Janine Esbrand, Obelisk Consultant and founder of LightBOX Coaching takes a constructive look at motherhood and careers.
“I know so many mums who changed once they became mums and it’s so liberating; now I know that I only really started living once I became a mum, as I felt I could do anything!”
Many ambitious female lawyers reaching the end of the long road to qualification and having settled into her legal career as a junior lawyer, may then face the question of motherhood. This throws up a lot of questions: ‘When is the best time to take a career break?’, ‘Do I need to establish myself more first? ‘How will I fit in having a baby when I work such long hours?’ and ‘How could working part-time work with such a demanding job?’
So many questions, with seemingly difficult answers. The common view is that taking a career break to have a child or children will have a detrimental effect on your career.
Becoming a working mother is not easy, but embracing motherhood and taking a career break doesn’t have to be accompanied with clouds of doom and worry. It may be just what you need to find your way to a fulfilling work life.
Here are 4 ways that becoming a mother can be beneficial to your career:
- You will assess your values – Having leapt onto the career treadmill, it is so easy to stay on track; University, Law School, Training Contract, Newly Qualified Solicitor, Associate, Senior Associate and then Partner. For many of us we travel along this path without stopping to assess whether achieving partnership really is the end goal for us. When you have a child you are forced to assess your values and what is important. If you are going to leave your precious little human in childcare to go to work, you will be more inclined to consider whether the work that you do aligns with your values. It is prime time to also assess your circumstances and have frank conversations with your partner about your respective career aspirations, demands and sharing child care responsibilities.
- You learn to manage your time more effectively – Once you are back at work, you essentially lead a double life. You need to engage your brain to produce high quality work and to meet the inevitable time restrictions that childcare provision imposes. Sharing these responsibilities with your partner and involving wider family members (if possible) will be part of the juggling that is now part of your life. Many women (and fathers) report that these added time pressures on your day, if managed well can lead to increased clarity, focus and time efficiency. The number of random chats you have at the coffee machine or those extended periods you may have spent surfing the internet is replaced with laser focused intention to get your work done fast.
- You get the opportunity to broaden your horizons – Whilst the obvious focus of the early weeks is you and your baby, maternity leave also presents an opportunity to explore new things. You can meet a new people through pre and post-natal classes, who have different working experiences. Depending on the length of your maternity leave and workplace situation, you may be able to utilise keep in touch days or find online materials (podcasts, blogs, etc.) that can help keep your brain ticking over whilst spending time with your babbling baby and can later be used when you return to work.
- Confidence – There is something about knowing that you have birthed and nurtured another human being that gives you a sense of achievement, which in turn boosts your confidence. By the time your child reaches 1 year old, you will have achieved so many milestones and reached a level of competence that you never thought you would reach. This will help you to realise that you are capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for. This confidence can translate to your career goals if you let it.
If you believe that motherhood is going to be good for your career, it can be. Yes, there will be challenges, compromise and sacrifice. But, if you decide what is important to you and then ensure that all of your decisions align with those values you will be able to carve out a career and work life that works for you.
Janine Esbrand is a corporate / commercial lawyer and the founder of LightBOX Coaching, which helps female lawyers to build a career that they are passionate about whilst raising a family. www.lightboxcoaching.com