Moms are some of the greatest assets a company can have, but it doesn’t always feel like that in the workplace. In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought it appropriate to discuss the state of working moms in America. Things have definitely changed for women in the workforce, and especially for moms, but working moms still face a variety of challenges for having children. Many of those challenges occur around maternity leave. I have first-hand experience with this scenario. After returning from maternity leave with one of my children, I found that I had been stripped of all roles and responsibilities, moved from the executive floor to an office that was formerly used to store furniture, and marginalized. To add insult to injury, pumping and storing my breast milk was consistently frowned upon. All of this took place in an org structure where my leadership was primarily other working moms!
“Many moms can attest to the challenges of pumping at work. There are some organizations doing the work to help make the post-maternity transition back to work better.”
Pumpspotting (https://www.pumpspotting.com/) is one of those organizations. I wish my employer and I would have had access to them when I needed it because when I returned to my job after giving birth, I was met with blatant workplace discrimination, again by other working moms. Theeverymom.com describes workplace discrimination as any time an “employer’s prejudice against an employee or applicant (in this case, a mom or mom-to-be) negatively impacts her ability to carry out or secure employment.” The website also cites that “it’s illegal for an employer to treat an employee or applicant unfairly due to their federally protected characteristics, which includes age (40 or older), disability, genetic information, national origin, pregnancy, race/color, religion, or sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy)”. If you are an expecting mother, make sure you do your research and know your rights concerning parental leave. Having a child should not put your job or ability to advance at work in jeopardy.
In addition to facing difficulties with parental leave, working moms also struggle with the challenges of being an active parent and striving for excellence in their profession. We’ve discussed burnout among employees in previous blogs, and this phenomenon is definitely not specific to just moms, or parents, for that matter. However, burnout for moms is particularly more prevalent than with other demographics. According to CNBC.com, “53% of parents say that mom is the primary caregiver in their home.” The same website also claims that “women are 28% more likely to experience burnout than fathers”. What can moms do to alleviate this stress and advocate for themselves at work? There are a few things, and I know some of these may be easier said than done. First of all, if you have access to help, either at home or at work, don’t be timid about using it. Sometimes moms can experience guilt about being there for their children for everything, all of the time, but the reality is that we are not super women. It is ok to ask for help, and it’s ok to receive it. Next, we must make realistic expectations for ourselves for work and home. Maybe your daily to-do list needs to decrease by a few things. You’ll find more success and be more motivated if you’re actually completing things on the list.
If you haven’t figured this out yet, I’m an advocate for working mothers. I believe in their value in the workplace. There are companies like The Mom Project (https://themomproject.com/) that are solely dedicated to ensuring the success of moms and showing that we are some of the hardest-working people out there who would be major benefits to any employer’s roster. Spanx founder, Sara Blakely, articulated this idea well when she stated, “This struggle is real. The juggle is real. That’s why everyone should hire working mothers. They are put in crazy situations all the time and are forced to problem-solve. They are some of my most resourceful employees.” Give yourself grace, moms.