Some days you are great at your job. Other days you are great at being a mum. Those days seldom occur at the same time.
With Hilary Clinton becoming the first woman presidential candidate women’s issues in the workplace are once again on the front page. From lower wages to less promotions, things are far from equal for us. I’m not going to get into a massive feminist rant, there are many other resources with far more facts and stats than I can share. What I do know is this.
Many women are still lagging behind men in business because they take time off to have babies. [Insert your ‘well they can choose not to have babies’ argument here]. Women need to shut up and put up with their lot in life right? If you want to be successful and at least equal to men you need to not have kids. Or have kids but pass the role of primary caregiver to someone else.
Newsflash. Women can’t give up having kids the human race would end. [Insert your overpopulation moan here]. And a simple fact of life is, for the ‘fourth trimester’ (and at least the first year, according to most) a baby is supposed to be with their mother. The mother shouldn’t be faced with the worry that nurturing her child will negatively impact her career.
We’re told it from childhood. We can’t have it all. But we can negotiate a path that allows us to at least try. So why aren’t more people doing this? Why aren’t mothers requesting flexibility of their employer and why aren’t bosses offering it to their employees?
Three years ago I was employed by a small start-up company, Beauty Review. There were a few thousand members and a few thousand reviews. We’re now the largest website in our field and have opened a phenomenally successful sister company (this one, Best Beauty Box Ever!) The core team are also all mothers and all enjoy the benefit of working for a progressive company.
I work 40+ hours a week. I’m also a stay at home mum to my 7 month old, with a 3-year-old part time at preschool. If my kids are sick, I am there. If preschool needs a parent helper, I’m there. If I want to go and get my hair done during the day, I do it. If I need to breastfeed my baby or pump milk for a donor baby while in a Skype meeting I do. Hell if I'm working from home, chances are I'm in my lazy pants, hair up in a messy bun, face free from makeup. If I'm in the office, I'm rocking the mean woven wrap multi tasking with ease mothering and working. And the business is not negatively impacted. You don’t experience our kind of growth if the staff aren’t doing their jobs right.
Our kind of working environment relies on reliability, trust and balance. It’s that simple. I must hold myself accountable for my role within the company. I don’t take the piss. I know what my job requires of me and I make sure I do it. Some days I only check in during ‘office hours’, responding to members and clients, but doing the majority of my work when the kiddies are in bed. If we’re in the middle of heavy customer service periods, I wrap my baby on and I get on with my job. Guess what? I can still type, talk and think with my baby around.
My boss trusts me to do my job. She continues to assign me tasks and she’ll pull me up if I’m falling behind. And she’ll ask me if I need help. Do I need someone else to take some of my load. She knows I’m dedicated to the company and its success just as much as she is. Our core team trust and support each other. We’re all working mothers and we get it - we don't judge and we don't take advantage. Which brings us to the balance.
Well getting up at 6am and going to bed at 1.00am will catch up with anyone in the end. Working online means it's too easy to never switch off, checking your emails during dinner and saying 'in a minute' one too many times to your kids. I practise self-care and I balance my life proactively. And I don't feel guilty for the moments I am neither housewife, mother or employee.
Now of course not every industry or job role could engage employees in this way. But I do think all employers can take note from mine. Being a mother doesn't make my skills any less valuable. It doesn't mean there is a better person for the job. It does mean a 9-5 schedule wont always fit. It does mean you might receive emails sent at midnight. It does mean an errant toddler might say Hi to you over Skype. But as long as the company suffers no loss in productivity or results, then heck, support and accommodate your employees and their lives, trust them to get the job done and they'll help you accomplish your vision.
Some days I’m great at my job. Other days I’m great at being a mum. Those days seldom occur at the same time. But thanks to working for a progressive company I can at least be pretty darn good at both, most of the time.