real life

Working mothers can (and should) have all the cake.

Career Vs Family? It’s just a big con!

When I was seven months pregnant with my first child I was working in a government department, writing press releases about public toilets. One day a woman walked in for an interview for one of the corporate communication jobs, and after she left, my boss came out and said “Well, she’s qualified, but she’s been a stay-at-home mum for seven years, so I’m not sure she’s suitable.”

The woman was a former-journalist. She was more than qualified to write press releases about toilets, but what left an imprint in my mind was the thought that if I stepped off the corporate ladder I’d lose any opportunity to advance my career.

Back then, in the 90s (ehem), the only choices women felt they had were to keep working for someone else or leave the corporate world behind, and it seems that in 2014/15 women still believe that this is the case.

A recent article in the New York Times pointed out that the rate of women in the workforce has dropped from a peak of 74 percent in 1990 to 69 percent in 2014. The article revealed that 61 percent of women left the workforce due to family responsibilities or lack of family friendly workplace policies in contrast to 37 percent of men.

Does every working mum feel like this?

Many of those interviewed expressed their desire to return to careers but felt they would be marginalised due to being out of the workforce for an extended period. Even shows like Modern Family perpetuate this myth of the can-t-get-her-shit-together stay-at-home mum vs the career-driven jet-setting professional in heels. It’s ludicrous, and it’s time to expose the con.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that traditional media outlets reinforce the work vs family paradigm by giving a megaphone to people like Mark Latham. He would have you believe that every woman with career aspirations has a leftist political agenda and selfishly neglects her kids. The truth is, the Mark Lathams of this world are just pawns in the big con that women have to choose between career and family, so lets not waste any more time on perpetuating that myth. Instead, let’s look at how women are creating a new paradigm.

Here’s the thing: Women can have it all and can do so sustainably, without the mother-guilt, without feeling like they’ve sacrificed a life for work or work for a life. Not only can they have their cake and eat it too but they can take the whole damn cake shop. It doesn’t need to be a choice.

There’s a quiet revolution happening in suburban homes, and it is beginning to create a wave of social change that turns the whole career vs family myth on its head. That revolution is the rise of entrepreneurship. The startup trend is not just catching on for the bearded frat boys hanging out in cool co-working spaces across the country, it is sparking new possibilities and opportunities for women who used to believe that their only choice was to work for someone else or not work at all.

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Women are starting to see that they no longer need to rely on the good graces of employers to meet their needs, open doors or break through glass ceilings. They can forget the corporate politics and forge their own paths, and in so doing create a new corporate culture, one that is inclusive and one that integrates life and work rather than doing one at the expense of the other.

A US study commissioned by Amex Open Forum found that more than 50 percent of all new businesses were women-owned and more and more initiatives are aimed at enabling women to launch, and leave the traditional 9 to 5 jobs behind.

Confessions of a modern day working parent.

Crowdfunding, online networks such as the Australian Businesswomen’s Network and She Takes on the World, as well as growing awareness of angel investment and start-up seed funding has helped women see they can take their destinies into their own hands.

I’m not saying it couldn’t be better. There still seems to be a bias in the start-up funding world toward young, mobile men, and women-owned start-ups are often condescended as temporary, work-at-home, “mumpreneur” ventures, but the chocolate box is offering way more than just the two options presented to women before the online boom.

I have worked on and off in the time I have been a mother. When my third child was a baby I was dragging him along to boardroom meetings and breastfeeding him at conferences and seminars. This often raised eyebrows and sometimes provoked annoyance because our current corporate world separates women from their messy, noisy lives.

After freelancing for many years I started my first enterprise 5 years ago, and now as a single mother, I run a thriving content marketing agency and co-run a tech startup, raise and home educate my three boys, two of whom are on the Autism spectrum, and still manage to take time out for myself. How do I do all this? It’s simple really. I leverage modern technology and I integrate work with life. My iPhone is my office and I routinely get up at 5 am to get shit done. However, what’s made the biggest difference is to rewire my thinking about what I’m capable of doing on my own steam.

Holly: “A comprehensive list of the things I did before 9am.”

Even for women who have made the leap into entrepreneurship, many still struggle because they haven’t let go of the money for time paradigm. This paradigm is a by-product of corporate culture, and I believe that as more women learn how to trade money for expertise, more ideas and opportunities will open up for other women looking to follow the same path.

The best part about running my own business is that my kids and I all work alongside each other. They are learning that they don’t have to wait for someone else to hand them their dreams because they are seeing their mother take the reins every single day.

Career vs family? Pfft. It’s time to put this myth to bed.

Cas McCullough is founder of Content Marketing Cardiology, co-founder of The Likeability Co and author of Your Brilliant Un-Career: Women, Entrepreneurship, and Making the Leap.

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