Part Three: “Mommy Brain” Is GOOD for Your Career!
Lately there has been a great deal of attention paid to businesswomen rising through the corporate ranks to take their rightful place in the C-suite. While few things make me happier than watching cracks form in the glass ceiling, I find I’m still irked by how often the question of balancing the boardroom and motherhood makes its way into the discussion.
In the first two parts of this series, I looked at the oft-debated question “can women really have it all,” and the more recent variation of that question, “do women really WANT it all?” To wrap up this series, I’d like to challenge what I see as a misconception about those women whose definition of having it all includes a career and motherhood. Specifically, the notion that motherhood translates to an unavoidable disadvantage when it comes to business.
Is “Mommy Brain” in the boardroom really a bad thing?
Having children may be the greatest drain on all of your resources – mental, physical, and financial – but I do not believe that makes you any less capable of handling your responsibilities and Getting Heard at the office.
Personally, I’m never sure if I am annoyed or amused at the reaction of other professionals when they learn that I am a consultant AND working mother of three children under the age of nine. Once the look of shock wears off, they spout the inevitable “Whoa… what are you doing here?” type of comment. To be fair, none of my clients have ever held the fact that I’m a working mom against me. They receive tremendous value from our time together, and I derive great satisfaction from my work. I love my job and I love my family, but the thing that bothers me is that, more often than not, the person making the comment is a working dad with three or four children of his own. Has anyone ever asked him “What are you doing here?” I doubt it.
While “mommy brain” may be a very real condition caused by hormones and physiological shifts that occur during pregnancy and in the months following childbirth, it is not synonymous with a permanent (or even temporary) state of decreased intelligence or ability. And it will not cause you to lose your command of language or your communication skills. In fact, a Pulitzer-prizewinning reporter and mother, Katherine Ellison, has argued just the opposite in her book The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter.
Ellison asserts that while parenting poses obvious mental challenges, it also makes women smarter by exercising their brains in several ways. In interviewing working mothers, she found that most gained an edge in the workplace as a result of motherhood, “since there is a lot of coping with uncertain and hectic schedules, distractions, changes in plans, need to multitask and care for people.” Ellison also uses scientific evidence to underscore how being a mother increases “efficiency (including learning and memory), your motivation, your stress-coping mechanisms and your social skills or emotional intelligence,” all of which can translate to better handling of countless workplace challenges.
(By the way, Google provides 144,000+ results for “mommy brain” whereas a search for “daddy brain” produced only 10,000 results, many of which seemed to try to convince other men that there really is such a thing.)
Our world is filled with distractions and ever-mounting responsibilities that have nothing to do with whether or not you’ve had children.
For example, have you ever had a “senior moment”? Sure you have! Even if you’re in your thirties, I’ll bet you’ve walked into a room only to stand there in a momentary stupor as you try to recall why you went in there in the first place. And when was the last time you spent five minutes frantically searching for the eyeglasses that had been sitting (smugly) atop your head the whole time?
Yeah, I’ve done that too. And whether it happens at work or at home, I’m certain it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m a mom.
ceoHER™ was founded in 2012 by leading presentation coach and media training expert, Suzanne Franchetti. Suzanne was sought out by President Obama’s team to serve with an elite group of presentation coaches at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Through targeted coaching and media training programs, ceoHER™ answers the specific communication-related needs of today’s businesswomen and women entrepreneurs to prepare them for the next step in their careers. Operating on the principle that communication is a great equalizer in business, ceoHER™ believes that developing these skills is a key factor in expanding the number of women who reach prestigious C-level posts.
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