“Opting-out” of work or “staying in”: the only options for Moms?

In Corporate America, women can “opt out” or “stay in”-but are those the only options for business moms these days? New moms are reinventing themselves.

In a society where you would expect equal rights for man and women, clichés and double standards still exist for career women on the fast track. Once they decide to have a baby, it can all come to a screeching halt. In corporate America, women can “opt out” or “stay in”-but are those the only options for business moms these days?

I am in the group catalogued as “Educated and High Achiever Women”, with a successful career, 2 masters and 3 certificates among other studies. I am a career women and I never thought I would consider a different life. I am passionate about my work, I love leading teams, changing the game, setting up strategies, making things happen, travel the world, deal with challenges and face different cultures. Once I had my baby in my arms, I knew I did not want to stop my career, however I knew, I did not want to pay someone to do what I wanted to do myself: care for my little baby full time for longer than just the first 12 weeks of her life (that’s what you get, if you are lucky, in USA).

I could decide to be part of the “opt-out revolution“ among well-educated and well-off new moms who had chosen to stay home with their babies. Or I could decide to stay in, continue working and get all the support I needed to keep that life style and stay in senior leadership roles.

After decades of decline, the share of in stay-at-home mothers rose from 23% in 1999 to 29% in 2012, according to Pew Research Center analysis of government data. By contrast, the share of stay-at-home fathers are increasing agressively.

There are many reasons for a woman to decide to become a stay-at-home mother. HuffPost highlights 8: stress, maternal instinct or feeling pushed out of work, among others. Pew Research Center analysis refers to a mix of demographic, economic and societal factor: women not finding a job, being Hispanic or not USA born and cost of childcare, among others.

As a result, about 10% of highly educated and high achiever women decide to become stay-at-home moms.

However, statistics show evidence that most of the “opt-out” women would love to work. The lack of schedule flexibility of senior executive roles, the long hours and the amount of traveling discourage them from staying-in. But, are these new moms really “opting-out” or feeling pushed-out? While we claim for equal rights, and we want more women at C-suit level as well as in boardrooms, are we providing the support and flexibility for this change to happen? Are the suggestions from Sheryl Sandberg good enough to keep women in the workforce?

At that’s only part of the question. If the decision to “opt out” or “stay in” is not easy, the challenge for these highly educated and talented women gets harder when they want to get back into the type of senior leadership roles they left.

A well known executive director, from one of the top Executive Search firms in USA, highlights the difficulties that opt-out moms face when they want to go back to work. “Man do not take breaks” and “man network all the time, while women are usually too busy taking care of the kids”. Many headhunters and peers recommend having realistic expectations to return to a lower level grade job, and catch up from there.

Is this all what a high qualified and experienced female leader can expect after all the years working hard? There are many skills that do not vanish for becoming a mother, quite the opposite: strengthening leadership, prioritization, time management, patience, instinct, coaching, only to mention few. By focusing on the skill set and the whole work and life experience of these women, could we offer better job options? We need them: they have already invested so much in their education and professional growth, and we need experienced high talented women to sit in top leadership roles, closing the existing gender gap. We need to maintain and grow the pool of female leaders with potential to become CEO’s of big and small companies, even if they are moms and want flexible schedule.

Because of these challenging conditions, some of these smart female leaders are changing the meaning of stay-at-home moms. These women are reinventing themselves to be able to use their skills for a job that creates a positive impact, while building the flexibility they need to be present at home with their family and little ones. These women are currently creating and growing their own companies, working as senior consultants or working for their community  to be the best mother they can be and maintain their professional life alive, feeling more fulfill instead of frustrated for not fitting in a corporate world.

These women are an inspiration to me and to many. Watch out for them and let’s support them!

At Aurora Global, through our program Aurora Women, we support female entrepreneurs by subsidizing part of the costs of our strategy, marketing and digital services. It is our way to support women to be successful and happy in the workforce, growing businesses, making a positive impact and shaping a new world, becoming role models for other women, girls and society.