Motherhood & career Q&A with Femme Palette mentors

Written by
Femme Palette
Published on
August 13, 2023

We have recently released a new e-book on the topic of Balancing motherhood and career. Besides addressing issues which working moms often face and giving tips, we asked 5 Femme Palette mentors to share their own experience and advice, and we bring you this interview now as a taste of what the full e-book covers. Here is what they had to say. 

Many women ask the question “How can I plan for a successful career and have a family?” What would be your answer to it?

Kristina Sabakova, HR & Communication Manager at Currys CoE: My advice on planning career and family life is have a plan but be flexible about it. Talk openly about it with your partner and superior. If your plan is to return back to your career fully after a certain time (whether it is 6 months, a year or two), it’s important to think about how you will organize care of your baby after that. Switch with your partner, use private day care, hire a nanny? Whatever it is, plan ahead. 

Wait lists in private day care can be up to a year or even more, nannies also have plans months/years ahead, partners need to prepare their employer for parental leave too. But even with a perfect plan, things can change. Your baby is not healthy, or you find out that staying at home is more rewarding for you than you expected. Circumstances can change. Once plans change, you should talk about it openly with your superior at work, so they too, can plan their projects or staffing accordingly. 

Even during maternity leave, I would recommend staying in touch with your professional community. Meet with colleagues, take part in professional meetups, or webinars online, join mentoring (whether as a mentor or a mentee) or work on smaller projects that will be doable even in the amount of time you have at your disposal.

Michaela Kubyova, Manager, Mentor and Coach in Banking and Professional Services Firms: Firstly, define what having a family and successful career looks like for you. Be as specific as you can. Ask questions like how would my days look like?  What will I devote to my career and what will be my role in the family? Make it specific and plan the first step toward your goal and make it. And than step by step … even baby steps counts. 

To sum up, plan and go for it! Last but not least, ask for help, create your supporting network: friends, family, community, sponsors, mentors or coaches. 

I also believe in quote by Henry Ford “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right.

Lenka Vornhagen, Coach, Mentor, Consultant: I was in my thirties, in an HR manager position in an automotive corporate and with no experience. I believed that it could work to be a mum also having her career life (as I experienced by example in England where I lived for 2 years before). I found a nanny, and fortunately, it did work.

Later on, with 3 small kids and a partner out of the house the whole week, I realised that to continue with a corporate career would not bring balance for anyone in the family, and I set up my own business where I could manage time for my job and children according to our needs. It has also been a great opportunity to start my project Mothers at Work where I am helping women with the career & motherhood balance.

Kristyna Leniczka, Coach and HR & Ops Manager at Geetoo: From my experience as a coach, I have noticed that women rather have the ambitions to have it all than submit to the fact that it will have to be them who sacrifice their job. Many women are actively seeking ways how to combine motherhood and career. They want to be part of the business world. Yet, there are many factors playing into this thought process.  The stigma of being a mother in an executive role is also still very much alive as well as not being the primary carer of the child and the combination of these factors is bringing women to the point where they actually have to choose.

For many women, thinking of starting a family means that you have to sacrifice your career. What were your thoughts when you started thinking about having a family? Did you feel like you can have it all, or that you have to choose?

Veronika Smrckova, Software developer at Ricardo Prague: I never thought about my career too much and I did not have a concrete plan in my head when I was about to have a baby. I was only worried that the technology would go too fast for me and after many years at home I wouldn't be of any use as a software developer. I already worked with somewhat outdated technologies.

Can you share your own story of balancing motherhood and career? What were your expectations at first, and how different were they from reality?

Veronika: So I decided I want to stay in touch with my work and I started working a bit 5 months after the birth of my son. I did not have high expectations, but he was a good sleeper, so at first I thought I would be able to work 12 hours a week. But usually I worked just 8. Still, it was fine, I was happy and refused to work late nights, just during the day when he slept. 

After a year we switched with my husband, and I went back to work full time. When I was expecting my second child, covid started, nurseries closed, and suddenly I had to stay at home full time, because we switched again about 3 months before and I worked only part time again (20 hours). 

My husband got a much better paid job and I stayed at home for almost two years, which was totally unexpected, but I had two kids to take care of and nobody to help. The second one did not sleep much during the day, so there was no chance for me to work at least a bit. I did not like it, but in the times of covid it was the only meaningful solution for us. Finally I persuaded my husband to switch again, aware that our income would decrease by 40%. At that time I was kind of burned out and our marriage almost fell apart. I had to start going to therapy, find the right relationship with my kids again and find confidence again. I had started using a new technique and at the beginning I felt totally useless. We also went to couple therapy and worked hard on putting everything back together. It took us about 9 months, but now I can say we are happy again. Being able to work full time again was a big part of it. I would never imagine that having kids can affect your partnership that much.

Motherhood brings about a lot of transferable skills to your career. How can you make motherhood shape your career for the better?

Kristina: For me it was definitely the way you set up priorities, manage your time, and stay firm with your decisions. If a colleague asks you to attend a meeting that hasn’t been scheduled, out of your working hours, and you know you just must pick up your kids, you decline, because kids are the priority. Colleagues need to learn that you cannot extend your work hours or responsibilities indefinitely, but need to do it smartly. If you take some new tasks on, something old needs to go to someone else. I learned to be firmer with extras I always said yes to before. Time with my kids is important to me, and despite the fact that I love my job, I love my kids more.

Michaela: As a mother you are achieving many skills, which can be used anywhere. The list of skills starts with management, logistics, planning, advising, coordinating, creating, driving, budget controlling, optimising, and many others. From my personal experience as a mother, manager and coach, I believe that motherhoods brings you mainly efficiency, ability to prioritise, and perspective.

What advice would you give to women who are already mothers and are struggling with balancing motherhood and career?

Michaela: Each stage of life has its priorities and challenges. Balancing motherhood and career will look different for each of us, as well as now or in three years time. In my personal experience, balancing motherhood and career is sometimes exhausting; you are tired, you may feel guilty not being a good parent or not doing enough at work etc. 

However, you can always improve. Make specific what balance actually means for you. What do you miss or what do you have excess of? And act on it!

To sum up I believe that you can have it all but not always at the same time. However, time flies and if you are prepared your situation will improve.

It has been known that balancing motherhood and career creates double guilt. Wherever you are, you feel guilty. How do you turn this around?

Lenka: Already with the first child I realised that to split my time and devote 100% to my role as a mother when I was with my baby and to the job when working is essential. To be here & now. Only then could the time be fruitful and intense for both.

Of course, from time to time, there come doubts if your choice is the right one...

You need to have your WHY - to know what is the purpose of doing it like that. And also to change your mindset - first to satisfy your needs to have energy for the others, especially your children, otherwise you will not survive for long, and at the end, it will affect everybody around.

After working with three children behind my back, I can confirm that quality of time is not the same as quantity. If you really manage to keep the split between when you are a mother, playing and taking care of your beloved children, and time when you are working, the children will learn that it is the certainty they also need. They remember the nice moments, situations, emotions, not the length of the time spent.

Want more insights, tips, and stories of real working moms? You can get the whole e-book free here

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