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April 24, 2021

Why we Need to Shift the Narrative around Working Mothers.

So many moms are in their homes right now, as many have been furloughed or laid off.

Some may have been able to retain their jobs for the time being, but for so many working moms out there, they are asking some deeply layered questions as to what is next.

After this transformational year, it has sent many of us wondering about the current rhythms of daily life with kids, and how that impacts our careers.

Far too often, I have seen and witnessed women wrangling with the ever-shifting stress and overwhelm of working 40-hour weeks and raising a young family without enough bandwidth.

I know all too well the feeling of “I was failing at home and failing at work,” despite all my efforts to check all the boxes and make it appear externally that there were no balls falling. The truth was that balls were falling and so was my mental health. After having children, the narrative does not change in the workplace. Women are still viewed as if they don’t have any children and that they are individual, productive, and will get the job done.

There is an incredibly large opportunity, as a collective, to shift the narrative around women in the workplace getting pregnant or having more children, and their ability to balance work and home life. Women are assets, not liabilities. The underlying issues with women feeling less than or defeated need to end.

Women are not failing. Working full-time and raising young children is not for the faint of heart. The narrative has to change so that women don’t feel they have to leave the workforce because a company is not family-friendly or does not have other options. It’s time for women to thrive in their workplaces.

As women are examining their careers, I feel there is an opportunity for some inner work for ourselves. The narrative is and should be around empowering and feeling confident in what is next.

Gone are the days that one has to follow a rigid 9-5 schedule and exist in a confined box. One’s happiness will make you and your family happier in the long run.

As we think about the next steps or where we may want to shift, I urge women to consider the return-to-work interview.

Start to think about working for an employer who is family-friendly and has a work/life balance. Is part-time or full-time work appealing? Consider portfolio, freelance work, or start your own business.

Is advocating with your current employer or network, regarding contract work or part-time, a possibility? Even if a job isn’t listed, it doesn’t mean one cannot be created.

One’s ability to problem solve and work through challenges does not have to be time-stamped. One does not have to work a 40-hour workweek to be productive and live a joyous and meaningful life.

Women in this current climate and time in their career need to feel empowered around “owning” their life force, their confidence, and the steps they take forward on their own terms. Whether one is employed for a company or starts their own business or chooses to freelance, the narrative has to be unapologetically in support of your goals.

Returning to the workforce means also finding a career path that aligns with goals, values, and objectives. If those don’t align or sit well in one’s gut, then I would expect that the employer or workplace is not ready for your skillset or background.

Take a good look at what type of role, hours, type of work, and interests that you have. Take some time to sketch that out. Think about your network and who to reach out to. Finding a position that suits you takes some unraveling and peeling back the narrative that it doesn’t exist, or that you have to fit in a box. Let go of those limiting beliefs. Consider hiring a coach who you align with.

When you return to work, it’s about finding what suits you in whatever stage of your life.

I have spoken to so many moms who, for one reason or another, left the workforce after their first child was born. Once the second child came, it became too much to handle.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard phrases like these:

Oh, I figured you wouldn’t be able to handle this after your third.

You’re going to want to be home with the kids more, right?

Are you sure you’ll be up for this promotion or project?

I’ve been seeing your work slipping for some time over the past several months.

I need you to be available at all times when the work needs to be done for our clients. 

These types of phrases are the living words that happen every day in the workplace. What those phrases don’t say is that it has nothing to do with the value and assets that a woman can bring to her field of expertise.

Having children does not dilute or make those skills vanish.

Employers and companies have to help women remain in the workforce with confidence and offer a holistic approach to their careers. If workforce cultures and values are not at the forefront, we will be perpetuating the continual feeling of women not feeling like it is worth it.

In several working mom groups, I see common issues like this every day:

>> Burnout: “I’m so burnt out. I don’t even know if it’s possible to work over 40 hours a week, be a mom, a wife, and still be able to live a fulfilling life. I definitely agree that it’s outdated and probably was geared much more toward having one parent at home to do those duties.”

>> Logistics: “I agree, but I struggle with this since having my first child in 2019. I wake up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready and drop my son off with my mom by 7 a.m. Then I travel to work, which is an hour away from traffic. I work until 5, but by the time I go home and fight traffic, I’m home around 7 p.m. This leaves time to eat dinner, which we try to meal-prep ahead of time on Sundays, which usually gets us through half the week. Then the bedtime routine starts at eight. My husband helps with a lot, but that still doesn’t give us any time to enjoy each other until the weekend.”

>> Stress: “Life would be so much easier if everyone could survive off of one income (if you’re in a married household). When both parents work, life is so hard and chaotic. I’m only working part-time until my youngest is in school, and I’m already dreading how I’m going to handle full-time work. I just don’t see how it’s going to work.”

>> Sustainability: “I agree with this 100 percent. I’m wondering how to advocate for real change, and try to get the workweek at least down to 32 hours with full-time pay and benefits. I want to research how we can take action and figure out how to make this change. Many homes have two full-time working parents to make ends meet, and working over 40 hours a week needs to stop—it’s not sustainable. Our children need us.”

>> Overload: “I agree it is not logical now as both parents are usually working these days. I have to get to work at 7:15 a.m and leave around 5:00-6:00 p.m. That is about a 10-hour day, plus an hour commute. and then there are the hours allotted to planning on the weekends.”

So, as women begin to unravel what works for them in their career path, I highlight these examples as a tool to show that this is what is underneath and behind a working mom. It’s not water cooler talk or anything that a boss or workplace welcomes for information.

If you’re a working mom out there trying to find out what career path is next for you, you can do it intentionally, mindfully, and with purpose—even if you’re exhausted from this year, and not sure what your next step is.

Personal growth can be a messy process, but once you arrive at what works for you at your own pace, you’ll get back the part of you that lights up and feels good. That’s what every person deserves.

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