The EVERYDAY Working Mom
Updated: Aug 19
Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Groceries, laundry, dishes. Cleaning, organizing, shopping. Scheduling,appointments, planning, childcare, birthdays, gifts, events, school, extra-curricular activities. Car maintenance, duct cleaning, furnace servicing, general house stuff. This is just a sample of the things swirling through my head constantly. Plus, I’m expected to know where the missing keys, toy and remote are, among every other item in the house. And that is just while we are in the house. Getting out of the house takes it to the next level. Do I have enough diapers, a change of clothes, snacks, drinks, shoes, sunscreen, bug spray, hats, hand sanitizer, baby wipes. Oh, and I should really turn the dishwasher on (so we have clean dishes when we return), throw in a load of laundry and make sure the garage door is shut, and the hose and stove is turned off. And then there is the dog - make sure she has food and water and goes out for a pee if she’s staying home or that I have the leash if she’s coming with us! Inevitably at this point someone has removed their clothes, shoes or needs to go pee again! Oh wait, I should probably take something out for dinner….I’ll just run back in and check the freezer before we head out! Through it all I am stopping arguments, answering questions, kissing bumps and trying desperately to maintain my own sanity.
Oh right, and I have a paying job. This is the life of a working mom: constantly juggling 100 things, managing through interruptions and getting things done.
If you are following my posts you have probably noticed I have been doing a lot of reflecting on being a working mom lately. And I know I am not alone in what I have described above, which is why the dichotomy of working and childcare during the pandemic has hit working women so hard. We are still swimming upstream when it comes to finding an equitable domestic balance in our society. In fact, it feels as if #momguilt has reached new heights as mothers constantly wonder if they are doing enough, too much, or missing something. The fear that things will fall apart if we don’t do this or that. That our kids won’t get what they need, feel loved or secure. How do we find a true balance and equitably share the household and childcare accountabilities?
As women, we don’t have a lot of well-known, readily available success stories in this area to model ourselves after. There is no-shortage of successful executive women who have shared their stories of finding balance. However these stories often include live-in nannies, cleaning support, and pre-made meals. Unfortunately, these options are not accessible to most working moms. Where are the examples of ordinary every-day women finding balance and enjoying a successful career along with a well-organized happy home-life?
In the first and second #momguilt blogs I talked about women and their relationship with work before and during pregnancy. In my third and final #momguilt blog I wanted to talk about work and life after you return to work. As we’ve learned, once that #momguilt kicks in when you first think about getting pregnant, it never really goes away. I want to continue this conversation because I believe that if we don’t start talking about this, the burden that women alone seem to bear in this regard will never really go away. A quick recap on two issues related to maternity leave from my last blog that I wanted to re-surface because they impact life once you’re back at work.
Complete separation from work while you are off: While this isn’t the case in all organizations or for all women, in many cases once you go on maternity leave you are completely separated from the organization for the length of your maternity leave (12-18 months in Canada). The result is that women feel completely isolated from what is happening in the organization and it impacts their relationship with their team. There is good reason behind the intent of this: employers want to allow women the time and space to focus exclusively on their families. Practically speaking however, for some women this doesn’t fit with their career goals. How do we get to a place where we can still feel connected to our work while focusing on our families?How can we normalize regular touch points, email updates, gradual returns to work, return to work buddies and other supports to help women stay engaged and integrated during maternity leave? We often see mid-career, middle management women stagnating in their career. This is around the same time that many of them are leaving the workplace for short periods while they have children. Could new practices help bridge the gap and sustain the momentum for these moms who also want to progress their career?
Performance Impacts: In large organizations especially, performance ratings are often directly tied to compensation. For women who have only worked part of a fiscal year, this often means a performance rating that isn’t reflective of their actual performance, but rather the amount of time they spend actively working that year. The impact of this is a less than stellar rating that impacts their performance track record and potentially their promotability within the organization. Yet another negative impact on women who choose to leave the workforce for a short period to focus on their family.
Once a women comes back to work they face other pre-conceived notions about both their commitment and capacity to work. Images of flustered, scattered women, with spit up or random spots on their clothes racing in at precisely 9am and flying out the door at 5pm quickly come to mind. Questions arise about whether or not they are “putting in enough hours” rather than focusing on the quality of the work that is getting done. “Work smarter, not harder” is often NOT the mantra and those who stay late and get in lots of face time are often rewarded, despite the fact that they may be no more (or even less) effective than the working moms who are juggling it all! “Overwork” does not mean better outcomes. Let's look at how we can more effectively measure impact over hours and truly incorporate more flexibility that allows working parents to manage their own schedules outside of the standard 9-5. Stop micromanaging and allow working adults to do their work when they are at their best, and eliminate unnecessary to-do’s.
Because once the working mom gets home, or switches off the computer, her other full time job awaits.
The world of work is evolving and the current global pandemic has accelerated that. We need to change the way we work, and also the cultural assumptions and beliefs that have been ingrained in us. Women aspire to successful careers and fulfilling family lives however, the systemic workplace barriers and long list of household accountabilities continues to make it feel unreachable. Couple this with social media’s perpetuation of “perfect women who do it all” and we have the perfect storm brewing, resulting in a culture of #momguilt that is teetering on unsustainable. Let’s start sharing stories of everyday moms with everyday burdens and normalize the ways that we can realistically achieve balance through evolving organizational practices and social norms.
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