Corporate America, You’re Still Miles Away from Doing Right by New Moms
The odds are still against women trying to balance work life and mommy life. I am not a mother, but I know many…some I have managed, some managed me, my sister-in-law is a working mom and so are plenty of my friends. I salute them and the challenges they face daily.
I recently took on a coaching client who was pregnant at the time and now a new mom. She and I spoke endlessly about how she felt ostracized at work and how she felt like she might not have a job when she goes back. She is scared for her future and concerned if she will be able to care for her baby the way she wants while going back to work and handling a job that already required way too much time from her. Sad. These issues still exist.
Now that I have not been working in Corporate America [so to speak] for nearly 9 months, it affords me the chance to look back and reflect on how far Companies have come to make work life balance a thing for parents. Truth is; it is far too little really. I’ve seen too many women struggle with the pressure of work while balancing being a mom. Many of them having to switch jobs or careers after having a baby.
As a manager, I’ve had women scared to tell me they were pregnant or asked to hide their pregnancy from other senior leaders until they could figure out “mom stuff.” Of course, I respected them, but it made me angry that such a happy moment had to have so much negativity around it.
As a manager, I remember not one, but many women coming back from mat leave, and crying in my office for hours because they just could not perform the job at the level they used to. It was sad how worried they were about being fired. I’d always tell them enjoy your baby, be a mom and do the best you can, which was far more than the average employee anyway.
As a manager, I had to ask a new mom who was breast feeding to take down the decorative wallpaper she put up on her glass office doors because HR said it was against “policy.” I thought it was despicable. She was simply trying to make things easier for herself in that she could sit on conference calls in her office, at her desk comfortably with her computer. I thought that seemed reasonable, but the Company wanted her to schlep her stuff to a dusty closet on another floor.
Once, I had a manager whom I asked what her kids were going to be for Halloween, she laughed and told me, that’s the Nanny’s job. I felt sad for her, but I am not sure she cared. I’ve told that story to other moms and they were mortified, but as I think about it, my manager was focused on her career and if she did not delegate that, she would not be where she is today. Will she ever get those Halloweens back? Of course not, but will she care about that when time has run out? I think so. However, I don’t blame her for delegating that responsibility. I blame Corporate American for making it impossible for her to be an engaged mom and successful executive.
As much as Corporate America would like you to believe they support working mothers, they are not doing enough. I am rallying to support all working mothers because it bothers me how women are not given the time off they need to care for their children, or offered flexible schedules, or given the respect when it comes to having to deal with the adjustment of balancing work with being a parent (especially for the first time).
Recently, I had breakfast with someone I used to work with a few agencies ago. Like me, she was a rising star at the agency. However, she went off to have children, while I stayed back and did not. Things changed drastically for her. It was unreal to see the different ways we were then treated at the Company. I continued to rise because I had no “baggage” [as I heard the agency call it], and she stayed steady in her career; not advancing as fast due to her new situation. I truly believe if Corporate American did not put the Scarlet Letter P (pregnancy) on her or others like her, she and other women would continue to excel in their careers even if they choose to be a mom too.
It’s just not fair and I want every working mother to know; even though I never had kids, I know the hardships you face. As an employee and a member of many executive leadership teams, I saw too much bad and not enough good. There needs to be more good.
Moms, I think you are smart and brave and I wish for the daughters you are having that one day they will not face what you do and will feel good about becoming a mom and not have to keep it a secret from the President of the Company, a client or others because it comes with a stigma.
This is one of the reasons I decided as a Health Coach to help new moms. I want to help them overcome the tensions, and find the balance of being a mom and how they can be great at their jobs too. Both are within reach, but it is not an easy road to travel. I am in the driver’s seat navigating that rough terrain for my clients today and those in the future.
Do you have a story to share? Comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.