Struggling with the family work balance? Is the answer special privileges for working moms?
A post in a mom online forum recently caught my attention. A mom had left work a number of times during the first week of school when they called to emotional and health concerns relating to her daughter.
Some of her coworkers were not too happy. They reported her to upper management and stated she needed to keep the personal out of her work life.
The first thing that really caught my attention were the responses. 95% of them were critical, judgmental and bordering on inappropriate towards the mom. Very few offered any helpful or supportive advice on ideas or solutions on how to help juggle this situation.
It was too bad that the people she was going to for advice or support, other moms, where most interested in making her feel like a bad mom.
However the big question that came to me was, what is the solution? How can we truly juggle the demands of work and family, especially when the two overlap? Is it even possible?
I have experienced the range of working options as a mom. I have held down the 9-5 job, stayed at home for a few months and ultimately ended up running my own business. Each had their challenges. For me the biggest challenge came trying to juggle work and family when I held down a job working for someone else.
My solution was starting my own business. However not everyone has that dream. Many moms love their work and career they just desire more freedom and flexibility.
I don’t believe I have all the answers but here are 3 ideas that can help move us forward into creating a more supportive work environment:
1. Support Each Other
The first and most important step I believe we can take as mom’s in the workplace is to provide support and compassion to each other. When we see another mom struggling with the push and pull of work and family reach out to her. Let her know we know how hard it is to try and juggle family and work. Give her the opportunity to share her own struggles. Offer her any tips or advice you have that worked for you. It is amazing how much lighter the burden can feel when we are offered kindness, support and empathy.
As moms in the workplace I believe more of this needs to happen. It doesn’t mean we can’t handle it or that we’re not good at our job because we admit we’re having struggles. We should never let others judgments make us feel like this.
Women have many inherent powerful traits including support, collaboration and compassion. It’s time we recognize these traits as strengths not weaknesses and bring more of this into the workplace. Start to change the old school business mindset of competition and toughness. Doing this will create profound shifts in our workplace and ultimately greater success to all.
2. Separating the personal from the workplace is unrealistic
Anyone that has worked in the traditional business world has likely come across the mindset that we have to keep the personal out of the workplace. The truth is this is impossible, and not just for moms. It is asking us to cease being a person with emotions. Literally to turn into robots to do this.
We’re humans. We’re complicated. We have feelings that we can’t just switch off. Asking a mom to forget she just dropped off her baby at daycare is NEVER going to happen. We will think about our baby ALL THE TIME. Every minute of the day. It’s natural. And if someone calls and says our baby or child is sick and needs us we can’t just ignore that and pretend it isn’t happening.
Rather than creating unrealistic and completely outdated expectations to switch off from our “other” lives when we are at work we need to work out how best to intertwine the two. In a way that allows us to get our work done but also be there for our kids when they need us. When we stop trying to force ourselves to buy into the belief that it is possible to separate the personal from work we will begin to open our minds to new possibilities and solutions that will achieve a true work life balance.
3. Special privileges for working moms?
In the forum post I mentioned earlier some of the comments from the coworkers and fellow moms centered around why should you get special privileges just because you’re a mom? I have a couple of thoughts on this. First at some level I understand this especially from those who don’t’ have kids and may view it as an excuse we use to get off work early. As moms we know that this is not true. It’s not as simple as this. The truth is we do this because our kids truly need us. As I mentioned before you can’t pretend you’re not a mom just because you have a job.
Ultimately I think it comes down to combining the first two points. We need to have more compassion, empathy and understanding for everyone in the workplace. Whether we have kids or not there will be situations that come up in our life were we need to have “special privileges” at work. It might be our kids. But it could also be someone’s own health, or their parents, friends or siblings that need them. We need to combine this compassion and empathy with the knowledge that we can never truly “turn off” our personal lives just because we step through an office door. As though we are entering some magic land where our problems suddenly cease to exist. We should extend it to everyone in the workplace. We are all human. Sometime we all need “special privileges.”
In my business I follow my own advice and ideas I have mentioned here. What I have found it by far leads to happier work colleagues who are willing to go the extra mile for my business when needed. All it takes is having compassion, empathy and treating them like they are humans.
I would love to hear YOUR ideas on solving the work life struggle we face not only as moms but also as humans in the workplace. You can share it on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/theeworkingmom. If you want to find the answers for yourself sign-up for my free cal at www.karensteelecoach.com/5-steps-to-redesign-your-life.