Don’t throw your career out with the baby’s bath water


Having a baby can be a wonderful and joyous experience for many people, but a word of warning.

In my work at the Smart Therapy Centre, I have noticed over and over again that women will often suddenly decide they want to get pregnant when they are feeling scared and ‘stuck’ in their career with no clear way forward.

Rather than sort out the work strategy, women often go for the society-pleasing option of getting pregnant. The timing is generally not a coincidence, although women are usually unaware of this.

While having a baby can be a fantastic experience for women – the pleasure can also easily wear thin.

The reasons for this lie in our history. There were two major changes that occurred in the 1960’s that essentially led to the massive liberation of women in Australia.

The first, was women being able to control their fertility (‘The Pill’).  The second, was increased availability of paid employment and legislation that ‘allowed’ married women to return to paid work.

As soon as married women had their own income they immediately started leaving unhappy marriages.  Until then they had often been forced to stay and ‘endure’.  Following these changes, for the first time in history, more women left marriages than men!

However, take away either or both changes and women are in deep trouble.

I see this all the time in my clinical work: when women get pregnant and have young infants it is often very difficult for them to return to paid employment and once they lose their income they often (unintentionally) lose leverage and bargaining power that they previously enjoyed in their relationship.

When women lose income power, they suddenly feel like they have to ‘ask’ for money which is now doled out at his discretion.  Women are often doing much of the drudgery work at home (which can lead to them feeling like servants) while he is able to keep interacting with work colleagues.  The romantic dream of having a baby has suddenly turned sour.

What I observe in my work; is women losing confidence as they lose their work and social skills, while he is continuing to build his skills (having usually resolved any ‘stuck’ points in his career). These women often tell me they have nothing to talk about with other adults apart from ‘nappies and housework’.

As a result, they can easily become isolated in the home, disempowered and afraid that they can no longer say ‘no’ to sex or he will become authoritarian with the money – so they ‘endure’.  With time, she can easily become more and more down-trodden, miserable and complaining and he loses his respect for her and gets meaner and possibly cruel.  A vicious cycle of inequality resembling that of the pre-1960’s emerges.

This is a pattern that I have observed hundreds of times in my work and it is heart-breaking to witness it still in current years.  There are ways around it, but they must be well-planned and they usually require (unsurprisingly) equal time-sharing with the baby, reliable child-care, a quick return to work and the re-instatement of skills, income and the power that goes along with paid employment.

So, next time you’re thinking about having a baby, examine your motives carefully just in case they are really about feeling ‘stuck’ in your career – because (trust me) things can get a hell of a lot worse very quickly!