Career dynamo or full-time mother? Here’s how I made the choice, says Sumanda Maritz.
I was a late starter in the career department, but once I decided to become a quantity surveyor, there was no stopping me. It’s not like I ever wanted kids. I had a five year plan. My ultimate goal was to become the first female partner in the biggest quantity surveying firm in South Africa.
I made a very good start to my career plans. Every partner in the firm knew my name and respected the work that I was doing. I networked after hours with the senior staff. I gladly worked through the night to complete projects on time. I knew everything that was happening in my office and a good lot of what went on in the others. I really went above and beyond the call of duty.
Even when I met my husband, the career plans were still in place. Then we got married and I fell pregnant. I had a boss who was quite frankly a male chauvinist. He pronounced that no woman can manage a career and be a mother, even though he employed several mothers. His opinion was that once a woman has children, she no longer focuses solely on her work. And looking at the way I changed, he was right.
The first time that I looked into my son Rivan’s eyes, held him and connected to this little gift from heaven, I didn’t want to spend one minute without him. Oh, how that has changed! The little brat is now 4 years old and needs a minimum 6 hours of active play at school to be manageable. Not that it has changed my decision about my career.
I tried going back to the office, but after two months decided that I can’t leave my precious baby in the care of others. Today, after 4 kids, I am a work-from-home-mommy. I’ve done a complete turn around on the career front and now design websites, do architectural photography and a bit of freelance writing to earn an income. All of these fit in around the needs of my kids.
I believe that every mother has to make this decision in her life. To manage a career as well as motherhood, or to give up the career. I’m not talking about choosing a stay at home lifestyle that is out of reach for most households, but the actively fighting for career advancement. The diehard career gal that wishes to reach the top ring on the career ladder of success.
I don’t have the urge to climb the corporate ladder anymore. That does not mean I don’t have any ambition, or that I am no longer good at what I do. I still take pride in what I accomplish. It does, however, mean that I am no longer available to work overtime. That I need to take time off for certain things and that my number one priority now lies with my kids.
It also means that I no longer have a steady income…
Making this decision is not always that easy. Every now and then I wish that I had stuck to the career path. Specially when I get tired of the conversation level of a baby, 2 and 4 year olds. The doubts usually hit me when I go for a visit at the old company. Looking and listening to everyone at the office where I was part of the action in everything that happened. Happily those days are few and far between, I don’t visit very often. Do you think mothers have to choose between their careers and families?