By Silvia Solis, Research and Evaluation Associate, Joining Vision and Action
As I set out to write this blog post, I thought it was a great idea and made perfect sense. Having recently had a baby and it being the week of Mother’s Day, I thought to myself: “This will be a piece of cake!” However, as I actually started working on it, it quickly turned into a complicated crumble of mixed emotions, random thoughts, and a perpetual and distracting wonderment of potential life paths, choices and sacrifices to be made now and in the future.
It started to feel too real and too personal. I suddenly felt exposed, vulnerable even, and I kept thinking about what colleagues and clients think of me now that I’m a mom. Would sharing my thoughts and experiences be considered too intimate or inappropriate? Would I therefore be perceived differently, perhaps less capable or available?
But as I started to receive input from other JVA moms and comments about the “pumping days” from other women in our co-working space, I realized this isn’t just me or about me. A large percentage of women out there share similar experiences, expectations and reservations. More importantly, this is something that is as real and relevant as being a part of society. Seventy percent of mothers with children under 18 out there work, which amounts to more than a third of working women.[i] That’s a big chunk of the labor force.
So it isn’t only about the mom pumping at the office or the one rushing to the supermarket after work to get dinner ready or the one working weekends and late into the night because of her schedule or to keep up with the workload. It is also about the girl who is excited to help Mom at the office on a school holiday and the boy needing a ride to his soccer game in the middle of the day. It’s about the grandma riding the bus back home to help care for her grandbabies, the dad who starts work at 4:30 a.m. and can’t make drop-offs and pickups, and the husband supporting his wife as she starts and grows her own business. It is about the potential future mom sitting in her desk and even all those who may not be parents wondering about the dynamics of raising a kid and getting to work.
It’s about reframing our understanding around what it means to be a working mother.
Recognizing that the role of moms in the workplace impacts everyone: the dad, the partner, the child, other caregivers, the potential future parent, the employer, the coworker. We are tribal by nature and linked together by society, consequently intergenerational and interconnected across the board. It is about us all.
Through these my first four months as a mom, I’ve become increasingly appreciative of how much support and empathy is needed to keep some sense of balance at home, remain effectively productive at work, and accomplish both personal and career goals.
I’ve also had to confront my own elusive biases around working moms, learning that being a mother and an active player in the workforce do not necessarily hinder my ability to do either. If anything, being a well-rounded person via motherhood or any other means enhances our ability to become more real and more human. We are multifaceted beings. We have multiple and varied needs, wants, interests and obligations. And, as such, our workplaces, communities and society must acknowledge and mirror our many dimensions.
To all moms out there, whether traditionally employed or not, I extend my profound admiration this Mother’s Day and every day. For your strength, your courage and your effort to raise your children regardless of your path, congratulations.
And to all supporters and advocates everywhere, who help mothers and their families along every step of the way, my and our sincere thanks.
[i] Women’s Bureau U.S. Department of Labor, Working Mothers Issue Brief, June 2016.