Great Expecations For A New Mom & Athlete

Illustration for article titled Great Expecations For A New Mom  Athlete

Candace Parker, star of WNBA's L.A. Sparks, is currently on maternity leave, but promised her bosses that she'll continue to promote the team. Like many moms, she's tugged by her duties to her newborn and her commitment to her job.

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According to the New York Times:

Parker, 23, is determined to buck the conventional wisdom that women can fulfill their potential as professional athletes and as parents as long as they tackle their lives like a to-do list, crossing one item off before starting on the next.

"I'm always the type of person that wants to prove people wrong," she said. "I just want to come back and show that you can be even stronger than before."

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Parker's steely resolve and determination are admirable, and she has a husband, a nanny and family members to help her out. Additionally, her coworkers can relate: Five other team members on the Sparks are mothers — including Lisa Leslie — and Carla Christofferson, the Sparks' 41-year-old co-owner, is pregnant.

It's frustrating that Parker has to say she wants to come back "even stronger than before." She's a talented athlete, but clearly feels like she has something to prove. While it's true that Parker hasn't played a competitive game in 10 months, it's not like she suffered a debilitating injury. But her words are an answer to widely-held notions of how motherhood changes a woman — how people expect different, or possibly less of you, especially when it comes to your job. And, even more important: It speaks to the expectations this new mother has placed on herself.

Diapers and Jump Shots: Player Has Her Hands Full [NY Times]

Earlier: Juggling Pregnancy & Career Without Dropping The Ball
Are Women Having Babies Earlier Because They Take Their Careers For Granted?

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DISCUSSION

This is a tough and tricky subject. I'm not sure exactly how it translates for someone in the public eye, especially someone who anchors a professional sports team. It will be interesting to watch.

I'm sympathetic to working moms, to moms in general. I'm single and childless, and I'm certain I don't know the first thing about the pressures and responsibilities of being a parent, especially after returning to work.

However, I sit on the other side of this issue every day, as the only childless (and unmarried) person in my department, and I gotta say — having kids DOES reduce your commitment to your job, necessarily. I don't think having a kid makes you less intelligent or less capable. But it takes time. And if your kid is sick, or gets in a fight at school, or crashes the car, or even just has a bad day and calls you to deal with it — your focus is diverted. And in my present position, I am frequently the person who picks it up at work so that my coworkers (and boss) can take care of things at home. I like them, and like I said, I am sympathetic, but I also find myself resenting them when they come in late, leave early, and take unexpected days off. I think, as a working parent, you DO have to accept that you cannot make two things both first priority. It's not unreasonable for coworkers and employers to assume that young parents (men and women, though the reality is that women bear a greater burden than men do on this front) are not going to have the same commitment to work as they once did. And yeah - that's going to me a lower chance of promotion, of raises, etc. Or it should... I'm all about helping working parents find the balance, but I don't think we should all pretend that a worker with kids at home is absolutely no different than one without. It's not sexist (I'm a woman!), it's just reality.