Mother’s Day is approaching. In the business world, Mother’s Day has become a time to critically reflect on the gap that still exists in creating a supportive culture and opportunity for working moms. I’ve seen a lot of articles this week. Articles of working moms who are struggling. Articles pointing out companies who are not accommodating to working moms. Articles demanding more of companies and executives.
As a working mom, I know the struggle personally. I absolutely support the desire for greater awareness and change for working moms. It’s important to highlight the things that are wrong. But equally important, we must celebrate and learn from those that are doing it right. It’s easy to see what needs to change. But I believe we need more examples of what’s working for working moms.
I have been at my company for 11 years. I started when I was a sleepless, figuring-it-all-out new mom of a toddler. Today, I am a sleepless, figuring-it-all-out mom of 12 and 10 year old girls and a 6 year old boy.
Being a mom is by far the best and most rewarding job I will ever have, but it is not easy. To be honest, my mom job has always been harder for me than my day job. It might be that I work best in collaboration with others. It might be my need for rules and constant validation. Working in the marketing world is full of chaos and change, but somehow work just always seemed slightly more predictable and within my control.
As every working mom should, I first and foremost give myself credit for being a successful working mom. For keeping my priorities in check. For knowing how and when to say no. For keeping myself true to a job/career that fills me up. For forcing myself to measure myself by the impact and value I make, and not the hours I log or the political games I play.
But beyond my own efforts, I thank my workplace. I truly do. More than being accommodating to moms or being mom-friendly, they have created a culture that is genuinely empathetic to moms. There are four things I encourage all companies do to make their environments a great place for working moms (and dads too).
Fuel a positive culture: I won’t lie. After a crazy weekend with the kids, I look forward to getting to work on Monday morning. Work is a place where I know I will be greeted with a smile. It’s a place where people genuinely like each other and the work they do. The positive energy is so easy to take for granted, but it is so attractive and filling. In those moments when things are crazy at home, work has been a sanctuary for me. It’s a place I can count on to be surrounded by positive vibes and people who stay optimistic.
Give mom’s permission to be honest and open: I’ve worked in places where you had to pretend like you didn’t have kids. It was a weakness to leave work to get a sick kid from school. Or you couldn’t admit that you didn’t want to work late because you wanted to have dinner with your family. And that puts stress on top of an already stressful work situation. So, it’s amazing to work in a place where you can be open and honest about your life and your life events. My kids get sick. They have well-visit appointments. They have birthdays. I can be honest about what’s happening in my life, and open about the priorities and needs I have as a mom. My teams and manager have always embraced these things as important, helping me however they can. And, in turn, I do the same for them. Because of this, I don’t feel shame or like I have to figure everything out on my own. And for that, I am truly grateful.
A little control goes a long way: As a mom, I’m constantly trying to gain control. There’s lots of talk about work-life balance, but I don’t think that’s what moms really need. What moms need most – is some control – work is not 9-5. Life is not 9-5. When I’m at work, I’m constantly thinking about my family. And when I’m at home, I’m constantly thinking about my work. And I’m totally fine with that. It’s about control. Being able to have control in how and when your work gets done. It’s when I feel “out of control” that I’ve felt like I have no balance. When managers make you stay late just to stay late. When there are cultural rules (often unsaid) that say you have to stay later than your manager. But I’m in a place where I have some say in how I do my work and how and when I get my work done. Which allows me to manage my work around my life, and allows me to manage my life around my work.
Give her a sense of identity: I love being a mom. But before I was a mom, I was a woman. I don’t want to ever lose my sense of self. My company has always been a place that sees me for who I want to be. A mom, yes. But also a career-coach, motivational spirit, wine lover and believer in the power of “what if.”. I love my work for fully embracing me for the person I am and want to be. And I love my work for encouraging me to continue to grow and develop my curiosities and interests.
My work has made me a better mom. Because I feel confident in my work, I go home feeling confident as a mom. Knowing I can master the chaotic moments at work, I feel I can take on what motherhood throws my way. Because I am in a place that supports and values me, I leave work encouraged to support and value others in my life.
So, this Mother’s Day, let’s celebrate our amazing Moms. But let’s also celebrate the companies who truly care about creating environments for working moms to feel valued, heard and supported each and every day.