Your career ends when you become a parent

When I was pregnant I lost count of the number of times I came across a certain myth. “Your career ends when you become a mum” was right up there with “babies sleep through the night by the age of six months” and “if your tummy sticks out at the front, you’re definitely carrying a boy”.

I became pregnant with my daughter when I was 26 years old. It was a planned pregnancy, despite what many people assumed. I was not married. We did not have a mortgage. I had not reached the “right” stage in my career to “take a baby break”.

But we wanted a family and it felt like the right time to create one.

I knew then that I still had things I wanted to achieve in my working life. But I also knew that wouldn’t change when I became a mum.

I still worried though. With every raised eyebrow at my swollen belly and, “But it’s still so early in your career to have a baby break” I worried. I didn’t have a rigid plan. There was no definite timetable of what I had to achieve by a certain age.

When my daughter was born I looked at her and knew the world had changed. Former priorities crashed away from me. Everything else melted but her.

That ambition to get to national news by the age of 30? That no longer seemed like the high point of happiness. I still wanted to achieve, but I knew the thing I wanted to get right more than anything else was being this child’s mum.

And that leads me to where I am now.

When Frog was nine months old I decided not to return to my former job. With the benefit of space, I realised I’d done everything I wanted to do in my three years in that role. I was ready for something else.

Having time away from work doing new things helped me see other opportunities I was blind to before. Becoming a mum actually opened doors to avenues of work I had never really considered.

And so it was my baby that spurred me on. Still is.

I started a blog, started pitching to editors, started getting commissions for writing work. I spent many long nights building up a portfolio, hitting brick walls, trying to make new contacts.  I did interviews while my baby slept and wrote and wrote and wrote. But that wasn’t enough. I started contacting other radio stations. I had meetings. I booked myself for nearly three weeks of shifts without a day off, right up to the day before my wedding.

The responsibility that came with being a mum and providing for my daughter was enough to light the flames of ambition once again.

Now I want to achieve for her AND me. Any work that’s going to take me away from spending time with her has to be both fruitful AND rewarding, otherwise what’s the point?

I think I have more ambition now than I ever did pre-baby. I have a drive to succeed, to show her what a woman can do if she wants. I have the freedom to know that if it doesn’t work out then it doesn’t matter, because being her mum is the most important job I will ever have. And that is liberating.

It’s that drive that gets me out of bed at 3.30am every day. It gets me through the commute when most people are still asleep. It keeps me up late writing and pitching new ideas and setting up meetings with new clients. It stops me taking any job for granted.

And you know what? I NEVER had this urge to get on when I wasn’t a mum. I was ambitious, yes. But I couldn’t have coped on 5 hours sleep a night. I couldn’t have been so efficient with my time. I couldn’t have been so resourceful.

I know I won’t always work these long hours. One day there may be more children. But I do know one thing: the hopes of your working life don’t HAVE to fade when you become a parent.

In fact, for some, parenthood will signify the beginning.

Me, being jumped on by my toddler.


  1. Emma Burridge says

    Molz, this is honest;y the best, most liberating piece of writting I have read in a VERY long time.
    It is so refreshing ( after being bullied by my mother and mother-in-law) and feeling completely hen pecked everywhere else ….
    Cheers for giving us 30 somethings something to hold on to xxx

    P.S. I am writing this after a VERY emotional parents evening and still feeling inspired enough to make a response.

    You are fantastic at what you do
    Emz xx

    • says

      Wow, thank you for probably the best comment I’ve ever had! Chin up Emma, keep strong to yourself and what YOU want to do. And ring me if you need a chat! xxx

  2. says

    In some ways my working life has faded, but perhaps i let it fade because I didn’t really care about that career? the last 12 months has opened some doors for me, and I do have that drive to make a success out of my ventures, because I know I want to provide for the future.

    In some ways, my children exhaust me completely, but somehow I find a bit of energy to push on.

    Parenting brings lots of tough choices, but I don’t regret giving up my first career. x

    • says

      You’re amazing and I have no doubt your projects will be a success and you’ll have forged a very different career path that you can be equally – or more – proud of. x

  3. says

    I completely concur! I have always had a strong working ethic and have always wanted to achieve in my career. However since Ronnie was born, and I have no idea how , but the drive I have now often surprises me!

    Well done you great post x

  4. says

    A great post. I stepped away from teaching when I had my second baby and other teachers warned me ‘you’ll find it difficult to get back in again’. Well, I’m getting back in now – yes, it is 4 years later but I needed to stay home. Now I’m TAing 4 days and teaching one and loving it. I have urges to want to teach more but I know my work life balance would be totally shot. That’s sometimes the problem with careers and parenting – striking a balance that works….I’m still looking for it x

  5. says

    I completely concur with all that you have written above. Before Ronnie I was ambitious certainly, but nothing in comparison to the drive that I have now to succeed and if not to try and try again! Go you, great post x

  6. says

    This is really a fantastic post. It’s really great to read how your little girl has spurred you on rather than shut you down. It’s such a hard balancing act and it’s great when you get it right.

  7. says

    I admire your spirit Molly. I think what you do is amazing.
    I don’t have the same drive but I see is not enough support and balance for parents. what I don’t like about being a working parent (when I did work) is that employers don’t provide support. However parent friendly they are really they don’t like you taking time off when your child is sick. whatever legislation says if there is a ‘business reason’ and they can always find a business reason they don’t have to reduce your hours.
    School doesn’t favour working parents.
    I don’t have ‘back up’ child care, I don’t have grandparents that can step in.
    As a parent it’s a juggle that I don’t think suits my child.
    A lot needs to change and for me whatever my wants careerwise I struggle to find something that balances with my family.
    I don’t want the tension and the fight that comes with a career and children. I think a the point we are in history and given the type of society we claim to be then we should be better at supporting families in the workplace.

    • says

      Oh don’t get me wrong, it’s bloody tough. We have the exact same issues. Grandparents three hours in opposite directions and no real network of support – it meant the NLM doing a 5 hour round trip before work the other week to drop F off at grandparents in Devon as we had a bit of a childcare emergency. I know it’s difficult. And if 5 years ago you’d have told me what I’d be doing now I probably wouldn’t believe you. But, for me, it’s having F that drives me forward. Whatever work I do, I know I’ll want to succeed in it (be it a book, writing, radio, blogging… or all of the above) because of her. The juggle is an inevitably tricky one though – impossible in many situations. Let’s all write a book together (you, me and Jane). In?

  8. says

    All very true!

    I think the best thing about returning to work after children, for me has been that I don’t care about work politics any more – and I can also truly leave work at work, whereas before I might stress all evening about something that had happened during the day, these days I switch off work mode and turn on family mode, enjoying spending time with the kids.

    • says

      Amen to that. I cringe at all the times I took work niggles home with me. What a waste of time! Having a family to focus on when you walk through the door really does help give a bit of perspective.

  9. says

    I have actually just been writing about this very subject but for someone else’s blog. One of the questions I was asked was ‘How has parenthood changed you’? I am FAR more ambitious now than I ever was because of my desire to provide and free myself a bit from financial worries. Having a child doesn’t mean you can’t have a career at all… it just means your jigsaw changed and you have to adapt and shape the way you do things to fit that jigsaw. I need that satisfaction and self worth as a human being not just as a mother too.

    Great post, thank you! xx

  10. says

    ha – gem and I spoke briefly about this this evening – before reading your post.
    you are a miracle lady and you work your arse off and I hold you in high esteem but i also see the lengths you go to to make work fit round frog so you can fulfil your duties. I dont think ambition dies with children but practicalites do, I work in a pretty big job on reduced hours but it all goes to pot when a child is ill. after school club closes at 5.30 – same time as the office, breakfast club starts at 8 I fall into the office at 9 – 9.05 if the traffic hates me.
    school demands (as it should) reading, swimming helping, spelling, plus football training, plus a dance class, plus a baby that just wants a cuddle, I just about fit it in but I know realistically this is as far as I go, if I want more responsibiltiy I need to be full time in the office.
    So my ambition is quelled, maybe when they are grown up I can return to progress as it is my choice to live like this – and I agree ambition doesnt die but society at one point stops helping!
    rant over – beautiful pics – belting thought provoking post xxxx

    • says

      Or maybe you’ll find something else that you’re amazing at, that you wouldn’t have discovered if you hadn’t have become a mum. Like writing, for example? I fully expect a book from you before the kids have started university! x

  11. says

    Such a great post and so true. I gave up my career to be a full time mum and whilst some people said that I was crazy, I have never once regretted it. Children grow up so quickly that it is lovely to be there, particularly through the early years. Now they are all a bit older, I feel that the time has come for me to go back and find ‘me’ again, but working and being a mum is a real juggling act but I know that it will be better financially and emotionally for all of us.

    • says

      I think our priorities change drastically when kids come along – mine did anyway. That shift in perspectives can be a really liberating thing when it comes to looking at new career choices. My own mother-in-law did a Masters when her third son was born after being a stay at home mum. Her career started when she was 40 – and she’s now at the helm of a university, so she’s certainly done OK!

  12. says

    Fantastic post, I want every late teen / early 20something girl to read this!!! I read the S. Times piece about the difference in age of degree educated women vs. non degree educated women having their first babies at the weekend and felt really sad.

    I always said I’d have my two children before I reached 30. Unfortunately the breakdown of an engagement and then taking an age to get pregnant meant that didn’t happen.

    To my mind you’ve done things exactly the right way round and you are so right about the way motherhood stokes ambition – and it doesn’t have to be at the expense of your children either – i.e. it doesn’t have to mean popping them out and flinging them into f/t childcare straight away.

    Being a mum opens you up to being even more creative about how you manage your time and opens up your mind to new possibilities.

    • says

      This is true – I’ll never forget someone once saying to me that there’s no “right” time to have kids, i.e. if you look for all the reasons why it’s not the best time you’d never start trying for children in the first place!

  13. says

    Very interesting post. I’ve been working for myself since long before the girls were born (a lot of people assume I must have started when they were born, oddly) and I can definitely say that I have become about 5 times more efficient since they were born.

    Before they came along, Chris and I worked 15-hour days, usually 7 days a week. We worked, worked and worked. About all we did other than that was pop to the pub now and then and play a couple of hours’ computer games.

    Now, we do between 5 and 7 hours work a day, usually while the girls are at school/nursery. We fit in around 6 hours of waking time with the girls, sometimes doing housework around them while the play and sometimes doing things with them. We both have hobbies and other things that we do – blogging, writing, drawing, exercise, reading, computer games, school governance… And yet, we still do as well (mostly), if not better at our work/business as before. And have a hugely more balanced life. We concentrate on what we really want to do (except when it’s quiet and we’ll take whatever work’s out there) and what will be most useful to us and/or the business. So I’m pushing more into illustration and getting back into editing; Chris is pushing more into digital – editing and metadata and stuff like that.

    I think you are so right. Having children focuses you on what is important to you and stops you (for the most part) wasting time and energy on things that are not for you.

    • says

      Sounds like you have the balance bang on. And you’re so right – I think you become more streamlined with your time and resources when you become a parent. I did anyway. Knowing I had to get a task finished by the end of nap time was a great motivator when it came to meeting deadlines!

  14. says

    Clearly having a career and children is a very different experience for a man, but I still relate to the sentiment. I enjoy my job (although you know it’s not necessarily my dream job) and I want to achieve, get promoted etc but not at the expense of working 18 hour days and not seeing my children. Deciding to take a job or commit to something has to really be worth it to miss that quality time with your little ones. I want to make sure my children have everything they need but also that they know who their dad is.
    It’s definitely tough at times and working as a team with your partner is the only way that it can be successful.

    • says

      I completely agree. And my husband feels the same. He says that becoming a dad gave him a new drive to succeed at work, as there was more riding on it than just his professional reputation or money for himself. Now his family is relying on him, which is a big boost when it comes to motivation. But he also has a new found appreciation for his job as a teacher because of the quality time over the school holidays. I think he now really understands how important that is!

  15. Caroline Gue says

    I was waiting for my baby so that i could start my dream career! Arthur’s arrival was the perfect time to leave one career behind me and follow my dream 🙂 how lucky am i?!

  16. says

    I was ambitious to a certain extent pre-H, whilst I wanted to develop a career I just didn’t seem to have the drive and ambition that my colleagues had. When I fell pregnant (much like you at 26 and not a home-owner), I thought that I would take my maternity and come back to work after nine months.

    I ended up with 12 months off due to SPD during pregnancy, then very quickly realised that actually my job, or rather the corporate mentality made me desperately unhappy, did not help my depression and quite frankly wasn’t worth spending so much time away from my son. I had a lot of time signed off work in the following 10 months, partly mental health and partly due to a couple of accidents and other health issues! Then I was made redundant.

    I now want to get back to work, in a similar role because actually I enjoyed what I did but I am not prepared to be as unhappy as I was or indeed take a salary that will barely cover childcare. I was recently offered a role that would have left me with no money once travel and childcare was paid, never mind clothing (it’s not like we wear office attire day-to-day). And this age, 2.5 yrs, is such a special time (and yes hair raising at times!) that for me it has to be worth it.

  17. says

    Any work that’s going to take me away from spending time with her has to be both fruitful AND rewarding, otherwise what’s the point?
    My thoughts exactly. Great post. Its not true though, our girls are nearly the same age, I’ve kept working albeit very differently to yours, I work from home, but still have to focus my working day around my toddler and endlessly steamline & organise myself each day, but still manage to fit in play time at the beach in the sunshine like today, more ideas needed for when it rains though! You have my complete admiration.

  18. says

    I have been thinking about this post long and hard since you wrote it and it seems as though I really am in the minority. I was a very successful career woman before the boys came along. I was great at what I did and gave 100%, even returning to work 2 days after having my gallbladder out at 20 weeks pregnant. I actually remember my manager being totally in shock when I told him I was expecting. We booked a forest nursery for Maxi and was all prepared to go back to my previous role, full time. Then I had my baby boy and at 5 months old he nearly dies. I remember standing over the cot with him on a ventilator looking at D and we turned to each other and I said I couldn’t go back to work. Turns out at this point I was already pregnant with MIni. I needed to be at home with them. They are both at school and now I try and make ends meet working from home. My priority is collecting them from school and spending that time with them till they go to bed.

    I often wonder if my ambition came out with the placenta.

    This is a fab post, why not submit it to the tots good reads (button on the right hand side of the site)

  19. says

    Really interesting post. There are very few female directors working today (many citing parenthood as a reason for this as careers take off at a childbearing age)- as one of these few women filmmakers, I remember the crew I worked with regularly being pretty shocked when I announced I was pregnant. One even questioned why I’d decided to at such a critical time in my career (I’d recently won an award from Channel 4). Despite winning these awards and loving my job I knew I always wanted to be a mother-in fact I think my key strength as a director lay in the fact I was so maternal-nurturing cast and crew as well as being firm with my vision. I always thought-what would be the height/pinnacle of my career-winning a bafta, making a feature film etc? If I sacrificed a family for those things, I knew I wouldn’t be happy and I was confident I’d return when ready. The reality is I want both and being freelance (writing more with my second child) allows me to combine my worlds-having periods of uninterrupted time with the boys until the next project and working around them and deadlines when needs be. Doing what I love for my career makes me a better mother but I am in a very priviledged position that I now, since moving closer to home, have tonnes of help and support from my family-my mum is basically my nanny and my 2 year old is in nursery. I realise how lucky I am to have choices, support etc otherwise it would not be so easy.

  20. says

    This just makes me feel so good to read this! My career in PR took off when my daughter was 2, and it was tough going, and then Smiley was born and I thought I wouldn’t work again, but I went back part time and progressed even further until I lost my job in 2008 and yet here I am in 2012, well over the hill according to the expert, and with another great job. And as a lone parent, providing for my kids is part of what drives me on. Great inspiring post xx

  21. says

    Thank you so much for this post – it’s so inspiring. I’m 27 myself and feel having kids is still quite a way off for me yet, but even I feel scared and intimidated by all the horror stories I hear saying it will ruin your career and enslave you in the realm of the domestic forever. I love writing and I love what I do, and I don’t want to give it up when I eventually have a family – thank you for demonstrating that it doesn’t have to be that way! We need to hear more voices like yours, rather than the daily toll of ‘Women! You CAN’T have it all’ that comes from certain sections of the press x x

    • says

      I won’t lie – it IS hard. But if you love what you do and you have the drive to succeed then it’s certainly not impossible. You never know how you’re going to feel until you have kids and I’ve just gone with what’s felt right at the time. I don’t have some big masterplan but I do want to do well – and it’s my daughter who drives me to strive for that success.

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