Career Choice: Motherhood Now or Later

Maybe it's just me, but sometimes it feels as if researchers are popping out press releases on motherhood and careers faster than women are actually birthing babies.

In July, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, told us that Harvard grads who went on to get their MBAs became stay-at-home moms at a higher rate than grads who went on to become doctors or lawyers.

Earlier this month, Cornell University let us know that mothers were 90 percent more likely to ditch their careers if their husbands worked at least 60 hours a week but that, if the roles were reversed, the husbands would likely keep on working.

And just last week, Cambridge University informed us that in the U.S., the percentage of people in favor of moms working full time dropped to 38 percent in 2002, down from 51 percent in 1994. In other words, if you believe that "family life would not suffer" if a mom has a career, you're in the minority.

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As with newborns, some of the resulting headlines are so cute and cuddly that you can't resist showing them off to all your friends. Take, for example, the 2004 USA Today ditty, "Moms Find It Easier to Pop Back into Workforce."

Others -- like "Why It's Best to Marry in Your Twenties" and "Parents: Tell Your Adult Children, 'Don't Delay Childbearing!'" -- are so hideous that you just want to throw a baby blanket over their heads.

It's hardly a news flash that, on average, women who choose to have kids do so later in life than their own mothers did. Nor is it news that more often than not, today's moms are balancing a career in the process.

So rather than judge the breeding and breadwinning decisions of others -- or dwell on the fact that no one's scrutinizing every move men make with anywhere near the intensity -- let's look at the factors real-life moms consider when they weigh how and when to blend motherhood with their careers.

What's Work Got to do With It?

For starters, women without kids make 90 cents to a man's dollar, while married moms make 73 cents to a man's dollar and single moms make about 60 cents to a man's dollar, according to Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director of MomsRising.org, a grassroots organization that champions paid family leave, flexible work options and other family-friendly policies.

Then there are the sobering statistics on the so-called motherhood penalty.

In 2005, sociologists at Cornell University found that when applying for a job, women without kids would be offered roughly $11,000 more than mothers with the same qualifications. What's more, participants of the study admitted they were far more likely to hire a woman without kids than their diaper-changing counterparts.

Moral of the story: If you think becoming a mom isn't going to impact your career, it's time to wake up and smell the discrimination.

Yet many women regard the "Will having kids hurt my career?" question as taboo, said Nataly Kogan, CEO and co-founder of Work It, Mom!, a Web community for working mothers.

"It's OK to have your career as a consideration of when to have children," said Kogan, 32. "It's OK to talk about it. It doesn't make you a bad person."

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