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Want a Career and Babies? Forget about Time Off

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Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: Here's a surprise: Women on track to be top business executives will lose their footing if they take time off to have kids.

stressed woman

A recent survey of headhunters for top firms found that women who spend time recouping after the birth of their babies lose out in the corporate rat race. "They should return to work as quickly as possible or give up on having children altogether," the Daily Mail reports.

Well, well, well -- isn't this a grim (and totally predictable) bit of "news"? It's actually nothing new that power career women put their jobs before their families. Tina Brown famously edited from her hospital bed after giving birth, and Bonnie Fuller counted contractions during a boardroom meeting. She delivered a baby girl seven days before she delivered her first issue of Cosmopolitan, making final edits at her kitchen table with a newborn in her arms.

Surveys like this are totally baffling. And this one is especially rich with infuriatingly ridiculous quotes, like this one from an unnamed source: "I think there are two types of businesswomen today: one that gets to a certain level of seniority and then has a family, and those who put their career ambitions at the forefront of their lives and choose not to have a family at all."

This is news? I'd say most people already know that to make it to the pinnacle of a career, you have to sacrifice a lot of other things in your life. The same goes for men of that caliber, too, only no one says much about the men who give up having a family life to be CEOs.

The real issue -- the one that affects most working women -- is that it is very hard to juggle any job and a family. Most working women I know aren't vying for Bonnie Fuller's post; they just want a career that pays the bills, gives them satisfaction and still allows them to see their kids.

No matter where an employee is on the corporate food chain, most work environments are entirely unfamily-friendly. (I only have to mention this country's abysmal concept of maternity leave.) For many employers, the "work/life balance" translates to all work and no life, regardless of your job title.

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5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Emily @ Random Recycling August 18, 2010, 8:23 AM

Sad, but true. Maternity leave is getting worse for some, especially in Mass if you work for a small company. It’s a shame we don’t value those early months spent bonding with our infants.


JD in Van August 18, 2010, 8:28 AM

I really wish that down south there you’d take a page from the Canadian government who pays 60% of your wages for up to a year (though the year can be divided up between parents so each takes 6 months or how ever you like) for Parental leave. I have NO idea how anyone in their right mind could expect a women to not only recover from childbirth in 6 weeks but find someone to care for a 6 week old baby for them so they could go back to work when their “mat leave” is over.

Stacie August 18, 2010, 9:17 AM

I consider myself INCREDIBLY lucky. I work for a small non-profit that serves the developmentally disabled, and although I don’t get much of a maternity leave (six weeks of paid short-term disability, then I can use my sick and vacation time that’s been accrued), my boss is going to allow me to work from home two days a week. Since my husband will be taking Fridays off, we only had to find daycare for 2 days a week. But, I have NO desire to ‘climb the ladder,’ and neither does my husband. It’s sad that people have to chose between having a family and having a career. I would love to see a system that is more similar to Canada’s—those first months with an infant are SO IMPORTANT!

Jennifer August 18, 2010, 6:48 PM

I don’t think our cause is helped by these ‘martyrs’ to the cause that insist on being back at their desks before the infant is even discharged from the hospital. I have had to answer to my employers on why I wasn’t able to return to work before 6 weeks postpartum when other female colleagues had done so, a situation which was only worsened by the fact that I had exhausted my FMLA by being placed on bedrest at 32 weeks pregnant. I think the problem with comparing female ladder climbers who take time off to give birth with their male counterparts who become fathers is that a man doesn’t need to physically recover from the birth of his child. A woman needs that time just to have her body get over the shock of childbirth. It doesn’t mean she is any less committed to her job just because biology dictates that she needs to heal.

I have actually had to quit my job now because my son needs surgery for a spinal defect and my employers were unwilling to hold my position until I was able to return and again my 12 weeks of federally protected leave are up.

cheapviagra248 August 30, 2010, 9:04 AM

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