THE UNSPOKEN STRUGGLES OF WORKING MOTHERS
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“I am close to quitting my career”
“I feel as though motherhood is affecting my productivity at work”
“I am terrified of getting pregnant because once I do, my chances of making partner will be taken from me”
“I love my children but I love my job too. Is it too much to want to eat my cake and have it?”
“I am eaten by guilt every time I have to choose my work over going to my son’s football practice”
It is a common conversation that work and motherhood do not go together and that women who pursue both must make endless compromises and trade-offs. Hence, a lot of career and business mothers can relate to some of those thoughts above. It’s common for working mothers to worry about their children, especially if they are juggling both work and home duties. But as a Family Wellness Consultant, I can guarantee you that your children will be alright even if you spend many hours away from them every day. It is not about the quantity of time you spend with them but the quality. There are so many societal pressures that define what mothers should be doing, how they should parent, and what the expectations should be. There are many unwritten rules that guide the thought processes of women even though they don’t consciously realize it. Many times, these rules are not even true. The key here is balance though. Even though work demands a lot of your time, it is important that the moments you can steal off work must be spent creatively and actively engaged in their lives to make up for the time away. We have a free course that can help you get started on this journey www.tsageandtbog.com/courses. It is OK to enjoy being a working mom.
This article is to ensure that you don’t succumb to the guilt of being a working mom and to share tips with organizational heads on how to help out too.
It is important to know that being a working mother is not only suitable for financial reasons but research proves that there are several positive outcomes for the children and the family as well. According to a Harvard research study, daughters of working moms are more likely to advance in their careers, and sons of working moms go on to spend 50 minutes more each week caring for their own families. Giving your children space also gives them autonomy to learn on their own, in their way. The takeaway is that working mothers have a chance to help their daughters be more financially independent as adults – and help teach sons to participate as fathers just by being a working mom!
Being a working mom often provides many women with cerebral stimulation that they don’t get at home. This is why the societal pressure that mandates women to stay at home will not work for all women especially those who find great fulfillment in the work they do. Despite the challenges that come with finding a work-life balance, many moms who work say they’re healthier and happier than moms who stay at home. However, there are moms who enjoy raising their children full-time. That’s Ok too but this article is specific to working moms.
Another unspoken struggle working mothers face is the “mommy tax” they pay. Many women already earn less than their male counterparts but add the time taken off for childbearing years and they’re earning even less. It is important not to look at these in monetary terms only. A woman might be paid for her maternity leave but when she returns 6 months later or 18 months later [like in Canada], it is only logical that she definitely will not be on the same pedestal as her male counterpart seeing that he spent his 18 months working, gathering experience and honing skills that she was not able to. So, we find women scared to get pregnant on the job, struggle with guilt if they choose not to stay the entire duration of their maternity leave, or even struggle to come back to work and leave their newborn at home. We have evidence of women choosing to downshift in their careers to make more time for the home while some altogether quit the workforce.
Almost every household has been impacted by the disruption that comes from work-life imbalance, women have been the hardest hit. Although both mothers and fathers shoulder increased domestic responsibilities in the 21st century compared to previous years, the majority of the virtual homeschooling, cooking, cleaning, and parenting is done by women. As a result, many women have been forced to sacrifice career advancement and some even avoid returning to the labour market altogether. Here’s a litmus test to know how prevalent this is – how regularly do you hear men being asked, “how do you cope with your job and being a father?”.
5 ways organizations can help
The good news is, that there are some specific ways organizations can better support working mothers, and soon-to-be mothers.
1. Offer Flexible Work Schedules:
Allow working parents more control over their schedules by implementing flexible work arrangements is a banger. It could be a hybrid work schedule, a pick-and-choose schedule or even a four-day work week like the Kaduna State Government announced in 2021. While it is easy to assume that doing this could harm your organization, data and various studies prove otherwise. Also, the productivity, creativity, and resilience of employees actually increase when these changes are made.
2. Establish Family-Friendly Policies And Benefits:
Women inclusion is a popularized concept in the corporate space and it is easy to assume that once there is an influx of women into an organization, the benefits will follow suit. That’s a farce. Women inclusion is only beneficial to an organization when the policies and benefits make them feel truly included. It is important to note that a happy employee will improve your revenue greatly. Imagine the benefits of having a women-inclusive workforce that is truly happy to be employees of your organization. Today is not a bad day to re-evaluate any long-standing policies and identify if any changes need to be made. Verify that each policy applies equally to every employee, regardless of their gender, marital status, parentage, or employment status. Even when the policies look good on paper, work may be necessary to ensure people feel comfortable using them without fear of shame, pressure, or retaliation. Some examples are company policies and benefits involving PTO, sick days, maternity and paternity leave, medical benefits, and fertility care.
3. Encourage Employee Resource Groups:
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) have grown in popularity as diversity and inclusion programs become more prevalent in the workplace. The groups exist to provide support and help in personal or career development and to create a safe space where employees can bring their whole selves to the table. ERGs can be provided for working moms so that they can access resources, advice, and other practical support they might need.
4. Prioritize Building An Inclusive Culture:
Workplace cultures of inclusion and belonging can be a powerful tool for supporting working mothers. Research supports that feeling supported at work was linked with a 17% boost in women’s well-being since the pandemic began and a 28% boost for parents overall. Intent to stay scores jump by 31% for women and 13% for parents. Creating a long-term remuneration plan is a great step too. Offering industry-standard remuneration and benefits packages that focus on the long term is the first step in attracting and maintaining in-demand personnel. Working women seek advantages that help them reconcile their passion for work and love for family, such as paid parental leave, maternal leave, paid time off, and health insurance, rather than day-to-day perks like free meals, team-building activities, and gym memberships.
5. Make Coaching Available To Working Parents:
Professional coaching is not just useful for the leaders of an organization, it can benefit employees at all levels and in all roles. Coaches can assist working mothers in balancing work and family, managing stress, and caring for their mental health.
When working moms feel their organization supports their well-being in and out of the office, data shows that the organization as a whole benefit. Over the past two years, working mothers, have seen their careers derailed and their home lives turned upside down with the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, the skills that working mothers bring to the table – empathy, multitasking, flexibility, understanding, time management, communication, staying calm under pressure, etc – are more valuable than ever.
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