With Mother’s Day around the corner, it’s important that we take time to reflect upon, and celebrate all the amazing things women have today accomplished. In 2019, U.S. women now outnumber men at college universities. Overall, the landscape has drastically improved for women in the last decade. However, mothers still face significant challenges as they fight for equality in the workplace. I interviewed several inspiring women about what it’s like to be a working mom in 2019, and here’s part one of what they had to say!
What is it like to be a working mom in 2019?
Noemi Patocka, Divisional VP of Human Resources notes, “It’s challenging, but it’s exciting. You get to build an amazing career, but it’s difficult to balance spending the time you want with your kids. Prioritization becomes important!”
For Jessica Laird, being a mom in 2019 can be tough, and imperfect. She stresses the importance of checking your expectations at the door, and reminds herself that there is no best way to balance parenting and working. She suggests weighing the pros and cons of any arrangement, and finding the one that fits best for the individual, and makes both roles that much more rewarding.
While there have been significant strides for women, there remains fundamental work to be done. Marina Byezhanova, founder of Pronexia, says “It’s important to underline that if you feel like you’re taking a step back in your career, it’s because you are. Being a working mom means accepting that career wise, you’re not accelerating as fast as your colleagues that may not be primary child caretakers.” In her own practice, Byezhanova sees discrimination with clients who state upfront that they don’t want to hire young women as they might be looking to start a family.
While discrimination still exists for women, sacrifices and hardships exists for fathers too. While women who opt to have children earn 85% of what their male counterpart earns, the wage gap is even higher for men who choose to take their full paternity leave!
What psychological struggles might exist for working moms?
As much as the outside pressures can help or hinder your decision to start a family, the mental journeys woman have are equally as impactful. Patocka explains that when considering starting a family, “You play your own mind games. You’re walking away from a job where you’re trying to build a career. You make it difficult for yourself by feeling insecure about what you’re leaving behind. It’s often not a reflection of how the company has acted, rather your own inner dialogue”.
Many women also relate to feeling like their identities have been challenged. Many state that at work, they’ve always been able to solve their own problems, and handle the challenges that come their way. However, being a new mom means accepting the vulnerability that accompanies not knowing what to do, and not having all the answers.
Jyll Saskin Gales, an employee at Google says “Even though you’ve read all the books, it’s still different having a child in front of you 24/7. I’m used to feeling competent and figuring out what to do, but I can’t search for all the answers at 3:00 a.m. It made me wonder, am I incompetent? This feeling was hard, and something I was not used to. But, it definitely got better with time!”
Byezhanova says, that at times, she felt unsuccessful, and that she often didn’t know what she was doing. She says it’s hard to leave a successful career, as your identity shifts from career woman to new mom. She highlights the importance of doing what works best for you at this point in your life, and not putting too much pressure on any rigid plans you might have for yourself.
While some women might be able to dedicate 150% of themselves to motherhood, many women are balancing trying to be a great mom, while also trying to build a successful career. Chi Nguyen says that “People expect moms to parent like they don’t have a job, and do their job like they don’t have their families at home”. Navigating the guilt of thinking about work, while spending time with her child, and trying to squeeze in picks up and drop offs can be challenging!
What advice would you give to working moms who are starting families today?
Patocka states that the best advice she could give someone was to “be confident, trust your gut, and know what you’re doing is important”.
Jyll Saskin Gales, says the advice she would give any new mom, is to have the conversation about maternity leave with your managers early. You have to make sure that you and your manager are working off the same information when it comes to understanding your needs and requirements. Managers may not always know what kinds of accommodations you need, so make that clear.
Byezhanova says the best thing you can do is to find a support system that will be honest with you about their experiences, rather than trying to act like a superhero all the time. She expresses the importance in rejoicing in the good, but also sharing the bad as well, and helping each other make things more manageable. Focus on being in the present, wherever you are, and avoid overcompensating.
When it comes to feeling the “mom guilt” that many struggle with, Chi Nguyen reminds herself to take a deep breath, and remember that the sacrifices she makes allow her to provide and care for her family. In the grand scheme of things, she knows she’s doing a great job shaping her little humans, and recognizes that things will work out!
What all moms agree on, is that motherhood is going to be imperfect, and you’ll need to find people who will keep things real and empower your decisions. Be kind to yourself, and continue to support each other as working parents!
[In part two of this article, we’ll discuss what it was like for women to take their maternity leaves, what it was like to come back, and what organizations can do to help make things easier for working parents.]
Stacy Pollack is a professional development specialist who helps employees and leaders grow and build new skills through innovative programs. She is passionate about creating opportunities for people to advance in their career while improving their organization’s retention rate and output. She loves sharing insights on workplace development, career building, and networking for success. Stacy also holds an MA in Educational Technology. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or at www.stacypollack.com.