There is increasing interest among women in their 40s and 50s to have children later in life. The ‘sandwich generation’ – those who have experienced both world wars – want to enjoy life while their children grow up. This interest is creating new challenges for high-flyers in work, with more and more of them desiring a career in something that provides flexibility for when they want to have children.
Why do women want to have children later in life?
Around the world, more women are having children in their 30s and 40s than ever before. The trend is particularly pronounced in certain regions of Europe, where there has been a rise in the ‘sandwich generation’. These women are both career-minded and interested in having a family. They want to enjoy their work while also being a good mother. Despite living in a period of unprecedented opportunity, many are finding it hard to reconcile work and family. The stress often caused by workload and over-commitment is a factor in causing infertility in women. It also impacts on the health of those who already have children. An Australian study found that parents experience higher levels of work-related stress than other groups. This often leads to poor performance at work and increased levels of anxiety and depression. It is also likely that a rise in stress at home will impact on the health of children.
How can high-flyers in work manage their careers and families?
Thanks to recent technological advances and an increasing acceptance of remote working, there are opportunities for high-flyers in work to manage their careers and families. The ability to work remotely, where you manage your workload and don’t have to be in the office every day, has become commonplace. More than ever before, people are able to balance their work and personal lives. This is ideal for those who want to have children later in life, as it provides them with the flexibility to be there when their child is born and spend time bonding with the new addition to the family. It also means that your workload can be spread out over a longer period, giving you more time to work.
However, it is still largely considered ‘women’s work’ to have children. Fewer men are expected to be primary caregivers and have careers which allow them to do so. This is changing, as more high-flyers are becoming primary caregivers. They want to enjoy the flexibility that parenthood brings and are more willing to accept the burden of care-giving. Technology is also changing the dynamics of male involvement in childcare. Thanks to things such as ‘robotics fathers’, who are equipped with parenting skills, child-minding devices, and even baby-satters, opportunities for men to help out with childcare are increasing. This is making a massive difference. For instance, the UK Department of Work and Pensions report that “fathers are increasingly encouraged to play an active part in childcare, with nearly a quarter (23%) of parents stating that they expect their partner to be involved in the care of their children”. So, while having children will always be a priority for most parents, it is no longer considered ‘men’s work’ – and more and more women are seeing it as a partnership between the two genders.
Is high-stress work becoming the norm for those in the creative industries?
The creative industries, particularly in the areas of advertising, public relations, and marketing, can be highly stressful. As the industry becomes more technological, individuals who work in these fields need to be skilled in using technology and capable of managing their workload. Flexibility is also important so that employees can cope with the frequent overtime which can be common in this type of work. Remote working helps to eliminate some of the stress caused by commuting. Those who work remotely can often spend more time with their family and have more flexibility in their lifestyle. This helps to create a healthier environment for all involved. Family and friends are also more likely to offer help and support if you are open about your situation. This gives those in the creative industries the confidence to be open about the extra stress which comes with being in a prominent position. It is important to work with your partner to try and reduce the stress caused by your work. Perhaps consider a family ‘sabbatical’ where you take a break away for a few weeks or months. This can help to provide some much needed balance and allow you to take a step back from your workload. If this is not possible, consider taking a career break for a few years. You may then be in a better position to ‘step up’ to a senior role when your return to work is due. Alternatively, you could look at changing career paths completely and become a stay-at-home parent. There are many ways in which you can make the most of your situation and ensure that your work-life balance is as good as possible.