Working Moms (and Dads) in International Development (Part 2: The Trade-offs)

by Shana Montesol Johnson

Raising children while pursuing a career in international development is not for the fainthearted. In speaking with working moms in development about the challenges – and benefits – of being a working mom in this field, I heard about several themes. Travel, of course, is a critical issue. Working moms also shared about the trade-offs they make between their careers and the needs of their partner and/or kids. In thinking about these trade-offs, it’s evident that they are not unique to mothers; dads in development often make these as well.

This topic of working moms (and dads) in development has sparked some interest. Devex asked me to write a piece for their Career Matters blog, so my series on Working Moms in Development is now morphing into a series on working parents in development. This article received mixed reactions from Devex readers, with some calling it “depressing, one-sided, and unhelpful” while others saying it’s “realistic.” I’m curious to hear what Development Crossroads readers think!

Here is the article that appeared on the Devex site, with a teaser showing the first couple of points. Click through to read the entire piece on Devex — and let me know what you think!

“Working Parents in International Development: The Trade-offs”

Raising children while pursuing a career in international development is not for the fainthearted. Beyond the challenges of travel, there are many trade-offs that working parents make. They may:

  1. Choose to forgo certain jobs or projects that require too much travel.

    “I was highly qualified for the position [that required 30 percent travel], but I would not agree upfront to miss 30 percent of my daughter’s third year of life,” shares E.S., an aid worker based in Asia. “They ended up hiring a guy who travelled less than I did at 20 percent.”

  2. Switch to part-time work to spend more time with children.

    J.P., a microfinance professional, switched to part-time work after becoming a mom. “I started to feel that I was ‘marginalizing myself’ by limiting my time at work, not engaging as much in strategic conversations, and avoiding travel.” When she returned to work full time, she found she was “earning a lower salary than before I left, reporting to someone who had formerly reported to me, and former peers were now the senior leaders in the organization.”

 Click here to read more…

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