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Career breaks for parenting don't hurt, says writer

By Associated Press in New York (China Daily) Updated: 2017-02-17 13:46

It's no secret that working parents have a difficult time with the elusive work-life balance. For starters, there is the 40-hour workweek, which often spills beyond eight-hour days. Then there is the ever-present flow of emails, meetings and occasional work trips that must be juggled with quotidian chores: making dinner, cleaning up and helping with homework, just to name a few.

This balancing act is the subject of Work Pause Thrive, a new book by Lisen Stromberg.

It's the latest book that extrapolates on how women, and men to a lesser degree, can get ahead in their careers while in the thick of parenting. Stromberg argues that mothers can "pause" their careers and focus on caregiving duties without harming their professional paths, as some tend to believe.

In fact, many moms at the top of their industries have taken breaks, she points out, including television journalist Meredith Vieira and US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

The classic career ladder paradigm, climbing one rung after another until the top is reached, "doesn't work for those of us with caregiving responsibilities", Stromberg writes.

A former advertising executive, Stromberg faced a tipping point in her career. The book opens with a scene where she's on a business trip and the plane hits turbulent air. At the time, Stromberg is 24 weeks pregnant with her second child, and she goes into preterm labor on the flight.

Stromberg's frustration in dealing with a high-flying career in advertising and parenting two young children - and eventually a third - segues into her research on the subject.

For the book, she conducted first-person interviews with 186 women and surveyed almost 1,500 others to get their experiences balancing work and family. Most of the women who responded to her survey said they never expected to take a career break, but ultimately did once children came into the picture. Those who stayed out of the workforce fewer than five years found re-entry easier than their counterparts who stayed out longer.

Though readers may be familiar with some of the factual pillars supporting the book's structure, they'll likely be encouraged by the central theme: it's OK to pause for parenting.

 Career breaks for parenting don't hurt, says writer

Lisen Stromberg details in her book how women can pause their careers for parenthood and still enjoy success. AP

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