Thursday, October 7, 2010

Managing a Career through the Childbearing Years

Panelists: Lynda Grindstaff (Intel), Karin Meyer (Intuit), Phyllis Stewart Pires (SAP), Mary Anne Egan (Siena College), Elizabeth Psihos (Thomson Reuters), and Lalitha Ramanathan (Symantec)

The panelists offered up some good tips for traditional two-parent families juggling child care, child rearing, and careers. Adding other "family blends", such as a single parent without a spousal safety net or a mother in a same sex relationship, also managing their careers while faced with the added challenges of their situations, would have likely required a larger room for this already jam-packed session.

An audience member shared her situation as the main breadwinner while her husband was the stay-at-home dad, receiving questions from the floor about managing the guilt of a less traditional child rearing arrangement.

A majority of the audience included students who did not yet have children, but who were in the early stages of planning how to juggle multiple priorities. What they heard from these seasoned working moms was that trade-offs are a part of the decision to have children and raise a family and that learning how to manage guilt early in the game came with the territory.

Lynda Grindstaff who, along with her husband, works for Intel told the audience that they "needed to develop a thicker skin and make a conscious effort to spend time with their kids". She uses quality, focused time with her children and shares with them what she does. She gets creative in asking for help. "I don't want my kids to not experience sports and other activities just because mom works."

"Don't waste time at work--get the job done," said Karin Meyer who works for Intuit.

"Don't worry about the timing of having children while in school. If a company wants you they want you," panelist Mary Anne Egan shared with the audience. Flexible schedules are a big part of the safety net that Egan and her husband share--she works for Siena College and he works for himself.

Panelists suggested researching Working Mother magazine and other resources for more family friendly companies. A shared tip from an audience member was to make certain that if you're looking to work for a start-up company that other women with children already work there--married men with stay-at-home wives won't understand.

Phyllis Stewart Pires of SAP has juggled childbearing three times, each time returning to different configurations within the organization. "I've breastfed all three, have used all forms of childcare, and over the course of their early years all my children experienced on-site childcare."

Stewart Pires offered a number of creative tips for working moms:
  • Returning from maternity leave - do your due diligence - reinvent your value proposition to the company based on any changes that have occurred while you were on leave.
  • Create a 360 safety net of different networks--part-time moms, full-time moms, PTA, etc. Become an involved person within a smaller network.
  • Consider hosting the weekend sleepovers if you're unable to have kids over M-F.
  • Seize the moments and get your kids to talk to you. Stewart Pires uses a "parking lot strategy" where during the course of the week while transporting her children to different activities, she meets in the car with one while waiting for the other child to finish their activity.
  • Create a visual cue to pull yourself out of a negative cycle.
  • Set clear expectations with your significant other at the beginning before you have children.
  • Find your champions--you may find them in the least likely places, i.e., in your network or at work.

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