I keep reading multiple articles about how working moms will be pushed out of the workforce soon and this has been quite alarming to me. Working-moms are juggling too many things: monitoring and being a fill-in teacher for virtual learning, working from home, attempting to be in meetings all day long, and keeping our household running and afloat. We have been required to take on additional work without even agreeing to it and trying to meet the demands of our careers. Some workplaces are even requiring their employees to come back to work at their physical office, even though our children are not physically back in school. This makes me feel so angry at our current society for not seeing that the work-life balance has shifted so that mothers will have to choose, at a much higher rate than ever before, between their careers and their family needs. God forbid, we ask that our husbands or spouses choose between their job or staying home with their children. None of this is fair, we didn’t ask for this, but yet, here we are suffering, struggling to literally DO IT ALL. However, I do think it starts with us advocating for ourselves, our needs, ours want, our value, to our family, to our children, to society, and our workplaces.
I have worked remotely for my company for two years, way before the pandemic required many people to. I felt I experienced the hardships some mothers are now going through a long time ago. I used to commute and work in an office every single day, where you get the camaraderie of your co-workers, you get to spend time away from your home and maybe take your mom hat off for a bit. Then I transitioned to working from home, where you basically have to juggle all things (#momlife), but also still propel in your career. It is freaking hard. Even though my daughter has a caretaker during the day while I work, I am still in mom-mode 24/7. It is harder to escape from it when you are working from home. I have been in hundreds of meetings, where I have to mute myself because my child is throwing a tantrum outside my office door. My gut reaction is to run and comfort her, to make sure she is okay, but I am frozen because I have work to get done and demands to meet for my job. One time she repeatedly kicked me right in the face while I addressed my entire organization in a Zoom call; we all laughed it off, but how horrifying. This is not the usual concerns you have if you were to work in an office…you don’t have to worry about your persistent toddler pounding on your office door to let her in. Yet, I can share that through being a working mom and working from home, I have accelerated in my career, I am learning and growing, despite the hardship I have gone through of balancing it all. So here is my best advice and a guide to live by that has helped me be a working (from home) mom.
Request flexibility for your working hours. A working mom’s work-life balance has completely shifted, ask your boss, human resources, whomever you need to talk to, if you can work a flexible schedule. Meaning, you work when you can, maybe you work early in the morning, take a bigger break during the day, and work more after dinner. You still will give the same amount of hours dedicated to your job, but the actual hours you work can be different.
Speak up!! I do believe companies should be proactively helping parents right now, and that we shouldn’t have to ask. BUT your employer won’t know what your needs are unless you tell them. If you are being asked to come back into the office, be honest with them, and share that you have to stay home to help your children with virtual learning. Have an open and honest conversation about when you can and cannot work.
Ask your employer what resources they are providing to working parents. Some companies are already thinking about the challenges we will be faced with as working parents so they are providing needed resources. I have seen companies opening daycares for their employees, or offering to reimburse for childcare. Some are even offering paid family leave and extending the number of weeks allotted. Make sure you ask or maybe even suggest to them what they can do, I think many companies are a loss on how to best support us right now, so some might be yearning for advice.
Scale back and keep your calendar up to date. Don’t be afraid to decline a meeting if you need to, ask if the meeting can be an email meeting or if you can get the meeting notes afterward. Put blocks of time on your calendar to let others know you aren’t available at certain times of the day and put up a Slack status to let everyone know you aren’t at your computer at the moment.
Share the load with your spouse. I am a HUGE advocate for this. It is not solely just your responsibility to take care of your children and their learning. Tell them how they can best help you. Trade off shifts of who is with the children during the workday, make a plan together, SHARE the load of being a parent. You don’t have to be the default parent if you don’t want to be.
Have a desk in a room that has a door that can close. This has been the game-changer for me. Having a space that is my office, where I can work and separate myself from my home life is very helpful. This also allows me to stop working and leave, which brings me more balance in my day. I lock my door because there have been too many times my toddler busts in and runs around during a video meeting. Having a desk allows me to feel empowered to get my work done and separate myself from the chaos that is ensuing outside the door.
Tell your kids what your expectations are. I told my daughter every day that “Mama has to go to work!” She kisses me, hugs me, and tells me to have a great day. She knows I go into my office and the best that her two-year-old brain can understand, she gets it. But, this comes from sharing with her that I work and have meetings and that I will come to say hello and play with her when I can. Pro-tip for older kids: many of my working-mom friends put up a sign outside their door or workspace that says “In a meeting,” so older kids can know not to come and bother you.
Don’t settle. If your work is not taking your needs seriously, it could be time to evaluate and move on to another company. They should recognize the value that working moms bring and that their home life demands are at an all-time high, but if they aren’t, you deserve better. I promise you if you search, you will find something that allows you to work from home. There are more work from home jobs right than ever before.
In case you want to find a company that provides more flexibility, here are some resources that specifically help mothers connect with great companies that are working mom-friendly:
Self-care is important. Now more than ever! Wake up early or go to bed late to get some alone time; however you can take it… do it! Take care of yourself, not only physically but mentally. There are tons of virtual therapists right now, and most companies offer an Employee Assistance Program, which gives you an allotted amount of therapy sessions for free. Don’t skimp on addressing your own personal, mental, and emotional needs.
Give yourself grace. I try to manage my expectations of myself, which is sometimes hard because I am my worse critic. But, I do my best to give myself the grace that I need not only being a mother, but good at my job. Right now it is very easy to feel like you fall short in being a good mom and a good worker, but stay away from the negative self-talk and instead have a mindset that you are doing the best job you can, and that is enough.
FINALLY, BE PROUD. You are doing a freaking amazing job being a working mom! Our children love us no matter how much time we spend with them or how many meetings we have back-to-back for work.
You are resilient and strong, and the best worker and mother.