The number of working women in the United States has increased phenomenally in the past century, from only 5.3 million in 1900 to 75 million in 2010. In fact, according to the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau, 99 out of every 100 women work for pay at some point in their lives. If you are one of these women and choose to have children, this decision can have a profound effect on your life. For example, it might affect:
- Your job choice
- The hours you will work
- Whether you accept or decline a job (based on available childcare and/or the amount of travel time away from your family)
- When you decide to have children
Having Children Early
Some women choose to have children earlier in life, placing career demands temporarily “on hold” while they focus on parenting. In fact, one recent study, “Children and Careers: A Longitudinal Study of the Impact of Young Children on Critical Career Outcomes of MBAs,” cited maternity or child-related leave as the number one reason for employment gaps for women.
Interestingly, this same study showed that women who chose part-time work when their children were younger actually ended up with slightly higher salaries when they did return to full-time work than those who worked continuously.
More men choose to stay home and take care of the children, especially if the mother has a high-paying career.
“I had my children one after another right after I got married,” states Jeanine, a young mother from Ohio who works as an administrative assistant. “I’m glad I did, because now that they’re older and in school, I’m free to work.”
Delaying the Stork
James Heineman, president of a Texas executive placement firm, has seen a recent trend. “I’m seeing more women in management and executive level positions in the past few years,” he states. “And quite a few of them are choosing to wait until later to have their children. It isn’t uncommon anymore for women to wait to have their first child when they are in their thirties.”
Choosing to wait on having children has both advantages and disadvantages. Heineman states one advantage: “Parents who are more mature are usually more patient. They seem to have ‘mellowed out’ some, and so waiting until later in life can be a good choice for many women.” He shares, “I have one female client in management who has an 18-month-old toddler. She’s 51.”
On the other hand, a woman faces a “biological clock” that can mean being less fertile by . And another concern is going through menopause while rearing young, active children at the time that a career normally peaks.
Creative Work Options
Some families have faced the challenge of combining parenting and career by changing their hours to more flexible ones, or experimenting with options like telecommuting (working from home electronically).
Rebecca chose to telecommute when her daughter was an infant. She says, “I wanted to have a parent at home for her at all times, so I would work nights when my husband got home from work. It was rough, but then I found the company I now work for as a audio book editor, which I do right out of the home.”
Other couples choose to reverse the traditional roles. Says Heineman, “Over the past few years, I’m seeing more men choose to stay home and take care of the children, especially if the mother has a high-paying career. If Mom earns $150,000 a year and Dad earns $40,000, often Dad is willing to stay home so Mom can work.”
Corporations and healthcare organizations are offering employees creative scheduling as an option to increase employee retention. Baylor Medical Center in Dallas is one example, offering scheduling options that include:
- 12-hour shifts (three shifts are equal to full time)
- Weekend premium plans (working two 12-hour weekend shifts for full-time employment status and pay)
It is up to the individuals to decide when to have children and determine the best way to balance work and home. One thing is clear, though: Children affect working , but ‘ options for combining both career and home life are greater now than ever before.