After college and some travel, climbing the career ladder, and getting married I chose my next job: being a mother. I suspected it would be my most challenging and rewarding role and I was right. Three children later, I haven’t looked back but I have reflected about my journey and about how we can make it a bit easier for parents – specifically mothers that work outside of the home.
I will preface my observations by saying that during the span of my motherhood, I have tried it all: full time working mother, part time working mother, and full time stay at home mother. To say any of them are easy is a stretch: most days I hang onto the tail for the ride it takes me on! But as I’ve had more time and experience with one foot in the world of work and one foot in the world of being a mother, it’s clear that parents are being asked to perform a job while stretching all of their resources to the max. Ever had one of those jobs that asked you to put together a Powerpoint presentation without giving you access to Microsoft Office? Yes, that’s the feeling.
We face many mixed messages as working parents, particularly working mothers, ie “enjoy your career, but not too much.” We send ourselves on numerous guilt trips for missing a playdate or swim meet for work. We sometimes struggle with leaving our role as mother at home while we are in our role as leader and trusted colleague in the workplace. But let’s face it, not working is not an option for many families. And we simply cannot be every place at once.
The equation looks different for my family than it may look for other families, and that is okay! Being in the wrong role is a learning experience for everyone. Being in the wrong role as a working parent is particularly challenging and something I’ve come to avoid by creating the following reminders for myself.
I’ve been fortunate to have found the right balance of role, culture, and support here at HireTalent. HireTalent is an organization that values diversity and has successfully created a business model based on inclusiveness. Our internal team varies in county of origin, culture, age, and experience and we speak over 15 different languages. In addition, eighty percent of the talent that we place for clients are classified as diverse. We’ve found that sustainability demands accountability and ensures the successful alignment of the vision and passion of those who contribute to the organization.
Be honest about your reality – Your list of “Must Haves” are different than your colleagues’ who do not have parenting responsibilities. Happy Hours twice a week were great for that four year stretch after college, but miss dinner and the quiet hours of the evening with your children for a mojito? I think not. Make sure that you have childcare and/or a school that you are happy with your child spending the day at, but remember that parenting sometimes happens during work hours and you’ve got to prioritize.
Your reality today will not be your reality tomorrow – Preschoolers know how to dominate the room. Remember, though, that their needs and schedules today will look incredibly different in two years time; they will be different people and your availability and schedule will be different as well.
Flexibility is non-negotiable (and frankly there’s no reason it shouldn’t be) – with the exception of service natured roles, the majority of professionals are now offered the opportunity to adjust schedules as needed and/or work remotely a day or two a week. Technology is a beautiful thing.
Be willing to compromise – when requesting your must haves, be prepared to compromise on compensation, take a few important trips a year, move up the career ladder a bit slower, and catch up on emails after hours. The most successful employment relationship is a two way street.
Include your spouse and your children – I have explained to my children what my “Other Job” is. While they tend to find it boring, it’s no longer a mystery and it’s alleviated a lot the stress we experienced about saying goodbye in the mornings. I’ve also been known to include my children in conference calls and invite my spouse on business trips.
Find the right employer and team (or go it alone) - I cannot stress enough that most employers will not be the right employer for you. Finding the right employer and team while being a solo player is challenging enough. As a working parent, you are now finding an employer that is a fit for you and your family! Keep looking, they are out there. If you cannot find them, consider going it alone in consulting or project work to create the flexibility you need.
Be proud! – Most importantly, there is no shame in the game of having a family. There will be employers and colleagues who are not the most supportive of the incredible work you’re doing. Keep moving and enjoy your amazing life!