You want your career, and you want a baby. Fair asks! You are equally excited about both and believe you can balance them. That new mothers cannot have thriving careers, is a stereotype.
Yet, we need to consider one thing here – women feel the conflict between the two aspects more, as compared to men. This is not based on gendered expectations. It is neurological. On returning to work after maternity leave, some women don’t perform the same way. But this is not a matter of competence. It’s the ‘mommy brain.’
What is it? Research published by the American Psychological Association found that the brains of new mothers “grew in areas linked to motivation and behavior, and that mothers who felt most connected to their babies showed the greatest growth in key parts of the mid-brain.” Hormonal changes right after the birth of a baby may reshape mothers’ brains to respond to their babies. This helps create a bond and understand the baby’s different needs.
But the same brain might not support the demands of our work as easily as it did before, because motherhood is a more instinctive process. And that’s what causes the crisis to occur. What do we do about it then?
- Broaden your understanding of who you are. This means accounting for the role of a mother. It is a tough process because it involves grieving or feeling the change of the older identity. Ask yourself questions like:
- Who do you want to be as a mother?
- How do you want to relate to your child – how much time to spend, how to ask for help from others, what kind of activities you want to do, etc.
- Ask the same questions about yourself as a professional – what do you want for yourself now that you have another all-consuming role?
- Think about what success looks like now. While pre-baby you might have burnt the midnight oil and skipped meals to send out project proposals or talk to teams abroad, after baby’s arrival your time is spent differently. You might still skip meals and stay awake, but you are doing that for the baby. The project proposal happens in the morning. You are doing both still! So, account for success in both roles. It just looks different than before.
- Connect with other new mothers. Given the overwhelm and conflicts, you could feel isolated and confused. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Find the courage to ask working mothers around you, for their experience. Or even look it up online. You’ll find the push you need.
You might think that a change like ‘mommy brain’ hinders you. But, if you consider the change without pressure, you will be in awe of how it works in our favor evolutionarily.