« Insights

Balancing motherhood and career

| Nov. 29, 2023

The evolving role of women in modern society reflects a profound shift from traditional norms to a dynamic landscape where women are asserting their presence across diverse spheres. Women are no longer confined to traditional gender roles but are actively participating as leaders, innovators and contributors in various sectors.

In today's fast-paced world, the pursuit of a successful and gratifying career need not be exclusive of the joys and responsibilities of motherhood. Navigating the journey of combining motherhood and a fulfilling career requires a thoughtful approach, unveiling a landscape of strategies that empower women to embrace their professional ambitions alongside the joys of raising a family.

Redefining success in motherhood and career

‘Redefining success in motherhood and career is a personal journey that involves challenging societal norms. Embrace your values, reevaluate traditional norms, and prioritize work-life integration. Set realistic goals, practice self-care, and seek support. Let go of guilt, define your success metrics, and be flexible. Find inspiration in the stories of those who have successfully balanced motherhood and career. Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all approach; create a path that aligns with your values and unique circumstances,’ says Katerina Meimaroglou, Founder, Managing Partner, Kestria Greece.

As per Hong Nguyen, Managing Partner Search, Kestria Vietnam, balancing the roles of both a business owner and a mother is a highly challenging process. Redefining success between these two roles is crucial, serving as the foundation for life balance and career success. ‘First and foremost, you must identify your values and understand what makes you an excellent mother and how well you have performed as a business leader. From there, create clearer plans and goals in your life. Next, you need to proactively and flexibly manage your time and remote work to both care for and educate your children while ensuring work productivity. Most importantly, seek support from family members to alleviate this pressure.’

Balancing career and maternity leave

‘Balancing career and maternity leave can be challenging for working mothers, often leading to fears of career stagnation. However, it's important to recognize maternity leave as a legitimate aspect of a woman's life. Maintaining professional connections through technology, such as part-time or remote work, helps women stay skilled, informed, and connected with colleagues and mentors. Virtual events and meetings also provide opportunities for participation. 'I've personally navigated this journey in the past year, finding it a mix of challenges, joys, and happiness. Initially, it was important to remember that motherhood didn't diminish my professional goals.

Generous maternity leave policies in Latvia were helpful, but I also worried about my career. I understood that to overcome the fear of career stagnation it's essential to have open and transparent communication with your employer, setting clear expectations and discussing strategies to stay connected and engaged during the leave. Motherhood taught me valuable time management and prioritization skills. With this experience, I'm committed to breaking societal stereotypes around motherhood and careers, believing women shouldn't have to choose between the two.’ Krista Kristiana Ziedina, Consultant, Member of the Board, Kestria Latvia.

Effective time management strategies

Per Monicca Yan, Managing Director, Kestria China & Singapore having a demanding career and being a mother or caregiver can be challenging. As companies embrace hybrid work models, productivity and employee satisfaction are on the rise. Balancing work and family demands is more manageable, but effectiveness requires an agile yet structured approach to scheduling. ‘International work travel has resumed, with a shift in purpose. Virtual meetings, being more efficient, save travel time. Trips to other offices now prioritize large team meetings over smaller discussions, reducing time away from home for mothers in regional or international roles.

Technology enables remote project tracking, reducing the necessity for physical office presence. Leaders should trust and empower teams for a win-win outcome. The future of work emphasizes outcomes over office hours, granting employees flexibility to balance household and family responsibilities, enabling better planning for non-work commitments while meeting or exceeding work targets,’ adds Monicca Yan.

Handling Guilt and Criticism

‘The “motherhood penalty” refers to the price women pay for raising children while still employed in the traditional workforce, where we’re less likely to be promoted, will earn lower salaries and, most damaging, will be held to higher standards than fathers who work outside of the home. Conversely, there is a real “fatherhood bonus” where men benefit by having children; research has shown that they are paid more and are more likely to be hired than non-fathers. There is a tongue-in-cheek quote that goes along the lines of “we (mothers) are expected to parent as if we don’t have jobs and work as if we don’t have families”. We’re penalised for being perceived to put our children over our careers, we’re criticised for prioritising work. 

While the concept of the workplace itself needs to catch up to modern standards of equity and equality and reorganise itself around parents who work (who make up a not insubstantial part of the workforce), all people with children need to learn to support each other and not be so isolated in our parenting. Reshma Saujani refers to “collectively parenting loudly”; we need not think that our struggles are our own and the sooner we give ourselves and each other latitude, the better off we’ll all be, mentally and professionally,’ states Advaita Naidoo, MD, Africa, Kestria South Africa & USA.

Negotiating flexible work arrangements

'In today's highly competitive and rapidly evolving work landscape, women and companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of negotiating flexible work arrangements that not only respond to their personal needs but also help to better gender equality in workplaces. Embracing remote work options and encouraging equal partner involvement are two powerful strategies women can employ to achieve a better balance. Remote work definitely provides women with the flexibility to better manage their professional and personal responsibilities. It also reduces the geographical constraints that may have limited their career choices. 

Furthermore, by advocating for equal partner involvement in domestic responsibilities, women can foster a more equitable distribution of household duties, allowing both partners to fully engage in their careers. As women continue to develop their careers in this challenging, competitive and demanding world of work, negotiating tactics may empower them to reaffirm their worth, contribute with their talent and reduce the gap in their workplace.’ Constanza Ossa, General Manager Kestria Chile.

Creative workplace cultures that enable working parents to thrive

‘In the quest for work-life balance in today's world, becoming an advocate and nurturing innovative workplace cultures that empower working parents is an essential stride. Not only does supporting mothers who are balancing their careers with motherhood benefit the individuals, but it also enhances the inclusivity and productivity of the work environment. The journey commences with the acknowledgment of the unique challenges faced by working mothers and the proactive effort to address their specific needs. Methods like endorsing flexible work schedules, championing remote work opportunities, and providing childcare support are practical measures that can drive positive change.

At Kestria UAE and Egypt, our team's unwavering focus remains on achieving results and meeting client expectations, regardless of traditional working hours. The concept of working from home hinges on trust and cultivating a sense of ownership among team members, fostering strong engagement in the company's growth. By championing these initiatives and cultivating an atmosphere where employees are empowered to balance their dual roles effectively, we can genuinely enable working parents to thrive, thereby inspiring a more equitable and harmonious future for all,’ Rania Abdalla, Founder & Managing Director, Kestria UAE & Egypt.

Summary

Per Celine Chabee, Partner, Kestria Canada & USA, balancing motherhood and a career is a universal challenge women face worldwide. While cultural and societal norms may vary, the fundamental struggle to manage work and family life demands is a shared experience. This delicate balancing act involves navigating societal expectations, workplace policies, and personal choices. The global conversation around motherhood and career is tightly connected to gender equality and work-life balance and continues to evolve, reshaping our understanding of family dynamics and societal expectations. It is crucial to recognize the importance of supporting parents in their diverse roles and the variety of phases and balances they navigate. 

‘Decentralizing the debate from focusing solely on the part of mothers to embracing the broader status of parenthood alongside personal and professional development is more egalitarian and promotes justice and inclusivity. Undoubtedly, it is the most effective approach to alleviate the narrow perspective and pressures linked to the singular status of motherhood, promoting shared responsibility, and fostering a commitment at societal, organizational, and global levels, all in harmony with the evolving nature of our world,’ adds Celine Chabee.

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