No one ever claimed coming back to work after parental leave was easy, but it may be harder than it needs to be for a plethora of reasons. For instance, a new survey by LinkedIn found that many working moms feel judged for prioritizing family and face numerous obstacles upon their return.
The results from the survey — conducted from Feb. 13 to 20 of more than 3,000 working parents 18 to 54 years old and 1,000 hiring managers across the United States — overwhelmingly suggested that parents are not receiving the support they need at work. For starters, more than half of working mothers said they feel concerned about being judged for personal leave or other family choices at work.
Rosanna Durruthy, a working mom and vice president of global diversity, inclusion and belonging at LinkedIn, tells Romper that while "it would be easy to just tell people 'don't worry'" about facing judgment at work, "that's not always practical."
"There are reasons why people have concerns," Durruthy says.
Indeed, an analysis of Census data by the nonprofit advocacy organization National Women’s Law Center in 2018 found that the "motherhood penalty" is costing working moms $16,000 a year in lost wages, according to CNBC. Additionally, a 2018 study by childcare conglomerate Bright Horizons found that 41% of employed Americans perceive working moms to be less devoted to their work.
But despite public opinion, working moms do not take the conflicting responsibilities of career and family lightly. In fact, LinkedIn's survey found that among the working mothers who are back at work after a career break, 44% said the hardest part of coming back personally was juggling parental duties — like sick children and childcare — with tasks at work.
"The transition from not being a parent, to being a parent, to being a working parent can be pretty stark," Durruthy says. To address this challenge, she suggests working moms have an open a line of honest communication with higher ups and talk to their bosses about what's making the transition difficult. "It may require a little bit of flex that enables an individual to have the breathing room not only to take care of the family, but to take care of one's self."
LinkedIn's survey also found that 63% of working professionals — both men (61%) and women (66%) — agree that there are unnecessary obstacles in place that make it challenging for mothers to advance in their careers. According to working moms, the top three obstacles are non-flexible work schedules (64%); high-quality affordable childcare (55%); and a lack of adequate maternity leave (29%).
Fortunately, there are steps companies can take to make life easier for working mothers and fathers. All working parents surveyed by LinkedIn pointed to a flexible work schedule; robust parental policies, including parental leave; and encouraging executives to be more outspoken leaders on the importance of parental obligations and/or policies that support working parents as the most important things that employers can do to help employees with children to succeed.
Along with these efforts, Durruthy recommends that employers come out and ask their employees what could help make the transition easier. "That conversation often provides a sense of relief," she says.
Even under the best of circumstances, the life of a working parent is bound to be complicated. But with 70% of all women with children under the age of 18 either working or looking for work, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, finding a way to make life a little easier for them is certainly a worthwhile effort.