Kids or husbands: Who holds your career back?

The "mommy-track" is to blame for killing your career, according to a new study.

Taking the 'mommmy-track' means Jennifer can spend more time with her children. Photo: Jennifer Pinarski
Choosing the “mommy-track” means Jennifer can spend more time with her children. Photo: Jennifer Pinarski

Last month, I received a phone call from a magazine editor that I’d done an interview with a few years ago. The job I’d applied for had understandably gone to a more qualified candidate, but circumstances had since changed—and would I like to work for them now?

The job would have been a dream come true—working for a publication I loved, in an industry I felt passionate about. The pay and benefits were generous and I knew the team would be fabulous. That evening, my husband hashed out the pros and cons of my returning to full-time work: More money, a chance to restart my career after being out of the workforce as a stay-at-home mom. The drawback of a long commute seemed insignificant by comparison.

Read more: Women with kids are more productive at work: Study>

“But what about when I have to travel for work? I only just started this new job and I can’t take time off,” my husband said. Translation: Who would take care of our two kids?

He had a point: We’d have to put the kids in daycare and, as a new employee with a long career ahead of him, my husband really couldn’t afford to quit his job. But just because he had a point it didn’t mean I had to like it. The conversation about why I needed to be the stay-at-home parent wasn’t a pleasant one. I’d like to say that I cheerfully accepted the fact that I had to turn down this fabulous opportunity, but the call I had to make to my would-have-been employer was not an easy one to make. In the following days I was angry and disappointed—this was not the career trajectory I had planned when I left college.

But whose fault is that?

Read more: Stay-at-home moms who regret their decision>

If the results from a recent study out of Harvard Business School are to be believed, the blame for my stalled career should be laid at my husband’s feet. Study authors interviewed more than 25,000 men and women who graduated over the past several decades and discovered that male graduates were much more likely to be in senior management positions and make more direct reports than their female peers. Of the GenX and baby boomers surveyed, only 11 percent of women left the workforce to be full-time moms—which means the majority of women aged 32-48 work full-time.

“The authors found, definitively, that the ‘opt-out’ explanation is a myth,” writes Slate.com‘s Jessica Grose.

Read more: Why I left a career in TV for my family>

The majority of women interviewed said they assumed their marriages (and, in turn, their careers) would be equal, whereas men assumed that their careers would take precedence. Grose points to the fact that female employees get side-tracked by the “mommy-track”: Pregnancy, the need for more flexible schedules and the stigma that employees who are mothers will be less dedicated to their jobs.

Sounds discouraging, doesn’t it? But my question is: Is the “mommy-track” really so bad?

Admittedly, when I had to turn down that dream-job, I cursed the mommy-track that I had taken when I decided to become a stay-at-home mom. The mommy-track does have its costs (I’ll never be able to go back to the career I once had), but I try to keep in mind the benefits of the time I’m currently investing in my children—even if I’m not investing in myself. It’s easy to blame my spouse that I’m at home with the kids. The problem with blame is that it breeds negativity—and it’s the negativity that holds you back, not your family. My aspirations right now go no further than raising a healthy family—and, for me, that’s enough.

Read more: Career: 10 secrets of working parents>

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.

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