Women at work, beyond the 9 to 5: The untold realities of working mothers’ lives.
Charlotte has two girls aged 18 months and 6 years. She’s married and works a “greedy job” in consulting. We talked about what it’s like trying to parent when both parents work big jobs. Spoiler, it’s really hard!
From one greedy job to another, with two small children
Charlotte’s story didn’t end with being pushed out of work after announcing her pregnancy. She landed on her feet in a consulting role and plans to make partner by the end of this year or early next year.
But it’s still a huge challenge.
“It’s a day-to-day prospect, questioning whether I can do this, whether I want to do this. The juggle is real, and it’s very, very hard.”
Having worked in consulting straight out of university for six years, Charlotte says there are some positive changes.
“Partners back in the day were all men and none of their wives worked, so they had no concept – it was like the 50’s. They had literally never had to bath a child or put them to bed. They just work, and then they travel, and go out after work. The biggest change is it’s not really like that anymore.
“There is a crop of younger partners. They’re still mostly men, but there are some that have wives that work – always part time, none of them have a full time working partner. It is much more normal now to have a block in your diary between 5 and 8pm, which says ‘family time’. You can talk to me now but I’m literally feeding a child and having spaghetti thrown all over me.”
Burnout working a big job when you have kids
Her husband also works a demanding role, and Charlotte thinks the real question is whether you can have two people both working full time and have children.
“I think it’s very hard. I’m very involved as a parent – I spent so long to get here! But it’s really hard with my type of job. So that means I work very long hours. I’m back online once the girls are in bed every single night until at least midnight. And I don’t have any time for myself.”
She is worried about burning out, but while she’s still on track for Partner Charlotte is determined to keep going. That milestone is lifechanging, and she says she’ll be able to retire at 50 with a 16 year old and an 11 year old.
Burnout is a real concern, with new research showing 77% of women have experienced it in the past year, and more than a third saying caring responsibilities are hindering career progression.
How job design options would help
But Charlotte grapples with the same thing as many ambitious, high achieving women once they have a family. The struggle of full time work and parenting is relentless, and she doesn’t want to have to take a backwards career step after years of hard work and being in influencing executive roles.
“If I want to remain at this level in my career, it’s just hard no matter what. I don’t know what else what the option is. Go and work a few rungs down the food chain and just give everything up. And a part of me is like, ‘Why do I have to give everything up?”
A lack of job share and senior part time options is a critical piece that’s missing from supporting active parents in senior corporate roles. There are women like Charlotte who have a huge amount to contribute and want a fulfilling career – but not everyone has the ability to keep going so hard for so long to try to make it all work.
Charlotte also gets annoyed at people pointing out of unusual success stories.
“I’m like, that’s one woman who managed to do it. And by the way, let’s not forget that she’s basically a rocket scientist who did what she’s doing at the UN. You know that old quote saying, ‘We can be comfortable when there’s as many average female CEOs as there are average men’. Women have to be amazing, incredible, in the top 0.01% to make it and then look around at all these blokes and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, you are Captain Average’.”
“Like, how lucky for you that you don’t have to worry about what colour t-shirt you have to rush and buy at Kmart for the sports carnival on Wednesday. The luxury of being able to just your work. What a luxury.”
Building a culture where everyone can thrive
Shifting a culture to enable meaningful part time work, ensure women aren’t sidelined if they have a family, and where you get the full value of your diverse and experienced workforce, takes time and investment.
Find out more about how I can help here.
*Not her real name. Because of the stigma faced by working mothers, the motherhood penalty, and the fact that the state of women’s relationships directly affects the state of their lives and careers, the women in this series have chosen to remain anonymous.
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