The Working Mom’s Credo

As working moms we bear the burden of carrying our families on our backs. Indeed, this life is exquisite yet excruciating. Part of the reason it is so hard is because of the inequities at home and at work. While those inequities may make us weary, we can never give up.

Advice to Employers: Please Create Policies Assuming All Worker Are Single

Me and my daughter
Motherhood is harder than it needs to be. This is partially because of the inexcusable work/life policies in the U.S., but also because of our own outsized expectations. We are living in an age when the ideal mom is a mash-up between the helicopter mom, the corporate exec, and the earth mama — and there's just not enough high-efficiency, low-emissions biofuel to go around. –Elissa Strauss, Why I don't want 'mom friends'
We just celebrated "Mother's Day" and honored mothers and other women who help make the world and our families a better place. Every year at this time, I think about what mothers really need to be successful and independent. I say, "independent" because developing policies and legislation that are premised on the notion that all working moms have supportive families and/or spouses is not in the best interest of working moms. Instead, Corporate America and Congress should develop policies and legislation that presumes that every working mom is doing it on her own. 

  • My mom worked full-time and so I had the opportunity to observe how things worked as a kid.
  • I have worked in Corporate America for nearly thirteen years as a working mom and I have been dismally disappointed with the lack of policies designed to promote the health and well being of working parents.
  • Despite the above, as a working mom, who also maintains a blog and advocates for working moms, I am encouraged that the workplace improvement initiative needle may be moving in the right direction. 

Quote from LinkedIn.

 I am blessed to sit in the C-Suite at a company that supports me and affords me the flexibility I need to thrive as a single mother and a woman who leads a beautiful but complicated life. If more organizations want to attract AND retain top female talent, they must do better. We are 100% worth it.
Ashley Page

While I was happy for my colleague who posted it, who applauded her company for supporting her as a single mom, it got me thinking about the vestiges of discrimination that remain in Corporate America. Experience has taught me that one of the reasons being a working mom is so hard is because the policies and practices of Corporate America are designed around an antiquated model. They were designed with the “working man” in mind and that “working man” had a wife at home who kept the home fires burning. Well, that model has failed to be a reality for many workers for years. 

I have worked full time since having children and I have never had the benefit of a traditional "wife". A traditional wife devotes her life to supporting her husband, uplifting his career and keeping the home fires burning. While it is an antiquated concept it still lives, especially in the law. I know countless male attorneys whose wives are stay-at-home moms. This often happens even when the wives are also attorneys. I imagine it is because the pressures associated with maintaining a two-career household can break even the most secure marriages.

In contrast, I have never had the built-in support system that was designed to promote my success. Instead, I had a “husband” who had his own agenda that did not include supporting my hopes and dreams. To. be fair to him, I do not think his attitude was that unusual from other men. He took a traditional approach to childcare and household responsibilities. I did nearly everything that was required on a daily basis and he did "projects". He mowed the lawn, took out the trash, shoveled the snow and fixed things that were broken. While I was grateful for those contributions, there's a different level of intensity when you are responsible for essential daily functions. In our family, I was the breadwinner, caregiver, and scheduler. As a result, I am always working or thinking about working. There was no break and the support system was not automatic and my "husband" resented the implication that. he was supposed to be my support system.

And, despite that I gap, I had the same expectations as my male colleagues who had wives because that was fair.
So, if working men tend to have the support of "wives" and working women do not, what should corporations do?

Corporate America Needs To Make Policies for Single People

If all companies treated their employees as if they were single, the workplace would be better for all working women, including the married ones. Here’s why. Longstanding inequitable practices related to unfair treatment at work, the burden and blessing of childbearing, and unequal household and childcare duties, working women are stretched incredibly thin.  

A recent study found, "Even when mothers are the breadwinners, the burden of household management still falls largely on their shoulders, going against the conventional idea that the partner who earns less carries more of the domestic load." "Study Shows Moms Who Earn More Than Dads Do More of the Housework" Assuming this study's results are accurate and from my own experience--personally and from my consulting clients--it is absolutely true, Corporate policies that are built on the notion that the working mom has "help at home" are not only missing the mark they may be creating conflicts between the working mom and her spouse. 

In my experience, many men simply do not think many household tasks and childcare duties are their responsibilities. So, when their wives ask them to do them, they are met with resistance. 

A lot of these requests are made by these women because Corporate policies are not supportive. So, the only way for these women to succeed at work is by “negotiating” with their spouse. What the study above indicated is that these spouses often do not see performing those tasks as their jobs. If they did, the working women would not be doing many of the tasks in the first place. The reason that working women are so overwhelmed is because the clarity they have at work is lacking in their home lives. And that feeling of being overwhelmed creeps into their work lives and can compromise happiness and performance.

So, Corporate America if you want happier employees, accept this reality. Many don’t have supportive spouses. However, with your support they can succeed.

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