Motherhood and career are often pitted against each other, but Toronto author and mom of three, Reva Seth, is challenging the notion that women have to take a step back from career goals when they have kids.
Her new book The Mom Shift tells the stories of women from diverse backgrounds who have achieved career successes after starting families. Through interviews with over 500 working mothers, Seth shows that far from hindering growth, motherhood can actually boost a woman's career.
Many of the women Seth interviewed found motherhood gave them the push they needed to do the thing they'd always wanted to do. One woman, Catherine McKenna, started an organization called Canadian Lawyers Abroad after having children because she wanted to do something impactful in the world.
Seth herself found having kids made her more ambitious. Although she'd had an idea for her first book for years, it wasn't until she became a mother that she began sending out pitches to publishers. Even after receiving 40 or so rejections, she pushed through until she finally struck a deal. "I think if I hadn't had a baby I might have given up, but there's something grounding about having a child [that made me continue]," she says.
Other women interviewed for the book said having children caused them to be more strategic with their limited time. While having a child certainly forced Seth to work more efficiently in between day-care pickups and bath times, she says motherhood also caused her to recognize that time was a precious commodity and if she wanted to accomplish certain things in her career, she would need to be more focused.
"I always felt that I had a lot of time to do things, but then when I had a baby, I realized time is very finite. There's nothing better for measuring time than a baby because they change so much within a year," she says.
Although Seth grew up with a stay-at-home mother who taught her that a woman had to choose between a career and a family, she never wanted her own children to feel they were the reason she didn’t pursue her career ambitions. “I had a sticky note that said my children won’t be the reason I can’t do something,” she says.
In many of the women’s stories highlighted in the book, kids were the impetus for them to ask for a promotion or go for a bigger job that would benefit not only their own career ambitions but their family’s financial security. The desire to provide more for their children or to prove to their children that their mother could be successful drove many of the women whose stories are highlighted in the book to strive for more.
"Having a baby is very identity changing, but it can also be a real confidence booster," says Seth. One of the most emotional stories is from Donna Bishop, a mother who started a beauty boutique called Green Beauty after her two-year-old child was diagnosed with cancer. The risks that come with being an entrepreneur paled in comparison to the ups and downs she faced battling childhood cancer.
Children were also the inspiration for some women's business ideas. For example, Nomie Baby is a removable, washable, waterproof cover for infant and toddler car seats that was created by Katie Danzinger, a mom who struggled to keep her child's car seat clean. Motherhood provides many experiences that have sparked many creative product innovations, giving birth to a whole generation of entrepreneurial moms.
[Image: Flickr user Mr. J. Shaft]