Since giving birth to my two sons, I've been amazed at the ways having a baby can help your career, largely in spite of the ways we as a country fail to support working mothers. But when I found out I was pregnant with my oldest son back in 2010, a million questions about how my life would change flooded my mind. Near the top of my list was wondering what would happen to my career in television, one I had spent years building and was immensely proud of. My assumption was that it would be negatively impacted by having children; I was wrong.
Plenty has been said about the ways in which having a baby can be detrimental to one's career, and I want to preface this with the acknowledgement that my ability to say having a baby helped my career comes from a place of privilege. I have a supportive and involved partner, we were able to afford childcare, and I work in an industry that allows me to negotiate my salary regularly. Many women do not have those luxuries, and since we also don't have a federal law that grants paid maternity leave to new mothers, many women find their careers in direct opposition to their new role as mom.
But for me, I found that having a child helped me harness my power in the workplace and figure out how valuable my time and talents actually were. Here are the five ways becoming a mom helped my career, and how it can hopefully help yours as well.
1. It Can Make You A Better Negotiator
As a freelancer, I have rarely had staff positions where I earned a yearly salary. Instead, I would negotiate a new salary with every new job, which typically came every few months. While I was aware of the "motherhood penalty" in relationship to the gender pay gap, I actually became a better negotiator after the birth of my children, and that's largely because I could put a hard number on what it would cost me in childcare to take said position. If a job wasn't going to pay me enough to cover childcare and still earn me a profit, it simply wasn't worth doing the job, and I had no problem saying so.
What I found in knowing what my number was in terms of salary was that more often than not, if I asked for more money, I got it. Historically, women have not negotiated for more money as frequently as men have. One study, as reported by the Harvard Business Review, noted that amongst a group of graduating MBA students half of the men negotiated their job offers as compared to only one eighth of the women.
So while you may be nervous about asking for more money, as I certainly was before I became a mom, I learned very quickly that in most cases, there is always more money available. You just have to learn how to ask for what you're worth, which I didn't know how to do until I had a baby.
2. It Can Make You More Efficient
The truth of the matter is, most people waste an extraordinary amount of time at work. One study, as reported by the New York Post, revealed that the average employee wastes more than eight hours per work week on things that have nothing to do with the job. Other studies put that number even higher. And while I can't say that I never wasted time at work after having a baby, I can say with 100 percent certainty that I became a more efficient worker once my sons were born; that has everything to do with wanting to get home to them as quickly as possible.
When you know that bedtime is coming and your chances of seeing your child awake depend solely on being able to get out of the office at a certain time, I promise you that scrolling social media or chatting with Susan at the water cooler will become much less enticing ways to spend your time at work.
3. It Can Boost Your Confidence
I am certain that nothing in the world is harder than raising a child. Nothing. No matter what challenges you face at work, they won't be as hard as trying to figure out why your toddler has so many meltdowns. I've found that my confidence in being able to solve hurdles at work has exponentially increased since I became a mom.
Motherhood is essentially one problem-solving test after the other, so at work I've become a master at looking at a problem, assessing how I can best help, and then executing a solution as efficiently as possible. Essentially, I approach work the same way I approach getting my kids to bed each night. Though I must admit my success rate is probably much higher at work on that one.
4. It Can Lead You To A New Path
There's no better time to re-evaluate what matters to you than when you become a parent. For me, I wanted to make sure that if I was going to spend all those hours away from my family that it was worth it, and not just in the financial sense. So many moms I know found themselves at a crossroads when they became moms, and the realities of continuing at the same job, or in the same field, no longer worked for them. So whether you find yourself embarking on an entirely new career, or finding a company that better supports working mothers, embrace the opportunity motherhood gives you to find a new, more meaningful path that works better for your growing family.
5. It Can Expand Your Network
I cannot stress the significance of this last one enough. When you have a baby, and you start taking that baby out in the world, you will meet people who can help you advance in your career. Whether it be at baby classes, or pre-school, or even those dreaded weekend sports games that start at the crack of dawn, you never know who is around you that can open up a new door until you start talking to them. Yes, you actually have to talk to the other parents if you want to make this happen, but I can tell you from personal experience that many beneficial professional relationships have come to me from meeting other new parents.
So listen, working and being a mom don't always go together like peanut butter and jelly, but with the right attitude and support you really can see the fruits of your (baby) labor when it comes to advancing your career. Now go out there and get 'em, mama!