It is true – the time of life when women can be at their best professionally, is also the ideal time to have children. These two aspects of women’s lives, career and motherhood, are considered incompatible.
But, research shows that motherhood makes women more creative. Something to keep in mind – the results have been found by observing female rats. And rats are the only species whose brains are like human brains – the same neurochemicals, a resembling hippocampus, amygdala, and a brain cell structure that’s alike human cells. It’s striking.
So, what happens to the brain with the onset of motherhood?
It experiences changes in its neural pathways, which:
- Improves the mother’s ability to learn and remember new skills
- Sharpens her brain’s motor and sensory systems – the mother is faster with tasks
- Strengthens her ability to solve problems in new ways – make fewer errors
- Enhance her navigation skills – she is quicker
Rat moms are inventive, resourceful, intuitive, adaptable, and fearless. This is a powerful window to understanding human moms. Moreover, the changes above signal better competence.
How do you take a stand for yourself?
- Explore your mindset. Do you grieve about how your career will take a hit once you have a baby? Or that your career will end? Challenge that thought. Yes, you’ll find yourself stretched. But, is there a more meaningful perspective to be found?
Also challenge cultural norms that might limit you. Only you know your capabilities. Establish them. Kelley Posner, Director of Center for Suicide Risk at Columbia University, says, “It is important for women to believe that they can have a vision. Most women do not allow themselves to think that.”
- Negotiate constantly. Motherhood, as shown above, prepares you to manage uncertain and high-pressure situations with unique problem-solving capabilities. Use that skill. Got a push back for a leave request? Negotiate work timings and have a hard stop time every day. Get flexi-hours. Use technology to your aid. And as Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, recommends, let go of unattainable goals.
- Get support. This might sound like a no-brainer. But, in a recent survey 74% of women said they’d like more support when they become new mothers. And not having that affects their choice to become a parent. Ask for help, if you feel you’re being discriminated against at work. Talk to a trusted colleague/ manager. Invite friends to baby sit with you.
There is no legitimate reason why new mothers should be considered less competent. Research points otherwise. So, challenge ideas that limit you, and help your workplace and your family move towards a more inclusive culture.