Brekky in bed. Hand-crafted cards. Flowers and care packages. These are all very special Mother’s Day gift ideas – and ones moms love! But perhaps the best gifts we could offer today’s working moms include: pay equality (eradication of the ‘motherhood penalty’), leadership opportunities, more flexible work options, and for parenthood to be normalized in the workplace.
Easier said than done?
Giving mothers opportunities to develop professionally, and raise a family, is a challenge society hasn’t quite nutted out. But there’s no doubt that moms provide immense value to the workplace, society as a whole, and the future of our world (you know… by ensuring the earth stays populated!).
Working moms, we want to lift you up, celebrate you, and empower you to keep fighting the good fight. Your juggle with family and work isn’t easy. We know. But it’s so important.
So many moms work
Doing both is a real challenge! There’s tension between being the ‘good mother’ (“completely devoted to her family, she prioritizes caring for her children over paid work”) and ‘the ideal worker’ (“an employee who is completely devoted to their job, works long hours, and relies on someone else to take care of family responsibilities”).
The two concepts don’t seem to go together. But there needs to be ways for women to work and raise a family, without being judged.
The motherhood vs career conundrum
For many women, becoming a mother is a career crossroads. It’s likely to slow down career growth and earning potential. That’s why lots of millennials are delaying having children to build their careers first. It’s largely down to financial reasons, but many also list health concerns, and career and life goals as reasons for the delay.
The average age of women becoming mothers varies from country to country, but it’s rising. In the US it’s gone from 21 in 1972, to 26. Women all over the world are having babies later in life, into their 30s and beyond.
While we can’t do a whole lot to slow down the biological clock, we need to acknowledge that women face a tough decision over deciding to progress their careers or become parents. It can seem like a choice between one or the other, but it shouldn’t be. Working moms are kicking some serious ass out there (Exhibit A: Whitney Wolfe-Herd) – not that it’s exactly a walk in the park.
Working moms face huge challenges
The global pandemic
Working during the pandemic has had a huge toll on working mothers. Research revealed that 1 in 4 women are considering downshifting their career or leaving their job altogether as a result of COVID-19.
There’s a raft of reasons that women, and working moms in particular, have been hit so hard:
- Women make up 70 percent of the global health workforce, meaning they’ve been more likely to be infected
- Women have been more likely to lose work
- Women have been more likely to shoulder the load of childcare as schools and day care centres have closed down
- Women have been at increased risk of gender-based violence
- Women have been more financially impacted.
The shift to working from home, too, has presented a huge problem for working moms. It’s resulted in increased housework, unprofessional working environments (i.e. the kitchen table, surrounded by toddler chaos), and the need for flexible working hours due to childcare and homeschooling responsibilities.
The bulk of childcare
Studies indicate that women have been responsible for 70 percent of childcare during work hours. (Pandemic aside, mothers are often the more likely parent to take time off work to care for sick children anyway.)
A recent Girls in Tech study found that nearly four in five (79 percent) working moms with kids in the house report feeling burned out. 78% of working moms agreed that it’s been difficult to juggle work and home responsibilities.
Working moms: you are truly, truly impressive.
Sadly, being a mom negatively impacts work prospects. One study found that job applicants were twice as likely to get called in for an interview if they didn’t mention children. It also impacts earning potential, with another study finding that mothers experience a 20 percent drop in earning potential after having a child.
While many organizations have introduced measures to make life easier for working moms, like flexible work arrangements and family leave policies, many moms are afraid to take them up and risk exposing themselves as mothers!
Being a mother in a professional setting needs to be normalized. And it’s not necessarily women who should be spearheading this.
Alla Zarifyan shared on Medium that “Men need to do this more than women, so caring for children stops being a women’s issue and becomes a general human issue. Parents in management and other senior positions need to vocalize that children are a crucial part of their lives.”
The juggle of it all
Work, children, health, housework… How can working moms get the balance right? CAN they?
The juggle is real for mothers, particularly in a world slowly opening up again after COVID. A Modern Working Mother’s Guide To Balancing Work & Life advises:
- Do everything in moderation
- Schedule ‘me’ time
- Focus on the big picture
- Ask for help and support from others
- Realise that nothing lasts forever.
The key is to not over-burden yourself, to find support and to get past the misconception that mothers should ‘have it all together’.
We need to support the change in motherhood
Being a mom isn’t the same as it was 50 years ago. Working moms are becoming the norm, and as a society we need to be aware of how we can support (and celebrate) this shift in motherhood.
As Science Writer Sarah Toler puts it:
“Celebrating moms comes down to a lot more than sending cards on Mother’s Day. Making space for mothers includes policy change that makes the path to parenthood less dangerous, including legislation to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality. Motherhood should be less financially dangerous, as well. The financial costs of motherhood include lost wages and lost retirement in addition to childcare costs. It also includes making space for mothers of all genders —LGBTQ parents are underrepresented in the current dialogue that surrounds mothering.”
What’s your story of motherhood? We’d love for you to share it with us.