As a firm believer in women’s ability to succeed at whatever they set their minds to, I’ll always argue that raising children doesn’t have to stop a woman’s career or professional dreams.
Of course, there are always counter-arguments about how rare it is to combine the two — motherhood and career — well, without one hurting the other.
So, I asked six women who currently live in this reality about the things they may have done differently, knowing what they know now.
“I’d have waited just a bit longer for kids”
— Olamide*, 39. Educationist
I absolutely love my kids, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything, but I think I had them too early.
I got married in 2012, and though my husband and I agreed to wait two years before having kids, so I’d have time to pursue my master’s degree, I started getting impatient after the fifth month. It didn’t help that womb watchers started to put pressure on me.
I eventually had my first baby the following year, and it was harder than I thought. My children are still young, so I haven’t had time to go back to school. Further education is important in my field, and since there’s a limit to how far I can go in my career without an advanced degree, I’ve settled for teaching in a secondary school, for now. I also provide educational consultation for some clients, but my goal is to lecture and I need an advanced degree for that. I may eventually find the courage to do it one day.
I just wish I had been patient enough to just wait out the two years.
“I wish I explored more”
— Ehis*, 43. Business analyst
I’ve only ever worked in one organization, and I’ve been working for about 18 years. I guess I feel indebted to them in a way, since they believed in me when I was still a bright-eyed, inexperienced graduate, and also supported my wedding financially when I got married 12 years ago.
By the time I started having kids, I got comfortable and didn’t think to consider better job offers. I was scared of working with someone who wouldn’t understand if I randomly needed to take sick leave because my child developed a toothache.
I know if I had overcome my fear, I’d have better industry experience, a great personal brand and essentially a much higher salary by now.
“Please, don’t be afraid to ask for help”
— Yetunde*, 38. Nurse
I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I like to do things myself. It got so bad that when I started having kids, and my husband suggested getting a nanny to help out but I refused. I wanted to handle everything myself.
Even at work, I had the opportunity to ask my colleagues to help cover certain shifts, or even speak with my supervisor, but I didn’t. I guess I was trying to prove a point: that I could balance my career and family life.
Of course, the pressure got to me and my job suffered. I didn’t get fired, but was passed over on some promotions. I know better now so there’s no use beating myself up. But prospective mothers, please ask for help.
“I wouldn’t have allowed myself to get guilt-tripped”
— Rofiat*, 41. Personal assistant
I was working as a customer service officer in a bank when I had my first child in 2010. My work was still stellar, if I do say so myself, but my team lead was always dropping snide remarks about how my attention was now divided.
I started feeling guilty about speaking up, even if it was to communicate that I was running a few minutes late, and I decided to quit to save myself the stress.
I started a business for a while before caving in and going back to the corporate world in 2019. It was tough because of the large career gap but I eventually got my current job.
Looking back, I could easily have looked for another job because I had an amazing support system, but my former boss already made me believe I’d not be giving it my all. I’d have been in a much better place in my career now.
“I’d have stayed at my job”
— Kiki*, 35. Teacher
I resigned from my research assistant job immediately after I got pregnant in 2014 because I wanted to be a full-time mum. I love my kids, but I underestimated how much I needed to work in order to feel like I’m doing something with my life.
It took me almost falling into depression and a family intervention for me to see that I was already turning into someone I couldn’t recognise. I got a primary school teaching job in 2021, and though it’s not where I could have been, I can live with it for now.
“I wouldn’t change anything”
— Iyabo*, 48. Accountant
I had to take a three-year career break in 2006 when it seemed like balancing two kids and a demanding job would be the end of me.
Luckily, I have a supportive husband who understands how much I love what I do, and he’s the one who encouraged me to try going back into the industry. It was difficult, and I job-hunted for close to two years before I finally got a job in 2011.
I’m not where I’d have been if I didn’t take a break, and I understand age isn’t really on my side for career prospects, but I’m grateful I get to have both — a career and a loving family.
*Names have been changed, and answers slightly edited for clarity.