Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Is It Too Much To Ask To Be A Successful Mother?

Picture by Vladimir Pustovit under CC BY 2.0 licence

We’re in 2015 and Hillary Clinton is running for the US presidency, so you might think that we’re over sexist mumbo-jumbo.

Yet, at the beginning of the month, Sarah Marquis, a successful lawyer, sued an NHS hospital because due to a wrong diagnosis she was left infertile. The only defence the hospital’s lawyer could come up with was that infertility helped her career.

Misogyny much?

Among the 47% of women composing the UK workforce, 38% are employed and have dependent children. A study realized by Eurostat in 2012 showed that there are 32.3% women in the UK occupying senior and middle manager position.

So, were the lawyers correct or can a mother have a fulfilling career?

It's not easy every day

There are certainly negative aspects to motherhood when it comes to work. Louise Ridley is an Assistant News Editor at The Huffington Post UK. Even though she doesn’t have children, the 28-year-old has a strong opinion on the topic.

“In a way, having children can hamper a woman's career in that time out of the office to give birth and take care of children could set you back in terms of career advancement and promotions. You spend less time with your colleagues, are less up to speed and obviously also have a new focus which could be seen to compete with your work,” she says.

Furthermore, childcare is a big issue for most parents. Not everybody can afford nursery costs or have a relative available to take care of their children.

For Jenny Freeman, an economy lecturer at the University of Leeds, juggling her work and parenthood wasn't much of a struggle.

The main reason why the mother of two was able to attend conferences, meetings and classes was because while she was away at work, her husband was at home taking care of their children.

“It [having children] can hamper a career, but it depends on what kind of support you've got at support home,” she says.

Choice and perspective

However, despite all the hardship accompanying having children, neither Freeman nor any of her female friends have entertained the thought that they would push back motherhood in order to secure their career.

Not having the right partner and not feeling like you could provide for your family are often the reason why women prefer to wait to have children.

Furthermore, the fact that it has become easier for women to reach higher positions and that there are efficient fertility treatments can also be reasons in favour of postponing attempts at creating a family.

Even though children might disturb their career, for most women it’s just another life experience (one that they can actually choose for themselves).

When the now retired 
foreign exchange dealer Fiona Johnstone decided to have a child at the age of twenty-nine, she was told in not so sublte ways that her career would go downhill. 

Upon having her first and only child Johnstone left work, but after two years, her husband became ill and she had to return.

“It was definitely a negative for my career, although I was considered to have had a successful career overall. However, it was a choice which I would repeat, if I could live my life again knowing now, what I didn't know then,” she says.

Nicci Talbot a freelance journalist aged 40 shares her view on how motherhood affect women's career:

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