It started every day around 5:30 p.m. — the rapid heartbeat, tenseness in my neck and sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Would I be caught up in work that couldn’t be finished by 6 p.m. when I had to leave to pick up my daughter from daycare before it closed? I played this little internal mind game every day for more than a decade. This daily stress was so intense that I clearly remember, just as I recall her first day of kindergarten, that day when I hired a college student to pick her up from school and stay with her until I arrived home and no longer had to do the 6 p.m. mad rush out the door.
And then there was the time I was in a meeting with my boss and couldn’t leave at 6 p.m. — stranding my hysterical child, who believed she’d been abandoned, at the clarinet teacher’s house for an extra hour back in the day before cell phones that would have allowed me to text about my delay.
The fact of the matter was that I (and other women like me) had no other choice. I couldn’t stop working, nor could I just simply tell my manager I had to leave at a certain time each day. That just wasn’t done back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. While women had made many advances in the workplace, we were still treated differently and had to pretty much hide our “motherness” in order to compete with men who, back then, didn’t have the same childrearing responsibilities.
Click to tweet: [email protected] reflects on how much has changed for the better for working moms — flextime, part-time and work from home arrangements — and the progress that still needs to be made. http://ow.ly/fR7j50yR2yd #workingmoms
Today, on this International Women’s Day, I reflect on how much has changed for the better for women in the workplace — flextime, part-time and work from home arrangements, availability of childcare, fathers who share the childrearing duties. But, have things really changed for mothers who work outside the home? I asked my colleagues who are moms with young children now what it is like for them in 2020. Here’s what they had to say.
Jesseka: Mom guilt is real. Whether you feel guilty for leaving your child to return back to work or pausing or giving up your career to care for your child (or really any arrangement in between), it’s a lose-lose situation. Fortunately, we’re in an era where work from home policies exist and many workplaces offer flexible starting/ending times to help accommodate childcare situations, and technology makes it easier to stay connected and updated when you’re not home.
On the flip side, long commutes may mean you see your child for an hour (or less) before it’s bedtime, and technology makes it so colleagues can reach you during that time. Depending on where you live, there are long waitlists for daycare and the costs add up when you have to include before- and after-care because your schedule doesn’t fit regular hours.
The truth is, nothing comes without sacrifice. Being a working parent is hard, but with support and flexibility we can more easily juggle both. There’s always more progress to be made for moms (and dads), and we have to be willing to talk about our family situations — instead of hiding them — so that real progress can be made.
Blair: I’ve been fortunate to work for some pretty progressive companies, where I’ve had the flexibility to juggle my work with my parenting responsibilities, however, sometimes it did come at a cost. I’ve worked hard to ensure that my mom life doesn’t interfere with my work life and vice versa but sometimes it’s unavoidable, especially when you’re in a meeting and get the dreaded call from the school nurse saying that your kid is sick and needs to be picked up.
As much as I love being a mom, I would be lying if I didn’t say that being a parent hasn’t cost me opportunities. In fact, because I was often the only working mother in my department or on my team, there were times where I was excluded from having the proverbial seat at the table because of the unconscious bias that I wouldn’t be available due to parenting responsibilities. Here’s what I know, being a mother is not a shortcoming — it’s a strength. And in this time where diversity and inclusion are the focus for many companies, sometimes inclusion gets lost, as most people tend to only focus on diversity. Inclusion means that everyone has the opportunity to get a seat at the table. Inclusion isn’t limited to just race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. To me, inclusion is the gray area that often gets overlooked and when we focus on inclusion, diversity is a given.
Lisa: I think being a mom is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. As a mother I want to be there for my children. I want to be there for all of the big things and the little things —bedtime, homework, concerts, school activities — you get my point. In short, I want them to feel loved and supported.
Being a working mom means I am constantly juggling the needs and wants of my family as well as my responsibilities at work. My husband and I are extremely fortunate to have a great support system but even with that in place it’s still a juggling act. I constantly consult my calendar for my ability to attend everything, work or personal. I have felt guilty for not going to doctor appointments, meetings at the school or staying home with them when they are sick. They are in good hands but somehow that doesn’t make me feel better.
My day starts at 6:30 a.m. and some days, I feel like I have already worked eight hours by the time I arrive at the office. I often try to enjoy the quiet after my children go to sleep, which means I’m up late and sleep deprived the next morning. Is that a self-inflected wound? I’m not sure.
Being employed at a place that gives you some flexibility is extremely important to me. The ability to work remotely has been a lifesaver more times than I can count. It allows me to be who I am, a working mom.
I know this is only temporary and soon they will be all grown up. For now, I’ll continue to juggle because I love them more then they’ll ever know. I’ll sleep later…
It seems that, while some things have improved for working mothers over the years and despite working for a great company like Taft Communications that provides flexible work hours and the ability to work from home two days per week, among our moms, there is still a feeling of not having enough time with our children and feeling guilty about it. Because we all want to be the best possible mothers to our children, perhaps some of this will never change. But if we continue to support, value and include working moms, continued progress is possible.
Jesseka Kadylak, Blair Hunter-Grant and Lisa Williams contributed to this article.