What's more important motherhood or your career?

In 1971, 78% of under 35-year-olds agreed with the statement: “Whatever career a woman may have, her most important role in life is still that of a mother.” By 1982 that percentage had dropped to 46% and in 1991 it had dropped further to 26%. At the same time, according to the Negotiating the Life Course Survey 1997, 90% of respondents, regardless of age or gender, were equally supportive of the view that watching children grow is one of life’s great pleasures.

Personally, I really struggle to answer the question about what my most important role is. Motherhood and having a fulfilling career should not be an either/or debate for anyone. If I had to choose one though, I think I would say motherhood.

Like many women, I grew up thinking men were the superior gender. I’m not sure where this came from. It’s not something I was ever told or heard, as I grew up in a “modern” family, with liberal views. However, I distinctly recall thinking that the only good thing about being a girl was that you didn’t have to ask someone to marry you because that was the boy’s job! As a young girl that was obviously the most embarrassing obligation I could imagine (and probably also reflects my incredibly shy demeanour).

All that changed when I became a mother. All of a sudden I learnt about the unique benefits of being female and the “primary care giver”. Also, after having children I discovered that there are a lot more embarrassing things that can happen to you than having to ask someone to marry you. And that most of those things occur during or after childbirth!

"I discovered the joys of being a mother." Image supplied.

But, more importantly, I discovered the joys of being a mother. And for most women, being a mother is one of the most wonderful experiences of their lives. This has led me to a firm belief that we should embrace our femininity and start to forge our own paths and set our own benchmarks for success and achievement.


For me, the joys of motherhood boil down to the love you give and receive from being so closely and consistently connected to your child. It’s the unique relationship you form with your children that is so rewarding.

"The greatest regret people have at the end of their lives is that they did not spend quality time with their children when they were young or with their spouses. At the end of the day your family is the reason why you live." – Professor Utomi

I recall hearing a funny interview with a well-known Australian celebrity whose “house husband” partner did the bulk of the childhood care. Although the arrangement suited her family very well, she admitted that it took her a long time to get used to the fact that when her children called out in the night, they called for their father and not her. Some mothers would only see benefits in that! But really it goes to the core of what being a primary care-giver is all about.

So, I’m a believer in embracing your femininity in your role as a mother and also your benchmarks of success. But I think embracing your femininity can also go further, with the specific skills that women can bring to the workplace. In the past, I have seen women at work dress like men, act like men, swear like men, and avoid putting pictures of their children up at work or talking about their families.

Thankfully the need to do this appears to be largely over. I’ve also heard a senior man remark that one of the most powerful figures in his career was a woman, a chair of a board, who fully embraced her femininity.

Yet more reason not to shy away from your feminine side…

'This is an excerpt from Not Guilty: 7 Strategies for Successful Career Mums by Nicolette Rubinsztein. Available now through Ventura Press', and link to here

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