Coping Mechanisms for Career Mothers

Are you torn between your career and home? Or are you one of the few efficiently balancing both? If so, what are (or were) your secrets?

Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, offers mothers an advice. She recommends “coping mechanisms.” Watch this video to catch it, and other advices she gave. Married for 30+ years; any wonder that she was able to successfully balance both career and her home?

. . .

Having a successful and rewarding career and a happy home where both parents are happily present for lunch, or at the dinner table, with their children, has become a rarity. Parents attending their children’s PTA’s, sporting, or end-of-year activities has become a luxury because of work and/or due to working late hours. It is not unusual for the parents also not to see each other. As a result of the need to have one parent home with the children, most parents chose alternate work hours where one works the regular 8-5 hours and the other works the night or graveyard shift.

Granted that these scenarios have shifted due to covid19. Covid19 now has “forced” parents to engage more with their children making it one of the good things that came out of it. However, what are parents going to do when it’s over and we return to normalcy?

The biological clock and the career clock are in total conflict with each other.

Indra Nooyi

For most mothers, and according to Nooyi, the biological and career clocks are in conflict with each other. I totally agree with her. Neither does one clock chooses to wait for the other. Each goes the opposite way and the gap widens and never converge.

Some cultures, especially Africans and Asians, have the extended family support system that surround them with love and the necessary pro bono help in times of need such as new births, deaths, surgeries, etc. Others employ the help (maid, driver, chef, etc.) as they are relatively cheaper.

In the Western culture, however, help is scarce or non-existence. Tons of families are therefore torn between fulfilling a rewarding career and or balancing their homes soon after childbirth or during the growing years of their children. I was. With a husband who, at the time was more of a traveling salesman than working his real profession, it was hard to keep both smoothly. I remembered the budget period and crunch times were the times when one or both my kids tended to be ill and their dad was not around or he couldn’t take off.

I couldn’t tell if it was because they missed their dad or just nature (or nurture) telling me that I had to choose. Why couldn’t I have it all?

Summertime was also a challenge. Most summer events or schools ran short for a week or two at a time and drop offs and pick ups ran contrary to corporate hours. I eventually chose and made the decision to be a stay-at-home parent. No more “begging” others to pick my kids up for me or having them stay after-school 3-4 hours till they were picked up or paying the $1/minute charges when they weren’t picked up on time. (Sigh). And being involved in sports, though great for their well-being and a relief to occupy their growing minds, often came with its own challenges.

I’m glad those years are behind us now. Though my career took a dip and turn, I did not regret the decision at all.

If you’re a career mother or parent, how did you cope pre-covid?

Who stays home when the kids are sick?

For us at the time, it was unwritten and assumed that the mother/wife should be the one to take off. One of the cultural pass-downs. I knew a lot of households where the mothers were the chosen ones to take off. But should it really be?

Other things being considered, such as who has more flexibility at work, whose work/career is more accommodating and can work from home, who is the higher-paid parent, tenure on-the-job, etc., must be addressed.

Either way, whoever takes off more will impact his/her career notwithstanding the paid time off (family, personal, or sick) benefits that the work provides.

Opportunity Cost

Yes, we paid for day care. At the time, having a nanny was unpopular and too expensive for us – one of us might as well stay home to do the job.

However, if the benefits of going to work and pursuing a career is greater for you than the cost of employing a nanny, by all means go for it. I’m a believer in benefits and costs. The benefits must always outweigh its costs to be worth pursuing.

. . .

What coping mechanisms did you impose on yourself or home in order to balance your career, especially as a mother, while raising your children?

Thanks for reading and sharing your coping mechanisms.

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