Ca­reer or fam­ily suc­cess? Moms don’t have to choose

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - Re­viewed by Nisha Tuli

HAV­ING chil­dren is the death of a work­ing woman’s ca­reer — or at least that’s what we’ve been told. In Toronto-based au­thor and en­tre­pre­neur Reva Seth’s se­cond book, she seeks to dis­pel this the­sis in what is a sur­pris­ingly in­ter­est­ing, up­lift­ing and co­he­sive study. Part in­spi­ra­tion, part ex­plo­ration and part dis­ser­ta­tion, The MomShift (re­leased Tues­day, Feb. 11) chron­i­cles the ex­pe­ri­ences of more than 500 women who don’t just ac­com­mo­date chil­dren in their al­ready­busy lives — they flour­ish and thrive, be­com­ing even more suc­cess­ful in their ca­reers. Seth de­tails the nu­mer­ous stats that sug­gest moth­er­hood has a neg­a­tive im­pact on ca­reer suc­cess. She out­lines the wide wage gap that still ex­ists, par­tic­u­larly for moth­ers: “Women who exit and re-en­ter the work­force to have chil­dren tend to ex­pe­ri­ence wage losses of three per cent per year of ab­sence.” She also cites sta­tis­tics from stud­ies that show while women are per­ceived as less com­mit­ted to their job af­ter be­com­ing moth­ers, the op­po­site is true for fa­thers, who are per­ceived as be­ing more de­pend­able and com­mit­ted. One of the most ap­peal­ing as­pects of Seth’s work is the re­lat­able na­ture of her sub­jects. She ad­mits that chron­i­cling the day-to-day life of some­one like Melissa Ma­yar, pres­i­dent and CEO of Ya­hoo! (whose net worth is around $350 mil­lion), is hardly use­ful to the av­er­age Cana­dian mom. (Very few Cana­dian moms could af­ford to build a nurs­ery ad­ja­cent to their of­fice, af­ter all.) In­stead she fo­cuses on the av­er­age women who, through hard work, ed­u­ca­tion and a com­mit­ment to their Black­Ber­rys, have made it to the top. She speaks with CEOs, vice-pres­i­dents, en­trepreneurs, direc­tors, as­so­ciates and al­most ev­ery type of suc­cess­ful woman in be­tween. A Momshifter’s suc­cess is de­fined as a woman who moves into a role that of­fers more money, greater re­spon­si­bil­ity and au­ton­omy, in­creased op­por­tu­nity and/or a more flex­i­ble work sched­ule. The pre­vail­ing mes­sage is a log­i­cal hope — it may not be easy to bal­ance chil­dren, long com­mutes and of­fice hours, your spouse’s ca­reer, ag­ing par­ents and gender stereo­types, but it can be done. Seth’s book largely fo­cuses on the tra­di­tional male/fe­male model of mar­riage; many women she talks to credit the sup­port of a male part­ner will­ing to have his ca­reer take a back­seat. Oth­ers credit their suc­cess to the use of hired help and a grow­ing recog­ni­tion by em­ploy­ers that a flex­i­ble work­place will help re­tain the best fe­male tal­ent. Con­versely, Seth also talks to sev­eral women who, af­ter real­iz­ing their tra­di­tional work­places could not ac­com­mo­date their needs, set out to start their own busi­nesses, be­com­ing free­lancers and en­trepreneurs. A con­sis­tent theme through­out the book is that many women find they have in­creased drive and am­bi­tion af­ter be­com­ing moth­ers, know­ing they now have a fam­ily to pro­vide for. It’s an in­spir­ing look at moth­er­hood. Ul­ti­mately, The MomShift is a must-read for ev­ery ca­reer-minded mother for two lessons it teaches. The first is the idea of “lean­ing back” — that there is noth­ing wrong with de­cid­ing to stay in a job that is com­fort­able while try­ing to bal­ance small chil­dren. Ca­reer suc­cess will come when you are ready. The se­cond is the idea that women can have it all — they just don’t have to have it right now. Says Seth, “I tell my girls that ‘hav­ing it all’ can hap­pen, and one way to do it is to stag­ger it over the long haul in­stead of try­ing to cram it all in at once.” Cue col­lec­tive sigh of re­lief. Nisha Tuli is a Win­nipeg writer and “MomShifter” who blogs at www.wa­ter­for­moth­ers.com.

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