Avoid Getting "Mommy Tracked": Your Plan For Maternity Leave And Beyond

Does your career path really have to change just because you're a mom?
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The number one reason more women are waiting till they are older to have their first child is that they want to get to a certain success level in their careers before having kids, hoping to avoid being "mommy tracked."

What is the "mommy track"?

"The phrase 'mommy tracked' is really code for 'not being taken seriously'," says Amber Strocel, blogger and mom of two. Although no one seems to think being a dad affects a guy's work life, in many offices being a mom is the kiss of death. Since moms are the CEOs at home, it's hard when those still clueless to their abilities to multitask, delegate, and make clear and concise decisions fast, can't see us as CEOs at work too.

How do you know if you're on it?

"You know you're being "mommy tracked' when you're not invited to meetings you once were, aren't given as many new assignments as you previously tackled, and you're no longer being asked for your opinion," Strocel continues. "By being reliable, speaking up in meetings, being willing to take on challenges and doing great work, you can try to ensure that you are taken seriously." After all, who has more management skills than moms?

The best ways to get off it

Ivana Pignatelli, author of A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby's First Year and a blogger for ModernMom.com says, "Working moms have two full-time jobs, and though you may have baby spit-up on your blouse (a mom's badge of honor), you're juggling a household, budgets, schedules, and workloads within a family. These are all assets to any company."

So moms need to learn not to sell ourselves short, and need to ask for more responsibilities, higher salaries and the promotions we deserve. Also, don't be afraid to be a trailblazer. If your company has a tendency to bypass working moms for travel or for challenging projects (like a new mom friend of mine whose boss assumed she'd want to be taken off of a high-profile account because it required nighttime entertaining), make sure you seek out--or fight to keep--those opportunities. You may further your career simply by correcting an assumption that you don't want demanding work.

If you've negotiated to get to work from home for any amount of time during the week, "make sure that you are in the office frequently enough and involved in projects that are high profile," says Lee E. Miller, managing director of Advanced Human Resources LLC and co-author of A Woman's Guide to Successful Negotiating, "so that you remain visible to those who determine promotions." You don't want a case of out of sight, out of mind when you are doing tons of amazing work behind the scenes.

Remember: You don't have to slave away at work at the detriment of seeing your baby, though. "It's all about being efficient when you return from maternity leave," says Margaret Magnarelli, assistant managing editor at Money magazine and author of the textbook Per$onal Finance. "Give up a few lunches out so that you can pack more into your shorter work day. Avoid scheduling late meetings, where you'll have to regularly excuse yourself to rush home to relieve the nanny. And show your supervisors that you're still as engaged as you were pre-maternity leave by strategically sending out e-mails to your boss after you put your baby to bed. You might do only 15 minutes of work, but your boss will still think you're putting in crazy hours, even if you aren't!"

Keeping work and family separate as much as possible can help you avoid being mommy-tracked as well. "That means making sure that you have back-up plans when your baby is sick, arriving on time, and not oversharing about your day-care search or the latest toilet training fiasco," Strocel says.

Basically, downplay family talk at work--most men do. Of course it depends on how family-friendly your work environment is, but in general it's a good rule to keep children's photos and artwork to a minimum; you don't hide them away altogether, but there's no need to make your office look like a school's bulletin board. Don't over-explain personal time off needed for mom-related reasons, such as your daughter's ballet recital. Don't be caught making personal calls about your child's doctor's appointments or playdates. And no talking baby talk to your kids while at the office--ever!

It may make your job a little less fun, but isn't it worth it to be taken more seriously and to get the money and title you deserve?

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.

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