Keeping it real: Does having kids change your career?


I recently read a post that infuriated me. “Does having kids ruin your career’. There were 2 things about this that made my blood boil. Firstly the use of the word ‘ruin’. I mean come on we are talking about human lives here. Secondly the outrageous comments that were being posted many of which were attacking women who ‘chose’ to work.

The thing is it’s a simple debate – do what is right for you and your family. What you can afford to do, what works for your future and your goals and what makes you be the best mum you can be. Unfortunately it’s an on-going debate and one that everyone has an opinion on…so here’s mine.

What I’m really worried about is all the struggling working mums out there like myself who are only just managing to keep it all together and have the daily guilt of leaving their kids as well as the guilt of what you may not be achieving or gaining from work, and it’s a really hard spot to be!

Having kids doesn’t ‘ruin’ your career but it certainly change it. Let me also be clear in my world there is a distinct difference between jobs and careers. Careers are jobs people have in which they aspire to progress, be the best at and have a passion, drive and interest in. Jobs are simply something people attend as a means to an end – again neither is right or wrong as we are all different.

When I left to go on maternity leave I remember so many people saying ‘that’s Nix done, she wont be back she’s having twins’. Despite the fact that I was legally on maternity leave, there were people approaching me telling me they were sad I had quit, however I hadn’t but there was an assumption that I wouldn’t return.

It was always my plan to return to work for many reasons. Primarily financial (kids are expensive) and secondly I have worked hard on my career, was studying and was not ready to walk away on a career I had built and still had so much to give to. That’s where many may say I’m selfish and unfortunately in many industries (like mine) putting your career on hold for an extended period of time results in losing skills and then upon return you are not as appealing to employers. So more than a year off didn’t feel like an option to me.

The truth is, as soon as I walked back in the door after being nothing but a mum for a year, I just went back to work. I slotted straight back into working. I was just me. The only difference…I kept checking on how my kids were.

I don’t feel guilty saying that because it doesn’t mean I don’t love my kids, miss them or I don’t think about them. No, I am always in contact with how they are and how they are going but I just slotted back to being good old working me. Nothing had changed in me. I didn’t suddenly hate my job in fact it was even harder because I discovered…I still bloody love it!

The problem only came as I settled back into work and with that returned my desire to achieve and my drive to progress and this is where I believe many mums come unstuck.

It may be a promotion, a specialised project, a new job opportunity or even a relocation, but it’s not until you face those challenges that you really realise how much having children affects your career path. It’s not that kids ‘ruin’ your career but you will most likely have to change your career direction and goals for your kids and this can be a hard adjustment.

I have had to pass up opportunities that have been offered, I have not given to my team as I would have liked to at times because I need to be a mum and I have dealt with gut wrenching guilt leaving my kids and feeling like I’m failing as a mum by going to work. But that is the reality of being a working mum.

It doesn’t matter if you work full-time, part-time, at home or you don’t work you will deal with guilt- that I have learnt. And it really doesn’t matter what others think it’s up to you and your family plan what you do. But one thing is for sure, if you are a driven, career aspiring woman you probably wont stop being that when you have your children and you will go through a time where your career will change as a result of having kids.

Ultimately it’s about changing your goals and your headspace. Something I have never been good at but am having to learn to do and quickly. Its about learning that you have to say no, learning you have to keep a perfect balance to ensure it all works and not beating yourself up for not giving 200% to both.

It’s also about accepting where you are at and that nothing is ‘ruined’ it’s just different.

My tip: don’t ever stop punching for what you want to achieve but when things pass you by or don’t go the way business you wanted just hug your kids, go to the park, play and laugh and remember you will sacrifice everything and do anything for them and that’s what mums (and dads) do.

We discussed this on my new podcast “Keeping it Real” check it out and follow our next working mum