Baby time or time to get ahead?

Here is the article about moms, work, and One Tiny  Suitcase that I mentioned last week:

Baby time or time to get ahead?

 

Mothers and career planners say establishing goals will make things easier

 
 
 At 26, Stacey Corbett was already a manager at a Calgary company, supervising a small department.

She and her husband had been talking about having children for a long time and were committed to starting their family while they were young. So, when the time felt right to have a baby, Corbett refused to let her career interests guide her decision.

“I really did enjoy my job,” she says. “I worked hard to get where I was in that position, but ultimately, I felt like I could get any kind of arrangement to work. I wasn’t going to let (my career) be the deciding factor.”

Montreal career counsellor Cheryl Stein says there’s no right way to plan your career and family. She herself took a long hiatus from the work world to have four children and went back to school when her youngest was four in order to launch a new gig as a career coach at 33.

While a career can feel like a race, it’s important to make choices that make the most sense for you. Focusing on your family now doesn’t rule out career success later, she argues.

“I think, really, if you believe things are possible, if you have tunnel vision that ‘This is the goal I want and that’s what I’m going to do,’ I don’t think it matters how you do it,” she says.

While taking time away from a career to have a baby may not impede your success in the long term, Stein admits that women who’ve risen to the upper ranks before starting a family do have an advantage.

“Generally, the higher up you are, the more you can call your shots,” she says.

Vancouver’s Nancy Morison, vice-president of operations at online retailer Clearly Contacts, would agree that juggling work and family can be easier at higher levels of responsibility.

The 39-year-old mother of two young boys enjoys being able to start work early in order to leave early on days she’s coaching her son’s 4 p.m. hockey practice, for instance. “I think most executives would agree that there’s a degree of flexibility that makes it easier to find a balance.”

But Montreal’s Stein points out that most women aren’t in this position — and may never be. So, postponing a baby in the hopes of becoming a manager first isn’t necessarily a good course of action. “Bottom line — there’s no guarantee of anything in life.”

Whenever you decide to start a family, Vancouver career coach Jennifer Chandler advises women to carefully scrutinize their workplace first — even companies with family-friendly reputations.

Prior to returning from maternity leave, one client prepared a pitch for a more flexible work arrangement that she felt would maximize her value to the company. “After discussing her proposal with her two bosses, who were much younger males who hadn’t had children, one of them said, ‘What is more important, your daughter or your job?’ ”

It was a shock to Chandler’s client, who had chosen to work for the employer — named one of BC’s top 50 companies — largely because of its family-friendly reputation.

“A lot of people I’ve worked with are quite surprised. They thought the companies they were working for were family-oriented — but they weren’t.”

Chandler advises women to keep their eyes open and observe how female colleagues with families are perceived and treated. If they’re not supported, you might want to move on to a company that is truly family-friendly before you start your family.

Calgary’s Corbett says her decision to start a family hasn’t hindered her career. Inspired by her experiences as a mother, she now runs a baby equipment rental company called One Tiny Suitcase (www.onetinysuitcase.ca).

But initially, it seemed as if she had lost out on opportunities. When the time came to return to work after mat leave, she suggested a job-share arrangement for her old job — which the company turned down, offering her a part-time, non-managerial position instead.

It was not the reaction she’d wanted, but within a few months, they reconsidered and asked her to manage the department again on a part-time basis. “I think they realized I had lots to offer.”

BIRTH OF A SERIES

Caitlin Crawshaw looks at how working women can take a maternity leave without giving up on their career goals.

Today: Deciding when to start a family

Feb. 7: How to prepare for mat leave

Feb. 14: Going back to work

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