This week, Serena Williams made headlines for announcing her pregnancy on Snapchat. The news of a Williams baby in the making is amazing in itself, but the fact that Serena won the Australian Open while pregnant is totally jaw dropping.
As a mother myself, I’ll never forget the exhilaration of discovering, wow this really IS happening. That excitement is swiftly followed by the huge question of “how will I make this work when it comes to my work?” Eight years into motherhood I’m still figuring that out, but here a few of the questions I’ve been asked by other women who are considering starting a family and some of the things I’ve learned along the way.
Is it possible to have it all?
This question will always be a really tough one for me. I guess it depends on how you look at it and who is asking the question. Some people may consider if you’ve maintained, or returned to, a career while raising a family that in itself means hell yes, you can have it all. Others, especially those of us who feel the pain of constantly juggling balls as a working mother, may feel the constant stress means shortchanging their kids, their job and themselves.
I personally have often felt perilously close to spiralling into a complete meltdown at the exact same time others have perceived me to be knocking things out of the park. And that in a nutshell is the problem. Women generally are perceived to be highly skilled at multi-tasking. We won’t want to drop the ball when it comes to our kids and we won’t want to drop the ball at work.
Despite all of the joy starting a family brings, the emotional and financial impact of parenthood cannot be truly be understood until you’re in the thick of it. And when you’re in the thick of it you pretty much go into survival mode and do the best you can.
I spent a long time being tough on myself for not getting enough done. I’ve slowly come to realize that the yardstick by which I measure success needed to change. I’ve also learned that taking time to look after my own well being, as well as my kids, is of the utmost importance if I want to be able to do my best work. The reality though is I’m tired ALL the time.
How much should I budget for childcare?
Well, the truthful answer is childcare is likely to cost way more than you probably think. I didn’t even research childcare costs before I decided to start my family which probably, in hindsight, was for the best as I would’ve been shocked to the core. The cost of childcare varies greatly depending on the options you explore, but regardless of where you live or how much child care you need, figuring out how to budget for it can be tough.
If you want to start a family and are planning ahead it’s a good idea to talk to working mothers you know about their childcare arrangements and the ballpark costs to give you some parameters to work with. The cost is higher for smaller infants and generally decreases as you child gets older… until college kicks in of course. You can also check out this great post – five things you must do before having kids – which has some brilliant advice from Sallie Krawcheck of Ellevest on how to prepare financially for having a baby.
How much time should I take off for maternity leave?
This is another tough question to answer. First and foremost, if you are unfamiliar with your employer’s parental leave policies chat to HR to help figure that out so you know your options. In actuality, pregnancies can end up being shorter, or longer, than you may anticipate and even with the best laid plans, until your baby arrives it’s so hard to know what may end up working out best for you.
Again, talking to other working mothers can be a big help, but everyone’s pregnancy is different and your experience and preferences will be unique to you. My advice would be to make a plan with your employer but be prepared that those plans may change as things progress. If you are considering taking a career break while you have a family this post – what a career break can do to your finances – has some solid advice on how to approach your finances.
How has starting a family impacted your career?
Without a doubt, being a working parent is tough. Everything requires careful planning and consideration. My day starts way earlier than it ever used to just to be able to get my kids up and ready for their day, which I have to do before I can even start thinking of mine. And on the tail end, late nights at the office or extended business trips are no longer easy options.
On the plus side, becoming a parent has made me laser focused. I don’t have time to waste in my day anymore. I simply have to get things done. I work faster, harder and more efficiently. I initially opted to take a career break for a little while, as a result my earning potential took a huge hit and it took me a long time to be ok with that. Which brings me back full circle to the question is it possible to have it all? In truth, I think it is and it isn’t.
Being a working mother throws up challenges that can seem insurmountable at times, but at the end of the day it’s only when you look back you realize, damn, there are ups and downs but I’m making it work. I think each of us ultimately finds our own way to make it work, through trial and error. It can be messy, frustrating and straight up exhausting. But, I accomplish way more now than I ever did before I had kids, personally and professionally. How I approach and execute my career is different to how it was before, but I’m ok with that. Making that adjustment takes time. It’s not a switch you can just turn on. I’m constantly learning and figuring it out as I go, a lot like my kids.
Post by Octavia Goredema @OctaviaGoredema