Corporate mothers don't need a healthy work-life balance, at least not when 'life' is mainly about household chores and responding to the demanding needs of their smaller and bigger family members. What moms really need is a healthy ratio of all kinds of work versus their own time, allowing them to have a space for themselves to keep their sanity or even have fun. But how to get that? There are certain elements of the formula of a content working mother, let’s have a look at them!
1. Motherhood penalty
While first-world countries encourage families in so many different ways to have more kids, they won’t give equal support to working mothers when it comes to fighting against the motherhood penalty, including the pay gap, glass ceiling, normative discrimination and many other disadvantages in the job market for working mothers. But what if motherhood is not seen as discomfort by employers? What if they could find different alternatives to actually try to attract mothers as valuable and amazing workforces, who are organized, focused and who clearly know how to multi-task and deal with rotating and fluctuating priorities? The difficulty today is not that mothers can’t find a way to balance family duties and work-related tasks, the problem is that most employers don’t even offer the flexibility to enable the navigation between the two worlds. Equal payment, flexible work time, and home office options could make working mother’s life so much easier, nevertheless, these are still not always available after COVID, even though the pandemic brought clear evidence that mothers could work from home and adapt work hours around family needs without any negative consequences on productivity and effectiveness.
Coaching tip: while motherhood penalty is an external factor influencing working mothers’ careers and salary, there might be internal factors which are rather our own limiting beliefs, things that we feel as an absolute truth and therefore we don’t even consider question them. It is important to see clearly what are the legal requirements or company policies on flexible work time or home working and what might be simply our assumptions about the employee’s expectations. Talking to HR and doing your own research on options don’t usually cost a job, management often appreciates initiatives and proactive problem-solving.
2. Invisible labour
There is another penalty around motherhood, and that is the invisible work that mothers accomplish without anyone noticing or acknowledging it. To keep a household happy and healthy is a combination of a full-time maid, a nanny and a project manager, and while there are exceptions, mainly these workloads fall on mothers. It’s a long story about how our society got here, but there are plenty of things we can do about it today to make some improvements. The first step is being aware of the invisible labour and conscious of all the tasks working mothers take on. The next step is making changes in our own household to get a fairer and more equal division of household chores, starting an open communication with our partners about our expectations and needs. The long-term impact is guaranteed, by being role models for the next generations we can already initiate a change so our daughters won’t need to fight against invisible labour anymore.
Coaching tip: have an open conversation with your partner and try to actively listen to each other. Don’t expect him to read your mind, you must explain the impact of the status quo on your mood and energy level, how overwhelmed, tired and maybe even lonely you feel due to the endless tasks and the responsibilities waiting mainly for you. Try to have an agreement instead of expectations, and involve actively your partner in the design of the future, what are the things he could take over easily, and what are the things you could even hand over to the kids or someone else? When hubby is happy to be responsible for a task, the best way for mothers to support them is by letting them accomplish the task on their way and letting go of their own perfectionism. Accepting support means that we should give up control, which is a price that we need to be ready to pay.
3. Alone time
First of all, let’s start with the definition of me-time. Me-time is the time that a mother spends alone, which means, that there are no kids or husbands around them. Why this is important, and why mothers can’t rest while they enjoy quality time with their families? Well, because spending time with their kids or hubby can be lovely and rewarding, but still, moms need to operate in a ‘service provider’ mode as they respond to all different needs of the kids, they feed them, entertain them, keep them safe, especially when they are young and less independent. According to a research, parents have an average of 32 minutes a day for themselves, mainly when the kids are already sleeping and the parents are death-tired and that is hardly optimal to accomplish any inspiring activities. As a consequence, mothers feel that while they do want to devote their time to raising well, loving and supporting their kids, they miss some space to feel passionate and energetic about non-kids related stuff, something that represents their essence and identity instead of the mother or wife role they took on. If there are no opportunities for working mothers to breathe and be themselves, automatically they will start to be resentful and angry of their family, mainly their husband which is leading to severe marital problems.
Coaching tip: if we are sincere with ourselves, very often married working mothers could have more time for themselves, but they struggle to fight for it as they don’t allow themselves to take a yoga class or to stay in bed, while hubbies easily close the door of their study or go and meet up buddies without asking for permission or feeling guilty. Yes, there are tons of work to do to have a more balanced workload and to not consider ‘daddy helping out mummy’ but simply taking his share of the chores, but in some cases, we, working mothers also need to be more honest with ourselves and identify where could we do better and allow ourselves to create our own space to re-charge the batteries.