With more than 1,000 Inman posts, Bernice Ross is a long-time contributor whose weekly column on real estate trends, luxury, marketing and other best practices publishes every Monday.
Can women with young children really have it all — a successful real estate career, kids and a great marriage? Even if the answer is “yes,” at what cost?
I recently interviewed Lindsey Certo, the broker-owner at “SWMR” Southwest Mountain Realty, Amber Martinez, the strategic partnership manager at ReferralExchange, and Carin Nguyen of the Carin Nguyen RE Network at Keller Williams to learn how they juggle full-time real estate careers with the challenges of being a wife and a mom.
Working too many hours — no longer a badge of honor?
Amber Martinez was a transaction coordinator for a very successful brokerage when she became pregnant with her first child. She informed her employers that she would be taking maternity leave, however, they did nothing to replace her. The result: Martinez ended up handling three closings while she was in active labor.
Making matters even worse, her employers did nothing to replace Martinez after she gave birth, so she ended up taking her newborn son to work. That sometimes meant that she was in the office with her newborn son until 11 p.m.
When Martinez became pregnant with her second child, she left the brokerage. She realized the high price that she and her family paid and was unwilling to go through the same experience a second time.
Sadly, both Certo and Nguyen had similar experiences. Nguyen shared that she was in the midst of closing a relocation deal where her clients would have been without a home if it hadn’t closed on time.
When the anesthesiologist came in to give her an epidural, she was embarrassed to say that she hung up on her clients. As soon as the doctor left the room, she immediately called them back to continue working on the deal.
All three women felt such a strong sense of responsibility toward their clients, that they refused to leave them in the lurch. They also explained how costly those decisions were in terms of precious time with their babies, time that can never be recouped.
Getting through the early years
Certo has two sets of twins, ages 5 and 8. She also manages a brokerage that does residential sales plus property management for 250 properties. With four children, her day often begins at 4 a.m. with a workout and often doesn’t end until 9 p.m.
Certo described what it was like for her during her first years of motherhood — she felt like a “caged animal.” Her babies and her business filled her days so completely, she had no time for herself or her husband. Like the other two women, all this responsibility took a heavy toll on their marriages.
Getting your life back piece by piece
Each of the women shared that they felt guilty about not spending more time with their children. As a result, they have set boundaries in place that allow them to make spending time with their children a priority. This includes scheduling personal family time first, having their husband and extended family play a bigger role in child rearing and by creating “leverage.”
Leverage can include having your groceries delivered to your home, hiring an assistant to handle routine errands such as dropping off the dry cleaning as well as creating systems and processes that allow you to be more efficient. It can also include taking better advantage of technology or working remotely to reduce commute time to and from the office as well.
As many busy working moms and dads do, all three women told me they’ve locked themselves in a closet or bathroom to get a bit of the privacy, whether it was needed for a business or personal issue. They also all reported sitting in their cars in their garages with their husbands and children wondering where they were.
Almost all working mothers report some degree of guilt about not spending more time with their families and these three rockstar moms are no exception.
Since the 1980s, articles and studies have shown that what matters most to the woman (and her children’s happiness) is whether the woman is happy with her choice of working or staying at home. Issues occur when a stay-to-home-mom would rather work or when a working mother would rather be at home.
A recent study conducted by the Harvard Business School has good news for working moms who are experiencing guilt. Two studies conducted by Kathleen McGinn that included over 100,000 men and women across 29 countries revealed how the employment of mothers affects their adult children. The key findings are summarized below:
- Compared to women whose mothers stayed home full time, women raised by an employed mother are 1.21 times more likely to be employed; 1.29 times more likely to supervise others at work; and they spend 44 extra minutes at their jobs each week.
- When both daughters and sons were asked about their overall life satisfaction, adult children of employed moms reported being just as happy as adult children of moms who didn’t work outside the home.
- Both sons and daughters of employed mothers have significantly more education, are more likely to be employed and for their sons, result in them pitching in more with their own children.
“Women are socialized to believe mothers should stay home with their children, so when you separate from your kids every day for work, it can be painful,” McGinn concludes. “As we gradually understand that our children aren’t suffering, I hope the guilt will go away.”
Out of the weeds and up the mountain
Certo describes those early “dark” days as “being in the weeds.” As she has chipped away with getting pieces of her life back, she was finally able to achieve a goal that she set over 10 years ago — two months ago she climbed Mount Rainier. In October, Certo also plans to run a half-Ironman triathlon.
The final advice our these amazing moms had for those women who are “in the weeds” with a personal challenge, whether it’s children, an elderly loved one or something else was this: It doesn’t stay this way forever.
Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUp and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.