Motherhood and Career Inspire Each Other—And Beautifully, Too
Today, we still believe that motherhood and work are at odds.
In order to be a good mom, I must love being with my kids all the time, and always be available to them.
By working, I am sacrificing my relationship with my children.
Becoming a mother means I’ll be less ambitious and less productive and less creative, too.
But none of these narratives are true. Because our jobs can have a powerful and positive impact on the way we mother, and our mothering can have a powerful and positive impact on the way we work.
“After having my first biological daughter, I knew I wanted to use the hours spent away from her for a greater purpose, to come home fulfilled and energized, rather than depleted.” said Erin Loechner, Founder of Design For Mankind. Which is why she shifted her career from design research and art curation to writing.
Loechner’s daughter also inspired her first published book, Chasing Slow, “a culmination of so many lessons learned since walking away from a formerly fast and frenzied lifestyle.” Loechner’s adopted son is inspiring her latest project, a homeschooling community for the early years. Both kids are teaching her about nurturing others, and about becoming the person she wants to be.
Loechner’s career influences her mothering “in so many beautiful ways. As an internal processor, I often don't know what I think until I've sat down at my desk to write through it. So, for me, having a career that requires me to write and process has helped me to work through so many questions/thoughts/doubts along my own parenting journey.” It’s also been a gift to her to connect online with other parents “who are swimming in those same seas.”
Janine Halloran, a licensed mental health counselor, founder of Coping Skills for Kids, and mom of two, believes that honoring our personal goals supports our mental and emotional well-being. And it “sets an excellent example for your family.” For Halloran, motherhood ignited the idea of building herown business. She loves herwork and wanted to positively contribute to the world andbe there for herchildren when they get off the bus, are sick orhave school assemblies.
“It took a bit to get going, but now, it feels incredible to be able to speak to so many people around the world, and share what I’ve learned with them, and still be present for my family,” Halloran said. Her kids, now 8 and 10, love helping Halloran with her business. They help with shipping and putting stickers on bags. They even sometimes accompany her to live events to sell her products. “I love that I’m giving them the example that you can run a business and still be present for your loved ones. I can be both their mom who helps with projects, plays with them and hangs out with them after school when they sit down for a snack, as well as a successful business owner. Being one doesn’t mean I’m not the other, too.”
Being a mother also encouraged Sara Robinson, MA, to seek out work that harnesses her skills and strengths while giving her flexibility that a traditional job might not. Robinson is the creator of the site GetMomBalanced.com, author of Choose You: A Guided Self-Care Journal Made Just for You! and mom to six- and three-year-old sons.
She’s become clearer on her values and boundaries, and is particular about the work she accepts. Robinson’s career has sparked important conversations with her kids about work, time, money, and balance. “You can have those conversations no matter what your working situation, but I think the conversations have happened earlier and more naturally because of my work.”
“My #1 job in life at this point is to raise an outstanding young man—someone who gives more to the world than he takes away from it,” said Amber Anderson, mom to a five-year-old son and co-founder of MORE and Tote + Pears, a full-service agency that creates and markets products, services and experiences for women. “My career is the method I use to be able to do that.” Anderson is the primary breadwinner in her household. She left a corporate position to have more flexibility by working from home. “I chose a career path that allowed me to be present to help raise my son.”
Denaye Barahona, Ph.D, is the founder of SimpleFamilies.com, a website and podcast that focuses on solutions for simple living and minimalism with children. For Barahona, being a mom to two kids has ramped up her productivity, precisely because she doesn’t have as much time to get things done. It’s also made her want to be a role model for her kids, showing them that you can cultivate a career and have a positive relationship with your family.
Barahona’s career is a form of self-care. She’s passionate about the work she’s doing, and in order to feel her best, she needs about 5 hours a day of alone time “to do what I need to do for myself and my career.”
Barahona’s career also has given her kids the opportunity to build relationships with other care providers, including their au pair.
“My children are one of the most important reasons why I work,” said Jessica N. Turner, a marketing executive at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, founder of the blog TheMomCeative.com, and author of two books, including herlatest titleStretched Too Thin: How Working Moms Can Lose the Guilt, Work Smarter, and Thrive. Turner’sthree kids—ages 10, 7 and 3—motivate her to work hard and be successful.
Moreover, her career contributes financially to her family, “which literally means food on the table, health insurance, and clothing.”
Turner noted that she’s fortunate to be able to do work she loves. “I hope that my children see me working in a field that leverages my strengths and that they’ll learn that they too can do work that they are passionate about.” Practically, working in the healthcare field has given Turner an appreciation for prioritizing one’s health and taking concerns seriously. “I am quick to take my children to the doctor—or see a doctor myself—if something is wrong.”
Emily Fonnesbeck, RD, is a registered dietitian, founder of the private practice Nourishing Confidence, and mom of four. Her professional life brings her personal fulfillment and meaning. “I know I’m happier for it. Also, my kids can see me learning, growing and building something that matters to me and I'm proud of the example that is for them.”
Being a mom has helped Fonnesbeck become more sensitive, humble and nurturing—which is critical in her line of work. “While I have fantastic colleagues who aren't mothers, I do see the effect motherhood has had on my professional career.” Like Robinson, Fonnesbeck has become more selective with the projects she takes on. “In that way, motherhood has helped me create a professional life that doesn't feel like work at all!”
Navigating work and family may come with many challenges. But working and mothering don’t have to be competing desires or roles. As Loechner said, “Our life isn't a distraction from our work. And our work isn't a distraction from our life. Our life IS the work.”