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How to focus on your career and be a mom

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This post is by SmartBrief editor Rebecca Pollack, who recently attended the American Veterinary Medical Association‘s annual convention in Atlanta.

I’m surrounded by women, some who are expecting and a few on their cell phones with their kids, before the next education session starts at the American Veterinary Medical Association annual convention.

Dr. Micaela Z. Shaughnessy, a single mother of two girls, strongly stands up front, ready to continue the professional-development track at the national conference for veterinarians. She’s proof that yes, women can work and maintain a happy family.

“2009 was the first year in the history of the veterinary profession where women made up a larger percentage of the workforce than men,” said Dr. Kevin Dajka of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “2009 year-end statistics show that 51% of the nearly 88,000 actively employed veterinarians in the U.S. are women.”

In general, workplaces are recognizing that women have special needs, and they are working with that population. The military is one of the most women-friendly employers. And, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law that would require employers with more than 50 workers to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”

So what’s the secret to make it all work? Shaughnessy simply says, “Plan for it.”

Census data shows that women spend 14.7 years out of the workforce, compared with their male counterparts, who spend 1.6 years away. During the time that mothers are raising their children, they are losing skills, not keeping up to date on new products and techniques, and losing their economic independence, Shaughnessy says. Child care options are worth the research and the chunk of the paycheck. Shaughnessy suggests these options:

  • Licensed day care centers: On the upside, they are government-regulated and professional. On the downside, group settings spread illnesses, they are expensive ($300 to $500 per week), and there is a daily commute. Make sure to find out what languages are spoken, what the staff-to-child ratio is and what kind of food they will provide.
  • In-home day care centers: The quality of care in these settings can vary. Sometimes there is a lower child-to-provider ratio, there is more flexibility and it might even be closer to your home. The provider might pay less attention to your child if her child also is present.
  • Nannies: This leaves the option for providers to work full time or part time, and live in or away. It’s the most expensive option, but the nanny can tailor outings to the age of your child.
  • Family/friends/neighbors: This type of care is the least expensive, but remember, it’s hard to fire grandparents or your friends.

How are you making it work on the job and in the home? Leave a comment.

Image credit: sjlocke, iStockphoto