having kids does not completely disqualify you from climbing all the way to the top if you want.
02. They know they don’t have to do it all themselves.
From the angst in some writing on working women, you’d think the children were locked in a closet every second they weren’t with mom. But children often have fathers, grandparents, neighbors, teachers, family friends, and paid caregivers who spend time with them too. No one attempts to run a complex professional organization by herself; there’s no glory in doing it at home either. From carpools to Amazon Prime, smart women know there are lots of ways to lighten the load.
03. They know kids change some things but not everything.
Some people are more dramatic than others. For every person writing an impassioned essay that having a baby convinced them that nothing else in life mattered, there are ten people quietly going along knowing that if they liked their jobs before having kids, they’ll like them afterward, too. While the baby years are exhausting, my research finds that once your youngest child is 2, you’ll gain significantly more leisure time. Exercise, hobbies, and friendships can all fit.
04. They know that work-life integration works.
By being flexible about when things happen, successful women know it’s possible to work long hours and still have a full personal life too. When I studied professional women’s schedules, I found about half of them sometimes did work at night after the kids went to bed. This enabled them to leave work on time and have family dinners while still getting their work done. Women who traveled often worked very long hours while they were on the road so they could work much shorter hours when they were home. They looked at life in terms of 168 hours (weeks) instead of twenty-four hours (days). Things don’t have to happen every day in order to count.
05. They know that sometimes kids can help your career.
Plenty of people find that children make them more efficient. Since so many people do have kids, they become an easy topic of conversation, and that allows you to relate to more people. And kids can be expensive! Knowing you need to support your little ones can light a fire under you to land that promotion that comes with a big raise.
Much work-life literature is like watching the news. You hear about the crash on the interstate. You don’t hear about the thousands of people who made it to the office just fine. Smart women look at the whole picture, and they know the whole picture often looks pretty good.
Photo Credit: Taylor McCutchan