Does Motherhood Kill Ambition?

There seems to have been a lot in the news over the last few months about mothers “not being able to have it all” – that is, that juggling parenthood and a successful career isn’t possible for mothers (why fathers can have it all is another question entirely, but hey).

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First of all, isn’t that a lovely lesson to be teaching the impressionable young women who look up to you as a role model? “Sorry girls, but because you have a vagina, you’re going to have to choose between a career or having a family. Men are fine, though”.

Secondly, I thought we were still trying to discourage young people from having kids early – why are we now saying they need to make their choice before they’ve even taken their GCSEs?

Thirdly, I hate this assumption that motherhood is an ambition-killer. You can be a high-flying, big-city, hot-shot worker with an amazing reputation and massive respect in your chosen field – but the second you give birth, you’re suddenly a cooing, mushy mess of a woman with zero career ambition? I don’t think so.

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Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s easy in the long term for two parents to be working full-time as well as raising a family – but I hate the idea that the woman should be the one to give up work, especially when I’m yet to see any real convincing argument as to why. The closest anyone has come is “Because she gave birth” – and what that has to do with working two or three years down the line is anyone’s guess.

It’s taboo to talk about it, but I honestly don’t think I’m cut out for being a stay-at-home parent long term. I like having projects and deadlines, I need to have that routine and focus otherwise my anxiety goes out of control and I lose track of the days. That doesn’t make me a bad parent. We celebrate stay-at-home dads as a “win” for progress at the same time as berating the mother for abandoning her child. Where’s the same backlash when a man goes back to work after his child is born?

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I love spending time with SB. I spend as much time as possible with her, and I love it. Spending time with her isn’t the problem I have with stay-at-home-motherhood – it’s the lack of routine; the lack of structure. I couldn’t cope with it. That’s not a comment on my parenting skills, nor is it a comment on the parenting skills of stay-at-home parents. Daf, on the other hand, was an amazing stay-at-home-dad last summer; really fantastic.

People always seemed genuinely surprised to find out that I was working while he stayed at home with SB, and I just don’t understand why. I know it’s unusual for a man to be the stay-at-home parent, even in this day and age, but surely it’s not that much of a shock?

What I found really shocking was how many people agreed with these statements. “No, mums can’t have it all. They can’t have a family and a successful full-time career”. First of all, what happens when the baby has two mums? Do they both stay home with the baby? Does the mum who gave birth stay at home with the baby? Does the fabric of society unravel as we work ourselves into a tizzy trying to figure out whose ambition is killed by motherhood and whose ambition remains intact?

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Or, we could just let mums get on with it, without over-analysing every little move they make, and declaring that mums MUST have it all, or they CAN’T have it all. Maybe more mums could have it all, if society was a little more supportive of it? More rights regarding part-time work after finishing maternity leave; more information about sharing maternity leave between both parents, less of this expectation that once women return to work after having a child, all they’ll do is talk babies all day. That’s what we need – not to be telling the next generation of women “Don’t bother, because it didn’t work for me”. Surely part of raising strong, independent daughters is to tell them “It doesn’t matter if a thousand other people have struggled – none of them are you, so if you want to try, you give it all you’ve got”?

If women want one or the other, that’s fine. Good for them, for knowing their mind, and knowing what they want, and not being afraid to get it. They’re not immune from this criticism either, though. Working moms are “selfish”, and stay-at-home moms are “lazy”. Mums who want to “have it all” are just plain delusional.

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Motherhood did not kill my ambition. It fuelled my ambition. It lit a spark inside me that so far, nothing has managed to quell. Motherhood made me determined to create the best dissertation piece I was capable of – so I did it, and I got a first. Motherhood made me adamant that I would have a great career – not only did I go straight into work from university, but I’m also on track for that great career. Motherhood made me promise that my family would always be my number one priority – and it is, which is why providing for said family and instilling in them a strong work ethic is so important to me.

I may not have it all yet, but the operative word there is “yet”. I’ll never stop striving to “have it all”, because the closer we get, the better things are.

I will never tell SB that she cannot have it all, just as I’ll never tell any potential future sons that they can’t have it all either. If she doesn’t want “it all”, I’ll tell her that I’m proud of her for making a choice for herself. If she does, I’ll tell her to go for it with all she’s got – she may not achieve it all, but she’s got a much better chance than those who listen to women like Vivienne Durham and Drew Barrymore, and don’t even try.

What do you think? Can women “have it all”? Do you feel like motherhood killed or changed your ambition? Let me know in the comments! 

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60 thoughts on “Does Motherhood Kill Ambition?

  1. arthurwears says:

    This is a question I have thought a lot about since having Arthur – mainly because my priorities changed so much more than I thought they would. Before pregnancy I was a primary school teacher specialising in Early Years, I had leadership responsibilities and brought about change within the foundation stage whilst also working as ICT co-or donator across the school. I had trainee teachers and childcare workers to plan for alongside my own duties and I was working towards a managerial position. I was in work by 7am, didn’t leave till 5/6pm and worked every weekend and at least one full day a weekend (this wasn’t always out f choice, just the massive workload within the school I taught in general)….then I fell pregnant and I was adamant I’d be back within 6 months….then when Arthur arrived, the very thought of paying someone else to look after my child whilst I essentially went to work to plan and look after 30+ children who belonged to someone else suddenly seemed like a crazy idea…not only could I not actually find childcare to cover my hours, I couldn’t actually afford it either. I’m not going back to school for the time being because the workload just could not fit into my life with Arthur (my husband has a very demanding job and works long hours) – but I do now nanny for another child (I take Arthur with me) and I use all of my teaching skills to assess, plan and track progress for them both … So I do feel like I’m still using my skills, but it is benefitting my own child too!

    I think I may have felt differently if I was still working in my old career which wasn’t as child focused in comparison.

    I think for me, I am still ambitious, but now I am ambitious about different things!

    #kcacols

    http://Www.arthurwears.com

    Liked by 1 person

  2. newmummyblogcom says:

    I think it’s each to their own. The pressures and travel of my work would have been a juggle and I really felt I loved nurturing and spending my time with Baby H. I’ve a good career behind me, so I can go back and do freelance work to keep my foot in, so I am lucky. However, without becoming a SAHM I wouldn’t have found blogging and now I hope this, or writing, might become a career as well. #kcacols

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mum in Brum says:

    I am totally with you. I don’t see why women are the subject of so much negative debate just because we happen to be the ones who have the babies. I think whatever mothers decide to do is their choice and if they want to ‘have it all’, then they should be able to have a great career AND a family – I know plenty who have done it. The problem here is that it’s not about ‘having it all’ or not at all – for some women, being a SAHM is ‘having it all’ – it’s just another term that mums have been branded with – just like the idea that working mums are selfish and SAHMs are lazy. We need to champion families, careers and everything that women bring to society – every argument I’ve seen on the subject is a negative one – and ultimately a very sexist one. #KCACOLS

    Like

  4. kateonthinice2012 says:

    I wanted to write about this topic but I get muddled on this issue.
    I wanted it all. I learned I could not manage it all and as you say, support is what is needed so that everyone can reach their full potential including after having children.
    I want a great future for my daughter but do sadly feel her chances are probably more limited than my sons and I am so unhappy about that. More women policy-makers would be one good move methinks. You should volunteer!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mummy & the Mexicans (@ruthhilbrown) says:

    This is a great and thought-provoking post which has generated some very interesting comments, too! I think everyone does what they can and what is best for their family, which is usually different for each person and each family. So let them get on with it! Why such a difference in attitudes towards men and women and what they can or can’t do? I also agree that “having it all” is a misleading idea – what is “all”? It can mean something completely different to each of us. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  6. rebeccamabey says:

    I have been contemplating this a lot lately as it pertains to me and my situation, a time of transition, considering going back to work or getting pregnant again. Feel the biological pressure to hurry and have kids in obvious part of not wanting to have complications, or a higher risk of complications should I wait until I am older, and I would love the kids to be closer in age by about 3 years at least… the thing is, honestly, I see the time that working can take away from the quality of time I spend with my daughter and it kills me. So I think it is all about realistically acknowledging what your “have it all” ideal is… I mean, end goal CEO, of course you will have to sacrifice time away from home…. at the same time, bring an example to our kids of determination and persistence and perusing our own dreams will also encourage them to have theirs…. find a healthy happy balance with the right priorities that you will not regret later in life. Just chat that one up with a grandma… Easier said than done, I know!

    Liked by 1 person

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