We’ve come a long way from the days when women were secretaries and personal assistants only, as nowadays many women have broken through the glass ceiling. But, it’s a hard-won victory for most and comes at a cost for women who constantly have to juggle their roles as business women, wives and mothers.
According to a survey done amongst working women by Executive Life Coach Jason Bernic, women still have to work extra hard to compete with men in the workplace to achieve equal status and many feel like they have to put on a persona to fit in and succeed – often holding themselves back or making themselves “smaller”.
Balancing work and motherhood
This should come as no surprise, but the primary concern working women have, according to the survey, is the struggle to balance their work life with their roles as mothers and nurturers.
Feeling guilty all the time
One surveyed woman said that she’s always feeling guilty. “When I take time away from work to handle my children’s needs, I feel guilty, when I take time away from my family for work, I feel guilty – it’s a constant feeling of being pulled in two different directions.”
Another participant said: “You have to work as if you’re not a mom, and mother as if you don’t have a job or business.”
Moms are involved 24/7
“The fact remains that for most families it’s the mother who shoulders the lion’s share of responsibilities and tasks when it comes to the children, from early morning wake-ups and prepping the kids for school, through to extracurricular activities, play dates, grocery shopping and more,” says Jason. “We dads often drop the kids off at school on our way to work and that’s where our involvement in their busy daily schedules ends, whilst moms will pop out the office during their lunch break to sort out their children’s needs, they will arrange to leave a bit early to drive them to after school events – the examples are endless.”
Employees are not always accommodating
“Unfortunately, and corroborated by the survey, many workplaces favour employees that are seen in the office, and don’t take into consideration the fact that a working mom may leave the office at 3pm to handle her children’s needs but will then work from home until 9pm or later to catch up on her workload. Many employers have a mindset that if they don’t actually physically see an employee working then they are not performing or delivering,” says Jason.
Workplace competitiveness and a lack of bonding
Another issue that came up in the survey was competitiveness in the workplace between women who sometimes feel threatened by their female co-workers – particularly those that don’t have to consider the work/parent juggling act. Hand in hand with this is the fact that – according to the survey – it can be difficult for female co-workers to bond or develop a connection outside of the office. Again, their role as mothers impacts this as most women spend their time outside of the office engaged in family activities and responsibilities – there’s no equivalent to the golf course or the local bar for working moms.
It’s natural to feel a little intimidated if you’ll be going back to work soon after 4 months of maternity leave, but it’s going to be OKAY.
Jason shares these tips to help you return to work with confidence:
- Send and email to everyone a couple of days before you go back to work, to let them know you’ll be back soon and that you’re looking forward to returning.
- The time you take off may naturally improve many of your skills like patience, empathy and connection, which are all leadership skills. Recognise, embrace and apply these skills in your role when you return, and you may even show up with more impact.
- Being a mother is one of the toughest, most demanding jobs in the world. Three or four months is not a long time; the world will not have changed and neither will your business. What will change, though, is you… you will return as a newer version of yourself (especially if it’s your first child), with more wisdom and more capacity to act, and that will benefit the business.
- Working moms are assets to a business because they are motivated, organised, focused and know how to get things done.
- Practice your stance. You may have heard one version of this – the power pose. If you want to feel confident, be confident.
- Catch up. Have coffees and lunches with colleagues, or just go for a walk or swing by their desks to say hi.
- Don’t hide behind your desk or laptop. Get out there, show your face, engage with colleagues and clients.
- Take an interest – returning with genuine care and curiosity will give your colleagues peace of mind around your commitment.
- Be seen and heard – so that everyone knows you’re back.
- Show up energised and positive – fake it if you need to because both positive and negative energy are infectious.
- Dress up! Put on your power suit (or your version of it), get your nails and hair done and don’t forget a quick dab of make-up. (Yes, we know it’s hard to find the time in the morning when you have to get your little one ready as well, but feeling good about how you look will really help.)
More about the expert:
Jason Bernic is an Executive Life Coach and a dad to twin boys. He has extensive experience within the industry and is the resident life coach on Jacaranda FM. He has just launched “The Life Coach” – the only life coaching cartoon that we know of. For more information visit his website here or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, contact Jason on 010 300 0801.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.