I’ll start by saying, all moms work. (And that work is never done.) But for the sake of this particular post, I am writing about moms who hold a job outside of the home.
The good thing about my job now — at home with the girls — is most of the people I talk to have kids too. That’s not always the case when you go back to work in a corporate environment. I was extremely lucky with the last team I was on as most of my coworkers had children and understood what it’s like to have a tiny human you are responsible for. I even had a couple of colleagues without children who proved, you don’t have to be a parent to have empathy for them. But, occasionally, I would run into someone who lacked sensitivity, and sometimes, it was just enough to push me over the edge. Like me taking a Friday off to care for a sick child does not mean I am getting a three day weekend, as a colleague once suggested.
Moms don’t need special treatment at the office. They just need a level of trust and flexibility. Chances are good they will work harder to overcompensate for having to leave early or come in late. I just came across a photo of me on my laptop at the hospital the day after I had Harper. Not because anyone asked me to or was expecting anything from me. It was because I delivered early at 38 weeks and wanted to make sure the launch I was planning on being a part of had gone smoothly and there wasn’t anything I needed to send off to anyone. Having just found that picture now, I thought I can’t believe I did that! But I can because I cared that much about the success of my team. Had I been able to close out my projects as I had planned and delivered at 40 weeks, my laptop would not have seen the light of day.
In corporate life and life in general, I have found there are two types of people.
- The kind of person who tells you to buck up because they struggled too and that’s just how it goes. Life is one big rite of passage. “You people today have it easy…back in my day…” They don’t want to question the norm or be bothered with things that seem out of their control.
- The kind of person who sees the flaws in the system and who work to change it so no one else has to struggle. These people recognize it doesn’t have to be this way and they are willing to influence positive change. These people are leaders and advocates.
I’m incredibly happy to see more and more companies taking a progressive approach to work. Movements like the 32 hour work week show that the 9-5 is evolving. With companies more willing to be flexible, I have hope that balance without burnout is possible. “A large-scale experiment in a Fortune 500 company found that work-family conflicts don’t need to be solely employees’ individual, private troubles, but can be resolved systemically with a little management leadership.” (Harvard Business Review)
While we work to get to that holy grail, there are still people who just don’t get it and that can make your work environment feel unsupportive and toxic. Being a parent affects your career, even though we try so hard not to let it. Have you ever felt pressure to confront any implied negative stereotypes at work? I’d be so interested to hear.
[Photo above of my sweet Elliot Jane, home with a fever.]