Motherhood and career are often viewed as mutually exclusive. You have to pick between your career and your child. For young mothers, the choice is even more pressing. Many don’t have a career yet, and some are still in school and trying to figure out what their future career path will look like, not only for the benefit of themselves but also for their young family. Being a mom is a tremendously rewarding endeavour, but trying to balance motherhood with a career can also be tremendously difficult.
However, this motherhood/career dichotomy doesn’t need to exist. A balance can be achieved with the right support, guidance, knowledge, resources and skills. This is not to say that as a woman journeys through her career and through motherhood that there won’t be times when that balance is skewed one way or the other. There may be times when more time and attention needs to be given to her career (due to training or demanding projects, for instance) or her family.
The balance between career and motherhood will come with some give and take, some compromise and the need to be adaptable. For women who have a supportive family or a strong network of friends and neighbours and some financial stability, juggling a career and motherhood can be a little bit easier.
When faced with the prospect of choosing a career path and being a mom, a holistic approach to career development can help support young mothers throughout this journey. After all, it’s not just about the mothers – it’s about the children they are raising and their collective future. Career services can provide strategies young mothers can use to obtain a fulfilling career and realize their full potential without having to compromise their roles and responsibilities as a mom.
The role of career services
Career exploration and career development programming for young moms can play an important role in providing them with the information, experiences and knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their future. Providing young moms with the opportunity to learn, experience, network and develop the skills needed to succeed in the workplace will ultimately increase their confidence about their future and how to get there.
A holistic approach
Career development should involve more than just identifying potential careers. It should be an all-inclusive experience that helps your client find a career that fits with her values, interests, priorities and goals, while helping her balance the responsibilities she has as mom.
- Accessibility: This is an important factor in career development, especially when the demands of parenting are a part of the experience. In an effort to make career development opportunities more accessible for young mothers, organizations can provide extra supports such as child care, transportation or a meal program. A café in Regina, Brain Snacks, provides child-care services along with a co-working space for mothers. They give moms with the opportunity to work, study or attend career development classes while their children are being cared for.
- Family involvement: Getting the entire family involved in the career development journey will benefit everyone. Having the children on-site while their moms are engaged in learning provides the opportunity for role modelling to happen. Children will see the importance of and the value their moms are placing on learning and education. Children can be encouraged to engage in learning through activities such as story time and interactive play with others. These experiences will help children develop their literacy, numeracy and social skills in a caring and supportive environment while at the same time preparing them for future success in school.
- Hands-on learning: Holistic career services should provide hands-on, experiential learning. It is important that young mothers experience a variety of career options. Most begin their job search with preconceived notions about their abilities, the types of careers available to them and their future. Through hands-on learning, young mothers gain confidence, overcome fears and learn what they really want in a career – not just what they think they want.
A holistic approach to career development means that young moms do not need to and should not have to choose between their children and a career. It’s important to show them they can have both. By providing a supportive, accessible and caring environment for learning to take place, young moms can have the confidence to:
- Explore a number of career opportunities that include their children and family.
- Get out of their comfort zone, try new things, ask questions.
- Decide what they want to do as opposed to being told what to do.
- Become their own career development champions.
- Understand, develop and set the parametres around a healthy work/life balance that fits with their priorities and goals.
If young moms have the opportunity to participate in a career development program that is holistic in nature, raises awareness and provides a clearer understanding of the link between education, career and life priorities – ultimately creating a roadmap to highlight important steps on the path to success – their future and the future of their families will be well-positioned.
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