The Mom Penalty: When Opportunity Knocks and You Can’t Answer

When Opportunity Knocks and You Can’t Answer

Opportunity knocks. Unexpectedly. Excitement, fear and anxiety rise up from deep within my belly. Decisions, life-changing ones, must be made, quickly.

My brain is like a tug-of-war. One side, the career woman pulls hard on the rope. “Opportunity doesn’t happen often. Think of the career growth.”

The other side, the mom, yanks fiercely back. “Your responsibility lies at home. Besides, what if it doesn’t work out? You’ll never forgive yourself.”

I lay awake as the clock glares angrily, “3:00am.” I know I should sleep, but my thoughts do not allow me to rest.  Opportunity has knocked… But should I answer?

I listen to the rain pound against my window, the wind whipping it against the once silent night. I aimlessly scroll Instagram, hoping exhaustion overtakes. But the tug-of-war continues.

“Climb the ladder, grow in the corporate world, this is the next step in reaching the career aspirations you set for yourself a long time ago! You are not fulfilled in your current role.”

“But, my current role has great work/life balance. What if you miss a school event cause you have to be in a meeting? What if the baby gets sick and you can’t get there in ten minutes?”

How can I be a successful career woman and a successful mom? I LOVE being a Mom. It is the best job I have ever held.  And I enjoy having a career and want to progress. But, who will make certain dinner is on the table, if I am stuck in traffic? Will we be able to do our afternoon activities, if a meeting runs late? These are things I want to be able to do.

Why does the manager not understand that if the work can be done remotely, it should be done remotely? Why drive an hour to do a job that does not require being on location? I wouldn’t even have an office. I’d drive an hour to a desk space I reserved. My team wouldn’t even be located in that office.  

For a long time I have tirelessly hit sales goals from my home office. Comfortable knowing I am bringing in income and flexible enough to be present always in my child’s life.

But, why should I have to remain stagnant in a job because I hold a duel role in life?

How inequitable this world can be to the working mom. The one who provides, thrives, whether by necessity or choice.

How unfair when I have to turn down the opportunity that knocked? They chose me because I am talented. They chose me because I am smart and capable and well-qualified. They also chose me because I did not tell them I am a Mom with responsibilities.

The corporate world is not built to allow a mom to succeed on all fronts. A woman only earns on average 80 cents for each dollar a man earns. And, a “mommy-penalty” exists. Women are more likely to take him off to parent and often struggle to grow careers when they return to the workplace. They struggle for promotion as a hard negotiator is thought of as aggressive.

On one hand, an employer may view a Mom has having less commitment  due to familial obligations versus a Dad who for the same reasons, are thought of as  more committed to the job.

 As long as the old generation languishes in their fancy offices with their large job titles hanging on to some antiquated ideology, we will likely be held back. We, the intelligent, driven women who strive for more in their career. Those who can multi-task with ease because our lives are one giant multi-task. But the same folks who must lay down this sacrifice because their responsibility lies with their family. A wonderful responsibility and sacrifice no less.

I always believed the notion that you can have it all. But when opportunity knocked, I realized that is not true. There will always have to be a sacrifice at some cost. And I must decide what portion of my being must lose this tug of war.

Tomorrow, I will have to thank them for the opportunity. Tomorrow the Mom will win. The cost: career growth. The comfort: flexibility to be Mom. But, while I stand firm in this decision and accept my position as a stagnant corporate worker,  I cant help but think how unfair it is that this country is not built to support the working moms success.


How ironic was the response I received. He was disappointed, but understands the importance of family, as he has children himself. And so the working Mom will continue to strive for equality, but until that understanding turns into action it is a battle we are losing.



One Response to The Mom Penalty: When Opportunity Knocks and You Can’t Answer

  1. Lisa July 8, 2018 at 3:41 pm #

    I completely understand and have been in the same position as you. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what I could have accomplished in my career. However, I have opted to stay at home completely or work part time.

Leave a Reply

HTML Snippets Powered By :