When I found out I was pregnant, my elation quickly turned into concern: raising a kid isn’t exactly cheap. That, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach balancing work and family.
Research still shows that, on average, mothers spend more time on household chores and childcare duties than fathers do, with moms spending an average of 14 hours a week on child care, versus seven hours for dads.
Yes, OK, as a woman, I had to think about things like maternity leave and, even though I wasn’t relishing the idea, I knew that I might end up being the “default parent.” But I also knew deep down that I could still manage to advance in my career with a child in tow, so I went searching for inspiration.
Something amazing happened. I met a ton of mothers who’ve experienced significant pay bumps even after having a family! This taught me a lot about work-life balance and gave me hope that I didn’t need to choose between my career and family aspirations—I just had to learn from those who’ve come before me.
Here are three moms who manage to combine money-earning power with parenting cred (and how they make it work).
Name: Mindy Jensen (43 years old)
Previous job: Assistant buyer for a defunct quilting company
Previous salary: $33,000
New job: Community manager at BiggerPockets, a real estate education company
Current salary: $100,000+
Jensen always planned to be a stay-at-home mom; she and her husband sat down together to discuss their financial situation to ensure they could live off a single income, and they made it work.
She stayed home with their kids for eight years before stumbling upon a job listing posted on one of her favorite websites—at which point she transitioned to becoming a working mother when her children were nine and six.
“I couldn’t not apply. It was my dream job,” she says. “I had a specific skill set and qualifications that’d taken me decades to amass. This job was the absolute most perfect combination of my skills and my passions, and I have never loved a job more.”
When it came time to negotiate her salary, she looked on websites such as Glassdoor and asked friends who encouraged her to ask for more. She ended up getting paid twice what she made at her old job.
Then, even after she started working at her new job, Jensen kept negotiating for raises by documenting how her work benefited the company. “Whenever I took on more responsibility, I asked for more. One thing that helped was making a list of accomplishments and pointing out how each had benefited the company,” she says.
Jensen finds balancing work and family tough because it’s been difficult to coordinate her schedule with her husband’s, in order to manage all their responsibilities. It’s easier now that he is retired and she’s gotten more used to a routine since she went back to work three years ago, but they still make a detailed list of everything that needs to be done.
“We’ve set a plan of what must get done every single day, like meals, and everyone pitches in,” she says. “It’d be nice to have the house cleaned each week, but we don’t stress over it.”
Name: Anna Huffman (38 years old)
Previous job: Human resources manager
Previous salary: $65,000
New job: Human resources manager
Current salary: $110,000
Huffman was excited to start a family when she was 30 years old. She had good benefits at her previous job, with full medical benefits for her spouse and family. Her contract didn’t include paid maternity leave, but she took advantage of her paid time off, which came out to about 12 weeks of full pay. Huffman also had the flexibility to work from home before her due date.
After her first child was born, Huffman returned to school and got her MBA while continuing to be a working mother. “I am a big believer in education,” she says. “Pursuing an MBA and obtaining my professional designation adds to my knowledge and skills. It definitely makes me more marketable.”
She believes that the best way to negotiate for higher pay in her field is to look for a new job. With an MBA to her name, she was able to climb up the corporate ladder and move to a new company.
“Raises will typically average 3 percent and a promotion may get you 5 to 8 percent, more often around 5 percent,” she says. “It is not uncommon to negotiate a 10 to 15 percent increase when you switch companies.”
Huffman attributes her large jump in salary to a few things: her master’s degree, the fact she’d stayed in the same industry for over ten years, and the fact she’d often taken on more specialized roles and projects — such as negotiating collective bargain agreements — to expand her expertise.
As for how she juggles it all with her seven-year-old son and three-year-old daughter, she understands that there is no such thing as work-life balance. “You have to understand your current priorities and enlist help from others,” she says. In her case, that’s her husband.
“He’s not afraid to tell me when he thinks I’m getting too one-sided,” she says. “His support is key in continuing to propel my career forward.”
Huffman’s top tips? Write down what needs to be done at home — such as appointments, grocery lists and events — and map it out on a shared Google Calendar, or whatever program or physical journal you use.
She also suggests talking to your spouse or other support systems to see how you can fit things like studying or working more hours into your schedule.
(Want some inspiration? These are the cities with the best work-life balance.)
Name: Sarah Allison (30 years old)
Previous job: Google AdWords specialist
Previous salary: $25,000
New job: Owner at Mother of Marketing
Current salary: $75,000
Allison’s old job involved working as social media manager at an agency where she asked for a raise as her employer kept making her work more.
“I ended up getting a raise at job because I demanded to be compensated, as they kept piling on more responsibilities,” she says. “I was essentially getting paid as an associate but doing managerial duties.”
Allison worked at that job for a few more months and felt like that job would lead her nowhere. So she took the plunge and decided to start her own social media marketing business; she saved up a few months’ worth of expenses in order to make the transition.
When it came time to get clients, she reached out to local businesses and online friends. The key, she says, was not being afraid to ask for more money, and reaching out to clients she knew had a marketing budget. “I purposely sought out clients that valued what I did,” she says.
As for how she balances work and family life as a single mom with her 4-year-old son, she makes sure to set clear expectations with her clients as to her working hours, so she’s able to unplug and run errands without worrying about falling behind.
She’s also created flexibility in her schedule and reminds herself that there is no such thing as a perfect balance.
“I try not to stress out when my house a chaotic mess, because I know that 99 percent of all other moms out there have the same issue,” she says. “Nobody is perfect, so I don’t hold myself to that expectation. You do you in the best way for YOU and your kids.”
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