Whether you stay at home, work, work for home, or any combination of those things, being a mom is just about the hardest job there is. As a result, being a "working mom," in our culture, can seem downright impossible. When you add unfair and sometimes sexist expectations of working mothers and workplaces that are not "family-friendly" at all, things just seem stacked against us. So, yeah, there are things every working mom wishes her boss just knew, without her having to explain, because it really and truly shouldn't be this hard to have a baby and have a career, simultaneously.
I'll admit that, sometimes, I've been lucky. I've had employers who didn't just say the words, "family comes first," but have offered me the flexibility, understanding, and support to actually make that a reality. Sadly, I've also had other employers, who thought it was appropriate to mock me for taking the "mommy track" and "giving up my career," or who refused to provide me with necessary leave to care for my children.
In our culture, people seem obsessed with whether working moms can truly "have it all" – a career and a family – without compromising either part. No one seems to ask this about fathers. I have never heard comments like this used to describe a man:
"Uh oh, his wife is pregnant, I wonder if he's going to start calling in sick."
"I wonder if he'll return to work after the baby is born."
"He's always using his kids as an excuse not to stay late."
"He's totally letting daycare raise his kids. Why doesn't he stay home?"
Reality for me has always been a duality of both not being able to afford to stay home with my kids and actually wanting to work and advance in my career. I love my job, and I believe I can have it all. However, it would be awesome if my bosses knew some things without me needing to tell them.
My Kids Come First
Seriously. I have small humans in my care and they deserve my attention. As much as I like my job, I always will put them first. Believe it or not, you probably don't really want to live in a world where people put their jobs before their family. The responsibility to help raise the next generation is literally the most important my generation has. It's unfair (and unethical) to expect us to compromise because, for you, work is more important.
There Are Some Things I Just Can't Do For You Anymore
Yes, that means I can't stay late, because I need to pick up my kids on time from school and daycare. No, I can't come in on the weekend, because I don't have childcare. Asking me to do those things is unfair, and sometimes even if I was able to do them, I wouldn't want to. I am trying to achieve work/life balance, and that requires time for work and time for a life outside of work. For me that means spending time with my family.
I'm Trying Hard To "Do It All"
I really am trying to achieve a maybe impossible dream in our culture — working and being a mom, and not failing miserably at either role. I want to be a great employee and a great mother and partner, and I am going to work hard to prove to you that it's possible, but I may need some extra support, encouragement, and flexibility along the way.
I Care About My Job
I love to work, I want to work, and I try to do my best. I care about my job, otherwise I wouldn't have come to work for you in the first place, and even if it doesn't seem like it sometimes. Please don't mistake me having competing responsibilities or needing time off once in a while for me not caring.
Yes, My Kids Are Actually Sick
I Feel Bad When I Make Mistakes
I am trying so hard to do things right and to do a good job, but I am human. I make mistakes and, when I do, I feel really bad. Probably more than before I became a mother.
You see, I am holding myself up to a higher standard now and constantly feel scrutinized by you and others at work. I feel like I can't win, even if I always do things perfectly. When I make mistakes, I know it and feel guilty. No extra guilt trip is required.
I get less sleep now and desperately need caffeine to make it through the day. Sometimes my kids sleep through the night, and sometimes they don't fall asleep until midnight and wake me up before dawn.
My away-from-work schedule is full of drop-offs, pick-ups, activities, homework, and bedtimes. I am tired. So, no comments about dark circles and coffee consumption, please. I know. Sadly, I know.
I Deserve To Take Time Off When I Need It
I, like everyone, deserves to take time off. Especially time off that I have earned. I may have never taken a sick day in the past, but kids get sick, and then parents get sick. It happens. And even when someone is not sick, I deserve time off from work. Vacations are an important part of self care, and they let your employees recharge and come back better workers.
You Make Me Feel Bad When You Criticize Parenthood
Yes, I've heard the comments about me "mommy tracking" my career, about my kids being sick, the speculation about whether or not I am actually working when I work from home (even though I have never missed a call or deadline), and even when one boss said, "Everyone has things they'd rather do than work on the weekend, don't use your kids as an excuse." You aren't inspiring my trust or loyalty by disparaging me being a mother. That is part of my identity that I can't shut off, and wouldn't want to, even if I could.
If You Offer Me Flexibility, I Will Work Harder For You
Those employers who have offered me the flexibility to work from home, work flexible hours, and even bring my kids to the office in a pinch have quickly learned that actually being "family-friendly" will mean that I will be a loyal and hardworking employee. The same goes for making me feel valued as a working mom, rather than in spite of being a working mom. Family-friendly benefits and celebrations will make me stay happy there, and even more importantly help ensure I stay there, period.
In Some Ways Motherhood Makes Me A Better Employee
I enjoy working and it shows. I love being able to interact with other adults and to make a difference in the world. Becoming a mother has helped me become better at other things, too. Although I may seem tired and I may actually take a sick day or vacation day once in a while, becoming a mother has made me more patient, creative, flexible, adaptive, and kind.
I know you may be skeptical, but I now really understand priorities, try not to sweat the small stuff, and have learned a thing or two about team building, project management, and how to encourage and motivate others. These things make me a way better employee that I was before.