The Career-Killing Aspects of Motherhood {Guest Post}

Voting Mom(whom I have decided to term Haughty on this blog, but she hasn’t approved that yet) was kind enough to let me repost this here. Check out her blog!


Recently I have been psychologically bombarded, seemingly out of the blue, with a very clear message: it’s all over for you, career-wise, once you have kids. Today it was this article in Slate, rapid-firing statistics about how dismal the outlook is for female academics once they decide to bear children before mentioning on page 2 that oh, yeah, this same phenomenon applies to women in business, in law, and in, you know, every single other possible profession. Last year, it was Ann-Marie Slaughter in The Atlantic expounding upon Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, ten years ago it was The New York Times exposing The Opt-Out Revolution, and daily it’s the droves of my educated and successful friends quitting their jobs to become stay-at-home-moms at the exact second their family can possibly afford for them to do so.

This is all heavy on my mind today as I sit on the Acela from DC to New York, headed for my first business-trip/overnight time away since my baby was born 6 months ago. I am armed with all the latest accoutrements of working mothers: the electric breast pump, enough empty bottles to hold 72 ounces of expressed milk, ice packs, an iPhone app that lets me view my baby via a camera in his nursery during naps. It is excruciating. My eyes keep shifting from side to side, wondering if anyone on this train has noticed yet what a horrible mother I am. I have been gone for two and a half hours so far and have resisted the urge to call my husband to check on the baby approximately 57 times. Of course, logically I realize that this is ridiculous. It’s the hormones, man.

Then there are the countless days I sit at home with the baby, wondering what I am doing with my life. This is not to say that I don’t find the time I spend mothering valuable – quite the opposite. After watching my 7-year-old grow up way too fast, I am savoring every second with my infant. But underlying the bliss I feel when kissing his sweet face is the fear that I have completely derailed myself and curtailed all of my ambitions in the name of supporting my husband’s career (gasp!) and being available to my kids for the short time that they are children. It’s this very short nature of childhood that creates the dilemma – is it worth it to throw your entire life’s career plan off track, to alter your next 40-odd years, when your kids only care about spending a lot of time with you you for five or six years, max? I mean, it really sucks to sacrifice everything you every worked toward, professionally, only to realize that your first-grader would really rather be over at his friends’ houses or in the basement, playing video games. On the other hand, at what cost do you decide to miss those few precious years, when you are the Most Beautiful Woman In The World and The Only One That Can Make It Better?

As I am the stubborn sort who must have her cake and eat it too, I have attempted to thwart the system by opening my own business so that I can work as much or as little as I want to. The thing about a business, though, is that it tends not to succeed when you don’t spend time on it. This is also, of course, something that could be said about children. At this very moment I am involved in an elaborate text exchange with a client about what days I can and can’t do work for her next week based on when my part-time nanny is available. The other day, at lunch with one of the only women I know who still has a high-powered career in a cut-throat field after having a baby, I inquired about the possibility of my returning to said field eventually. She gently informed me that the decision to become an entrepreneur, only to then turn around a few years later and try to get a job, might come off as somewhat flaky. I, the one who went back to work when my first son was 6 weeks old, who graduated with a top-tier MBA shortly after his third birthday, am now considered a flake. The opportunities I have turned down in the name of motherhood are countless, as are the precious moments I’ve missed in the name of ambition.

To survive in the face of these gigantic, looming, life-affecting questions of working-mom guilt and constant mental conflict, I have resorted to making decisions minute-by-minute based upon the practicalities of my exact circumstances. In this one, I am sitting with two men in a four seat booth – one next to me and one directly across (I attempted to sit next to a woman, but I seem to be the only female on a business trip today). My breasts feel like they are going to explode, and I need to head straight to the conference center upon disembarking, but I guess I will not be pumping on this train.





A little bit of blog-keeping from me – yes, I’ve been very very silent. Don’t worry, I have copious amounts of ideas floating around my head for the blog. However, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with a writing project that {gasp} has nothing to do with parenthood.

I’m finally making myself take a break from that project, but then my first priority is some stuff around the house I’ve been meaning to do – actual housekeeping! Then the blogkeeping can return in earnest.