You know that adage, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person”? It turns out, it’s true! And I’m psyched to see that a study just proved what every working mom has always suspected: that our multi-tasking abilities make us more productive at work.
This is good news for any woman who knows she’s called to be a great mom but also feels a calling to use her gifts outside the home. I recently came across a study of 10,000 female academics, which found this shocking thing: that once a working woman became a mother she had to (gasp) learn to juggle a wide variety of tasks in order to survive. The researchers breathlessly conclude that the art of juggling all these tasks in an efficient and speedy manner then made her more productive in all areas of life.
For many of us, learning to balance work and family truly tests our parenting skills… but it is encouraging to see in print what we have long suspected: that it also transfers to a resiliency in our professional life.
Under certain conditions, that is.
What conditions? Well, the study found some of the same things I found in my Life Ready Woman Bible study. You can’t do it all, all at the same time! You have to honor the natural order of family, work with the seasons of life, prioritize what matters most, and manage your time well.
For example, the university study found that if you have children before you’re married, it makes it so much harder to do well both at home and at work—because you don’t have a husband there to be a partner and share the load. The researchers also found that those women who couldn’t figure out how to manage their time well—for example, those who couldn’t prioritize what mattered most in a given situation and let other things go—didn’t see a benefit in either their home or work lives. Yet more proof that we have to learn to choose some things and say “no” to others.
As someone who was age 32 and 35 when I had my children, I was also interested to see what the researchers found about the impact of when someone had kids. It turns out that those women who had children as a 20-something were more likely to prioritize slowing down their careers—or, perhaps, were forced to. Presumably because, in their 20s, most women aren’t yet established in their careers. And if you aren’t already seen as a key player at work, taking a reduced schedule to, for example, pick up the kids after school is more likely to lead to a slower career track. But if a woman was both married and waited until age 30 to have her first child, the study found that there was no impediment to her career.
Interesting, isn’t it? Now, just to be clear: I’m certainly not advocating that a woman “should” wait until her 30s to have kids. I personally think it is a trap to try to wait too long, just because we think it will help us “get ahead.” Many women find, to their sorrow, that waiting too long may mean that it is difficult to get pregnant at all. But here is what intrigued me: that so many of these women who work for our universities—who traditionally are a bit more likely to scoff at traditional family order and dynamics—actually did experience the reality that you want and need to prioritize the “parenting” season of life when you have kids. After all, those having kids in their 20s saw a big hit to their trajectory, implying that they were doing more family juggling.
Now, the study suggested that these younger women might have been penalized for having kids, but I suspect something much more traditional was happening: I have seen that most women who become moms find that they want to prioritize family more. They care about being there for their children. For most women (and increasingly for men) career may be important, but no longer nearly as important as family. In other words: The women in the study were likely simply making more family-friendly choices. (It’s just that those choices aren’t as likely to impact their trajectory as much once they are already established in their professional life.)
What do you think about all this? If you work or volunteer outside the home, does being a mom make you more productive in other things? What have you found to be true in your own experience of “juggling”? Chime in!