On Being A Career Mom And How Timing Makes It Great

N0tes from interviews of successful career women

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I remember reading the remarks by PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi, during the 2016 World Women Summit in Manhattan. During this talk, she described the “heartaches” she suffered as a mother pursuing a career. One of the major highlights for her was a strikingly painful note she received from her five year old daughter and it read “‘Dear mom, I love you. Please come home.”

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be quite challenging and tends to be more daunting for women. Too often, women are confronted with making a choice between the competing demands of family and workplace. It does not always come down to an all-or-nothing situation, and this is why attaining balance is critical. 

Nooyi notes that she would have counseled her younger self to have been more careful of choices. I couldn’t agree more. 

I chose to kick-start my career first and leave parenting for later. I had my first child 15 years into my career; and at that point I was quite grounded in my profession and it wouldn’t hurt as much if I took time out as I would easily be able to return to the workplace.

It is not rare to find people in the society who dismiss women as being selfish when they put the parenting decision on hold in order to pursue their careers. But this ultimately remains, as it should be, a personal choice.

I have been quite lucky. Some of the places I have worked since from the start of my career including Deloitte Consulting and EY are ranked among the best 10 companies for working mothers offering fully paid parental leave and other parenting bonuses. But most people would not get to choose where they begin their careers, and this is why it is important for women to receive the right support from their partners and family. With partners, I believe that women are ultimately in charge of making this decision. 

Women who maintain a healthy work-life balance benefit from the support of partners who see parenting as shared responsibility. These responsibilities include baby sitting, drop offs and pick-ups of the children. A Guardian feature of about 6 women leaders who discussed ‘balancing’ motherhood and their careers revealed that women who have managed to remain strong in the workplace benefit from a supportive system at the workplace and at home. 

Another thing that strongly resonates with me is that among the women interviewed, those with daughters tend to push forward with their careers to serve as a form of role model for their kids. This is very important. I try to incorporate my kids into my work life when it’s possible.

My three year old knows when mum is on a conference call or has to jet-off to a meeting but at the same time knows when it is permissible for her to partake in the work activities. In the course of a client engagement, I have had to bring her along during a visit with my colleagues at an Art Gallery in Lagos. It was an opportunity for her to join mum on a work trip while enriching her own livelihood and opening her up to a world of possibilities specifically in the creative industry.

Nooyi is right. The main challenge with motherhood and career has everything to do with timing. I try to keep the weekends exclusively for the kids and fill it up with activities to compensate for the times I have been held up at work. These days I make the effort to be at home early when I can afford it. Her conversation on that panel revealed what her kids were upset about the most: that both of their parents did not return home on time.

Being able to maintain the same level of productivity outside of the office for me is important and I have found out with kids, that most of the time, all they really need is your presence and attention which they totally deserve. Though some people consider it a bad idea to bring your work related tasks home and would rather a total shut down; I prefer the option of making it home on time to still be able to get the kids in bed and then put in a couple of extra hours of work.

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