The Parenting Profession

What an honor! I’ve been invited to be a guest panelist for a public conversation by my university.

The talks are hosted by different cafés throughout the semester, to tackle a variety of “societal challenges”. Anyone can come and give their opinion, and it’s a great way to learn and exchange ideas.

The topic I will be tackling:

The Parenting Profession: What impact does taking parental leave have on our ability to work and plan a career?

That’s a bit of a stumper. Where to begin?

Well, my first thought is, “I’m grateful.”

I know that I’m lucky to live in a country where I can get a year of paid leave. But let’s face it. It’s not just about the money, right? So much changes in our life from the moment we hold a precious baby in our arms. And then the impending return to work looms and our careers take a turn… down where?

So I’m gathering ideas to discuss with the crowd showing up at my favorite mama-baby coffee shop, Melons & Clementines, and I need your help.

How has your career fared since you had a baby?

Working hard for our little munchkins!

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “The Parenting Profession

  1. wordsfallfrommyeyes

    My career – well, it’s always been just a job. But I’ve had to leave several jobs because I couldn’t keep my energy up. Crashed, left job, recovered, started again. Oh for support!

  2. Although I can’t offer any advice since I haven’t been there myself, I just thought I would say congrats on being invited as a guest panelist! 🙂

  3. Before I found out I was pregnant, I’d actually intended to start taking classes for a career change to medicine. There’s no way I want to be negotiating software contracts for the rest of my life!

    By the same token, once I met my little guy, my work life didn’t seem so pressing. It felt much more like something I had to do for a bit of money to sustain everything I did outside the office. Right now I’m working 8-4:30 with an employer that understands the scheduling issues that arise with having a little one. That’s an invaluable thing to have. I know it won’t last forever, but I’m grateful while it does.

    • I believe you’ve just described the perfect job. Some money coming in, flexible hours, an understanding boss… I’m really happy for you! I hope it lasts for as long as you need it.
      Just like you, I’ve also experienced that shift in values after my baby was born. I still love what I do, but it can’t compare to the great joy of being a mom.

  4. Jess

    Congratulations on the panelist invitation! How exciting.

    I haven’t had a career since Chubbs was born because I have been trying to finish my degree to be better qualified. I have attended many events at my college, where I learned a great deal from networking. I had the opportunity to hear Gloria Steinem talk and met with many women who are professionals in tech fields. The differences between what men and women experience regarding their families and careers amaze me.

    I’m not able to give much input, but I would really like to hear more about this discussion. Some day I hope to fight for improved conditions for American working mothers and their children. Inability to balance family and career could be quite harmful to both!

    • That’s a really good point! I think how men and women have different views on family and career is at the crux of the problem.

      From all I read, you’re doing quite the balancing act! In fact, I think it’s much tougher to be studying, because your brain is ingesting all this information and dealing with intense concentration, while a job is usually all on automatic.

      I’ll write a synopsis on the conversation this week. I’m sure there will be lots of ideas worth exploring. I wonder what Steinem would say…

  5. CJ

    Hi Karla – wow, congratulations. I wish I could come to the talk. I’m not sure if my experience is relevant given that I live in the US and we are woefully short on family-friend policies here. However, I’m fairly certain that the conundrum of balancing a career with being a mother is universal.

    To me, the holy grail is to find a fulfilling, career-enhancing part-time job that allows me to spend some time with my daughter and some time caring for my future self. I fretted about this for months after P. was born and now, eighteen months later, I think I’ve found a model that *might* work.

    I’ve recently started my second career as a freelance writer (my first career was as a health policy analyst). So far, I’ve not made enough $ to pay for Poppy’s daycare but I’m sure I’ll get there, and besides, it feels great to be doing something creative. If I had put her into daycare so that I could sit in a windowless cubicle all day, I would be miserable.

    I was terribly envious of my British friends who had a year’s maternity leave before going back to work. It was a great struggle for me to work out what my post-baby career should be. I am envious of you for being able to pick up your previous career almost where you left off. Was it a relief to be able to step back into the river, no guess-work required?

    I suspect that there’s still more to be done to make an old job flexible enough to accommodate a mother’s new life. Also, having both the mother and the father equally involved is a far-off goal. And, if you are working part-time in an old job, I’m guessing that there are new challenges arising from being in that twilight zone between home and work. Nonetheless, having parental leave allows one to draw a distinction between slog work to pay the bills, and having a career that sustains you once your children go to school. I’m very jealous.

    Good luck with your talk. Let us know how it goes! – CJ

    • Thanks so much for your input! And very relevant because as you say, it’s a universal challenge.

      Yes, I do feel very lucky to be able to step back in the office as if nothing changed. Except for one thing, though everything at work remained the same, I had changed. Parental leave helps, but I think there’s still a step left to make things easier for moms (and dads). Employers need to accommodate parents and their obligations to their families, and do so without griping about it. It has to become second-nature, as parental leave has become in our work-life experience.

      I know that things are not as family-friendly in the States. That’s just tragic. I’m glad you found a way to stay at home for so long, but so many didn’t have that choice. I hope that changes soon.

      I wish with all my heart that your freelance work plan becomes a success. As you’re a very talented writer, I’m sure it will!

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