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Katrina Alcorn's picture

Are you better or worse at your job since you had kids?

I've been thinking about this question ever since someone named Jennifer left this comment in response to something I wrote last week about pay inequity:

It’s ironic that mothers make less in the corporate world …  My ability to be an effective leader has grown exponentially from the experience of being a mother.

Sleep-deprived zombies or super efficient multi-taskers? You be the judge.Sleep-deprived zombies or super efficient multi-taskers? You be the judge.(1)

I was so glad to hear someone say this. We often think of ourselves as being worse at our jobs when we have kids. Moms joke about having "mommy brain," (which isn't really that funny. It's kind of scary, for example, to find yourself losing your train of thought in the middle of a presentation.). We talk about the crazed multitasking we do to survive, which can leave us with work notes in the diaper bag, and an extra diaper in the laptop bag.

Becoming a parent means there are new demands on our time and for many of us--moms and dads--we feel strangely disloyal to our jobs after we have kids. I certainly did. Although my co-workers rarely complained, I still felt like I was two-timing my job every time I helped out in my daughter's classroom or stayed home because my son had (another!) fever, or skipped a client dinner so I could have mac n' cheese at home and argue with the kids about whether they would get two stories or three at bedtime.

And yet, when I take stock of my work life, I think having kids made me so much better at my job. I became extremely efficient at getting things done, of course, but that was only part of the story. I also became more grounded, more humble, more serious, and more ambitious. Time became a precious commodity that I did not want to waste, whether it was in a meeting or in my career as a whole. My company benefited from this.

So why do mothers make only 68% of what men earn? [2] And forgetting about the disgraceful pay inequity for a moment, why is it that we feel so horribly guilty when we skulk out of the office at 4:30 (Egad! You leave so early?) to pick up our kids from daycare, or when we have to work from home because the school called and our daughter has head lice (again!). And could these two things (guilt and pay inequity) be related? Why can't we feel proud of our contributions, despite the compromises on our time?

This is my experience. What about yours? Moms and dads. You can disagree. Just be honest. Has having kids made you better at your job or worse?

Original post from Working Moms Break.

[1] Photo of women working from Library of Congress

[2] International Trade Union Confederation report 2010.

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