Not to brag, but I have the best job. You see, as a college professor, I get to pour my life into students. I teach them academic material, of course, but I also get to mentor them as future healthcare providers, future leaders, and because the majority of the students I teach are female, as future moms.
Now before I go on, let me offer a couple of quick disclaimers. First, I want to acknowledge that not everyone has to go to college, nor do I believe everyone should go to college. Many future working moms who will contribute great things to our society will not be college graduates. However, my sphere of influence is almost exclusively with women who will be college-educated working moms, so that’s who I am qualified to write to and about. And second, please don’t hear me diminish the tremendously valuable work that women who stay at home with their children do on a day-in and day-out basis. These women are contributing to our society in extremely meaningful ways, but I’m not addressing them here. In this post, I am specifically focusing on the women who will one day become mothers and work outside the home.
Most of the young women I get to work with have some kind of aspirations for both work and family, and many are bold enough to ask for advice about balancing both of these important roles as they think through and plan for their futures. Here’s what I wish a working mom would have advised me back when I was a college student aspiring to one day be a working mom.
Advice to Future Working Moms
Plan for flexibility.
One of the biggest mistakes I see young women make is that they desire a family one day, but they are afraid to plan for it. While there is certainly no guarantee that they will find a partner, be able to have (or adopt or foster) a child or children, and have the life situation allowing for both a job outside of the home and a family, the majority of them will indeed end up as moms who work. So while I don’t recommend putting all of their eggs, so to speak, in the working mom basket, it is nonetheless wise to plan for this to the extent they can.
The best advice I ever received to this end was to plan for flexibility. In other words, when thinking about career choices, graduate school, education debt, etc., it’s a good idea to think about which options will allow flexibility. For example, one could consider career paths that are friendly toward part-time options, or allow for summers off of work, or allow for leaving the career for a few years with a relatively easy return later. Of course, we never know exactly what our futures hold, but planning for flexibility is wise planning.
Children are a blessing, not a burden.
I need a little birdie whispering in my ear every five minutes that children are a blessing, not a burden. Do they cost money? Yes, a lot. Do they take immense amounts of time and energy? Oh, yes. Are they a blessing in every way? Absolutely. Both current and future moms need this reminder on the regular.
Serving others serves your kids.
Most of the students I work with are entering healthcare professions, which means many of them are choosing a career path built upon service to others. And while of course working outside of the home means less time with children, a career dedicated to the service of others is nonetheless a gift to those observant children. It is a gift for a child to grow up watching their mother love others, even (and perhaps especially) if those others don’t live in their household. One of the best things a mother can do for her children is to teach them that the world doesn’t revolve around them; working outside the home by caring for others achieves this outcome like nothing else can.
You can’t buy time with money.
Many, if not most, moms who work outside the home do so, at least to some degree, because the income is necessary for their family. Some moms absolutely must have the income to make ends meet. But to the extent possible, future mamas, remember that you can’t buy time with money. That big promotion that comes with a raise may sound wonderful, but count the cost. That full-time job may be quite the upgrade from the part-time one, and it may allow for a major lifestyle improvement, at least in the financial realm. But that time with children is worth its weight in gold, and you can’t get it back once it’s gone. So while I certainly don’t think new jobs and promotions and raises are bad things (I’m not crazy!), be sure to count the cost.