When my husband and I decided we were ready to start a family, my continued career was never up for debate. While I could have used a longer maternity leave (like what all the other developed countries offer new parents), I didn’t want to stop working altogether after becoming a mom. And since returning to the office, nine years ago after my first leave, I’ve realized that motherhood actually made me a better coworker. So it really boggles my mind that companies don’t work harder to retain female employees after they become moms.
I do feel overwhelmed by my life at times, but I don’t think that is totally attributed to working full-time and raising two children. My family and I live in New York City, and it's somewhat of an understatement to say the pace here is fast and the culture is competitive. I’m a third generation New Yorker, though, and with parents who worked two jobs so I think the hustle is embedded in my DNA. As a result, I expect to take on a lot. Luckily motherhood has helped me prioritize. My kids always come first because, while I love having my career producing branded content (with a side hustle as a freelance writer), I am not saving lives with my job. I work in entertainment, and there is value in that, sure, but I’m not kidding myself that late nights at the office will serve me better than immersing myself in a game of Clue with my kids before bed. My family nourishes me in ways my career never could, and my family can’t be my “everything.” I need to have a life outside my home, and to cultivate those parts of me that were in play long before I became a mother.
I will never have enough time, it feels, but I’ll take the occasional disarray of my life over giving up a career I have spent two decades growing. So, with that in mind, these are some of the ways motherhood has actually made me better at work:
I'm Extremely Efficient
Having kids means I'm constantly racing the clock. If we have plans, it is always a race to leave on time. I am never not rushing. This means not only do I get things done quickly, but I have constructed systems to shave off valuable minutes, and even seconds, to get any task accomplished. I have learned to put things away exactly in the same place every time so I never waste a moment looking for anything.
I swear, I could get all my work done in five hours if it weren’t for the meetings and having to re-send documents to coworkers who don’t know how to use their email folders.
I’m Good At Reading The Room
I feel very in-tune with my children’s emotions. I have always been a sensitive person, but when I became a mother that emotional intelligence got a real bump.
As a result, I can look at my coworker's faces during a meeting and get a good read on the room’s vibe, which helps me calibrate my participation. Is everyone checked out? Then I will save my thoughtful remarks for a follow-up email when people would hopefully be more receptive. As I’ve navigated through my career, I have realized that work is not so much about the actual “work,” but more about the interpersonal relationships. I’ve learned it’s easier to get more done when people want to be in the same room with you. I pick my battles with my kids, and with my co-workers.
I'm Very Clear In My Communication
Do I talk to all my coworkers like I did to my kids when they were toddlers? Yes. Why? Because simplifying my statements, making eye contact, and asking them if they totally understand what I’m saying are communication tactics that know no age limits.
I Always Have Tissues
And straws. And hand lotion. And an extra thumb drive I can afford to not get back. Walking into my office is basically like entering an adult diaper bag. I am prepared.
I Don’t Send After-Hours Emails
I make it clear to people that I am not available between 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on weeknights. That is when I put on my “mom hat,” and I won’t be able to get back to anyone until after my kids are in bed. Yes, emergencies crop up and I ask my husband to cover me while I take an urgent call, but for the most part I make it clear that my job does not get to hold me hostage at night and on the weekends.
I also respect others’ after-work time, too. I do not email or call after hours, unless it was an emergency (and I would hope to have given that person warning that I might be in touch). I do unto others as I would have them do unto me, which is to not email or text me between the end of one work day and the beginning of the next.
My Manners Are Impeccable
I’ve always been polite, but trying to set a good example for my children has upped my “please” and “thank you” output, even in the grown-up world. I would totally give myself the office “Miss Congeniality” award, if I thought it was acceptable to wear a glittery sash at work.
I Have A Significant Amount Of Patience
As a working mom, I often look forward to Mondays. Weekends can be, well, difficult. On one hand, I savor the time I get to spend with my children, since I see so little of them during the week. On the other hand, weekends are also when my husband and I need to take care of the bulk of household chores, including but certainly not limited to grocery shopping, laundry, and getting the kids new shoes because they refuse to stop growing. It’s a marathon, fueled by coffee and wine and pretending not to notice how much screen time the kids have had since it allows us some peace and quiet in the morning.
When I come to work, I am more grounded than I am when I'm home. Kids throw wrenches in the works constantly. We have to leave for school, and they suddenly can only move in slow motion. Or they wake up with a fever. Or they get suddenly curious about bodily functions in the middle of the night and just have to ask you one, or two, or eight million more questions.
At the office, life is pretty predictable. Sure, we’re always putting out fires, but they don’t involve a lot of whining or spilled oatmeal. So I am able to keep my composure at the office, and, compared to the exasperation I feel when my kids try my patience, I know it won’t ever get that frustrating at work. Even when things go wrong at work, it will never feel as dire as it does when one of my children loses their sh*t finding out we’re having chicken again for dinner.
I’m A Fast Worker
I have too much going on to dawdle on projects. I don’t rush, but I do make every second count. I meet my deadlines and deliver on all my “I’ll get back to you by the end of the day on that” email reply. Being a mom has enabled me to home in quickly on whatever I need to take care of, and focus on it til complete. Getting as much done around the house as I could while my kids napped trained me.
I Won’t Waste Anyone’s Time With Small Talk
Being an introvert is only part of the reason why I shy away from water cooler chat. I usually have a hard out at 6 p.m. so I can get home in time to relieve the family babysitter by 7 p.m., so I am not that social at work. I exchange pleasantries with my colleagues, but I don’t hang in the work kitchen longer than it takes to refill my water bottle or microwave some leftovers. I won’t ever get in the way of you getting your work done.