Having children is the death of a working woman's career -- or at least that's what we've been told.
In Toronto-based author and entrepreneur Reva Seth's second book, she seeks to dispel this thesis in what is a surprisingly interesting, uplifting and cohesive study.
Part inspiration, part exploration and part dissertation, The MomShift (released Tuesday, Feb. 11) chronicles the experiences of more than 500 women who don't just accommodate children in their already-busy lives -- they flourish and thrive, becoming even more successful in their careers.
Seth details the numerous stats that suggest motherhood has a negative impact on career success. She outlines the wide wage gap that still exists, particularly for mothers: "Women who exit and re-enter the workforce to have children tend to experience wage losses of three per cent per year of absence."
She also cites statistics from studies that show while women are perceived as less committed to their job after becoming mothers, the opposite is true for fathers, who are perceived as being more dependable and committed.
One of the most appealing aspects of Seth's work is the relatable nature of her subjects. She admits that chronicling the day-to-day life of someone like Melissa Mayar, president and CEO of Yahoo! (whose net worth is around $350 million), is hardly useful to the average Canadian mom.
(Very few Canadian moms could afford to build a nursery adjacent to their office, after all.)
Instead she focuses on the average women who, through hard work, education and a commitment to their BlackBerrys, have made it to the top. She speaks with CEOs, vice-presidents, entrepreneurs, directors, associates and almost every type of successful woman in between.
A Momshifter's success is defined as a woman who moves into a role that offers more money, greater responsibility and autonomy, increased opportunity and/or a more flexible work schedule.
The prevailing message is a logical hope -- it may not be easy to balance children, long commutes and office hours, your spouse's career, aging parents and gender stereotypes, but it can be done.
Seth's book largely focuses on the traditional male/female model of marriage; many women she talks to credit the support of a male partner willing to have his career take a backseat. Others credit their success to the use of hired help and a growing recognition by employers that a flexible workplace will help retain the best female talent.
Conversely, Seth also talks to several women who, after realizing their traditional workplaces could not accommodate their needs, set out to start their own businesses, becoming freelancers and entrepreneurs.
A consistent theme throughout the book is that many women find they have increased drive and ambition after becoming mothers, knowing they now have a family to provide for. It's an inspiring look at motherhood.
Ultimately, The MomShift is a must-read for every career-minded mother for two lessons it teaches.
The first is the idea of "leaning back" -- that there is nothing wrong with deciding to stay in a job that is comfortable while trying to balance small children. Career success will come when you are ready.
The second is the idea that women can have it all -- they just don't have to have it right now. Says Seth, "I tell my girls that 'having it all' can happen, and one way to do it is to stagger it over the long haul instead of trying to cram it all in at once."
Cue collective sigh of relief.
Nisha Tuli is a Winnipeg writer and "MomShifter" who blogs at www.waterformothers.com.