How being a parent can make you highly motivated at work – and why many mums don’t want the slow lane

Mums creating inspiring work

There is often an assumption that women with children aren’t interested in work or motivated to succeed.   And it is rarely an assumption aimed at fathers: ‘well now he’s a dad, he won’t be interested in developing himself / progression / more money’ – it just sounds weird, doesn’t it?

According to a report by The Fawcett Society, 36% of people believe that a woman becomes less motivated after having children (11% believe that men do) – and only 8% believe women are more motivated (29% for men).

And research has shown that men progress faster at work after having children – where women’s careers tend to slow down. This is simply illogical.

Possibly in the past the desire for flexible working patterns has got confused with a lack of interest and motivation in work itself – by both employers and sometimes mums… but hopefully that view will soon go the way of the dinosaurs!

Some parents choose to focus on home and family, and soft pedal their careers – and I am not knocking that, if it is a free and deliberate decision. But it does not mean that all mums want to, by default.

So here are four reasons why people may well be highly motivated and interested in their careers after having children.  Now of course all of these can apply to people without children just as much… (except the one about children being expensive). I am not coming over all Andrea Leadsom here…   But there is an extra factor that comes from having a family, that gives some previously more laid back types (me being one of them) a kick up the rear end.  And it is rooted in wanting to make the best use of every moment away from their children, and in building the best future for their family.

They want to spend their time on work they care about

Having small people you care about raises the bar for how you spend your time.  This doesn’t necessarily mean wanting to spend every second with them – but it does mean that time spent away from them feels wasted if it’s spent on something you don’t care about, or that is tedious.  Which often means steering a career or role in a direction that

They have little tolerance for wasting time and effort

Which means they focus in the right places and prioritise the most important things for the organisation.

They want to create a strong example of their values

Having children gives an extra motivation to want to develop – and show – your best self, to help inspire them with what is possible.   What this looks like may differ depending on a person’s values, but might be about modelling learning, or inspiring work, creativity, entrepreneurialism or a strong work ethic

Children are expensive

Childcare, education, clothes, food, holidays…on a practical level the list is huge – and on an emotional level, their future security. Even for people who were not previously money-motivated, the ability to earn well can start to matter much more – motivating commitment and the desire for progression.

The point is that there are many reasons for working parents to be extra motivated – not less.  And the perception that working mums are less motivated than everyone else (and working dads are more motivated) is simply daft, illogical and sexist.

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2 thoughts on “How being a parent can make you highly motivated at work – and why many mums don’t want the slow lane

  1. Great post. I’m applying for a promotion at work but I’m embarrassed to tell people. I’m currently on maternity leave, and would love not to have to go back, but we need the money, so I figure I may as well try for a better position (with the added bonus of a slightly better location and shorter commute).


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