I have been so busy the past few weeks I missed doing an actual post for International Women’s Day! On Monday March 8th, I was honored to participate in the Voices of Women Summit on Exceptional Workplace and Life Experience, Coaching, Vulnerability and Courageous Leadership. If you want to check it out here is the video!
Over the course of the past month, the challenges of being a working mom were particularly apparent. The first week of March, I was working to transition my twin 18 month old girls, Arabella and Scarlett, to Montessori School. I initially had a nanny when they were born but lost her due to COVID and they have been with my parents ever since. Thanks to the world of COVID, my girls have unfortunately had very limited interactions and experiences at this point in their lives.
The first morning we tried to leave them in the classroom – they lost their minds! I know this is normal, I know they will be ok, I know it will all be fine – but in the moment, as their mom, it ripped the heart out of my chest. As a mother, when I see my child screaming and crying for “mama” every ounce of my being screams at me to go to them and pick them up. I am not sure if this applies to all families – but my husband does not have the same reaction and is not impacted in the same way. As moms, I truly believe we have a unique and lasting connection with our children that is incredibly deep – I feel it at a cellular level. As a result, making the decision to send my children to school was tremendously difficult.
I want to be clear – this is absolutely the right choice – I truly love and adore working and would not be the mom I am if I took care of them all day long. I love being a working mom. Because I love working, when I stop working, I am excited, energized, and ready to play with and enjoy my children. The weekends can be fun adventures where we enjoy and experience time with our kids intentionally and having fun on purpose. Even knowing it is the right decision for my family – the experience of sending them back to school brings me back to the reality of the challenges facing working women and the decisions we are forced to make. I feel the guilt of making the choice to work, to send them to someone else for the day, and to miss moments in their lives. I know from speaking with and connecting with many mothers I am not alone in this perpetual struggle making these decisions.
In the past month, I have met with all my employees about their future work preferences. These discussions made apparent to me another challenge – for two parent working families – the challenges with finding time. The time spent picking up/dropping off kids, the time after school lets out, the time with parents at the end of the day, time for doctor appointments, and time for all the unpaid work. What is unpaid work? We women (and some men) know it quite well – it is the six to twelve loads of laundry a week, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, making meals, ordering necessities, picking out birthday treats for school, shuttling to activities, and the list goes on! When both parents work – these activities can’t all be outsourced – they must be fit in around everything else that is happening.
One of the greatest blessings in the remote work world has been having more time – more time for unpaid work, more time for our families, more time for ourselves, and apparently even more time for professional work. My observation from these discussions is employees are more than making up for any lost time due to family (or other commitments) because working remotely has allowed the time to be able to do so. In a world where one family member is not carrying the full load of all the “unpaid” work, splitting the work between two working parents is significantly easier when we have workplace flexibility (time and location). The impacts are small but noticeable – the ability to move laundry throughout a workday, the extra sleep takes the place of the morning commute, the extra hour with children at the end of the work-day taking the place of the evening commute, the peace and quite of our homes as compared to the offices for reflection and self-care, and the list goes on.
Prior to COVID and during COVID (and maybe still today), many struggle daily with feeling like they are failing in both their work and family life. Women in particular struggle with feeling we can never achieve greatness at any one thing because we have to be good at doing so many things. We feel torn between our children and our careers. We struggle daily with the choices we have to make. As workplaces, leaders, and communities, we must begin to look at how we help people, and especially women, feel like they can be successful and ultimately be successful in both their work and family life (and not having to choose between them).
As Women’s History Month draws to close, I think it appropriate to reconsider how women might make history moving forward by transforming how we live and work. By engaging in meaningful discussions about the different experiences women and men have with working. By challenging long-held assumptions about how men and women should work, who should be responsible for the unpaid work, how and when that unpaid work is done, and how and when we interact with our families. By recognizing how changing our practices has and could continue to bring about tremendous value to our families, workplaces, and communities. We can craft a future which creates harmony between our work and lives allowing us to feel successful in both.
Many intelligent women have written about the challenge’s women face (e.g. Melinda Gates in The Moment of Lift; Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez) throughout the world. By comparison, the challenges I discuss here are quite small when compared to those in other places of the world. However, all change which improves the lives of women, and subsequently improves our families, workplaces, and communities, is good change and worth the investment of time and resources. Although, much work is still left to be done, I believe wherever and however we can do this work – we should. We have taken a step forward and I hope we are able to maintain that progress, however small it might be, and continue to improve.
We may have escaped and broken free
From the cage that we could see
But beyond the cage lies an invisible boundary
A boundary and barrier that are hidden carefully
This boundary, this barrier was created intentionally
I know how hard it is to speak truth to power. But I also know how essential it is to do so – why is it so important to speak your truth? Let me tell you why…
Exciting News! Jessica is launching her new business Evolving to Exceptional to work with workplaces and individuals to create exceptional experiences in our workplaces, homes, and communities. Check out her announcement.