by Katie Pocklington
Ready for a funny story? I’m in an important meeting, Slack muted, email minimized, laser-focused. I’m thinking expansion opportunities…I’m thinking about growing revenue…I’m on my game…
Then what pops into my head?
“We NEED butt cream ASAP or somebody is gonna have a diaper rash tonight!”
That is being a parent in the workplace. You’re the badass, do-it-all professional – but you’re always a parent first! It’s juggling play dates and product launches – handling tantrums and timetables!
For mothers in the workplace…the hectic juggling is often doubled.
My name is Katie Pocklington, Director of Account Management at Opal – and mom to a 2-year-old girl and a 4-and-a-half-year-old boy.
The Working Mom’s State of the Union Address
I want to start this conversation with the understanding that this blog isn’t about making comparisons between anyone. Rather, it’s about discussing society’s expectations of working moms, telling my story, and sharing what I’ve learned for myself.
From the moment we bring our babies into this world, we are expected to get back to work (in some states, like mine) immediately, like nothing ever happened. When in fact, everything has changed. Thankfully, I work for a company that supported me and the time I needed with my family during my transition back to work.
Ready for an understatement? Being a working mom is hard. No shit. You knew that already.
Moms have a running checklist 24/7 – and the expectations are brutal. Between societal pressures, work obligations, household duties, personal interests, and being parents – we’re booked solid!
Count along with me: how many of these have you thought about/worried about this month alone?
- Are you getting the right amount of sleep?
- Is your baby sleeping enough?
- How clean is your house?
- Is your baby healthy? Are they meeting milestones?
- Who’s covering that next pediatrician appointment?
- Are you doing well enough at work? Are you on track for advancement?
- How many cracks have you put in the glass ceiling?
- Did you lose the baby weight yet?
- Are you breastfeeding? They say it’s best.
- But is breastfeeding taking up too much of your time? Did you schedule your meetings around when you need to pump?
- When are you going to find the AirBnB for summer vacation?
- Do their clothes still fit, their shoes, their winter coats? They grow so fast!
- As a family do we eat enough veggies?
- Do we eat too many dino nuggets?
- Who’s doing the taxes this year?
- When are you gonna clean the microwave (thanks, spaghetti leftovers)?
- What are you forgetting on the grocery list?
- Have you developed a new hobby lately? What are YOU really all about?
- What happened to the dollop of yogurt that got smushed under the fridge?
- When’s the last time you saw your friends?
- Or the eye doctor? Are your eyes more tired now?
- Did your husband schedule his doctor appointments?
- Why don’t you have preschool plans yet for the kids? You have to start looking early now.
That’s just a fraction of my own mental checklist (and perhaps a fraction of yours, too). The reason for this is that if your household is like mine, moms do a ton. Moms often fall into the habit of being the one to handle the mental labor of ensuring the family is clothed, fed, organized, and happy. Essentially, that means we are most likely to be the “project managers” of the family, too.
Being a working mom is a tough job – but an AMAZING one. We’re not commiserating about it because it’s tough and we don’t love it. We’re talking about it because we LOVE it and because it’s tough. Discussing it, sharing ideas, and supporting each other to know we’re not going at it alone is how we make it easier!
What I Do at Home and in the Workplace
Finding a sense of balance comes from making the right choices for yourself and creating boundaries with your place of business. Every situation and every mom is different, however, I want to share what works for me. Whether you want to adopt any of these ideas for yourself, or it enables you to think of a practice that will work for you, it’s all valid:
6 Changes I’ve Made in My Personal Life
These are things I have done to keep myself organized and focused on the right things…
1. Prioritizing making memories with my family – Work is work, and it’s important to care about the work you do. However, this is more important. The memories you make with your family will sustain you far longer than any triumph in the office. For me, this looks like doing things that I know will make those memories, like having amazing family vacations. I prioritize (at least) two weeks dedicated to family vacations every year. In addition, I always make it a point to take my son to swimming lessons.
2. Be present with the task at hand – This practice allows me to be a more focused mom and a better Director of Growth. I used to look at Slack at the dinner table or during bath time – just in case I needed to jump back on. Now, I set very clear boundaries for myself for work time vs. family time. This way, I get more done at work – and I won’t be distracted by my phone while my kids need my attention.
3. Once a month I do something for myself – Whether it’s time with my friends or it’s time alone, this is an important piece of refilling your cup. Setting it on a schedule is important to make sure it doesn’t get skipped. A massage, brunch, bowling, paintball, a pedicure – whatever you like to do, do it now. You’ll appreciate it.
4. Limit social media – As moms, our time is at a premium. This one came from realizing that I’d rather spend my precious free time doing something that matters – rather than mindlessly scrolling Facebook or Instagram. I turned to meditation and reading, and that use of my free time after the kids are in bed feels much more rewarding.
5. Communicate my needs without guilt – Telling your work what you need as a mom doesn’t make you any less of the consummate professional you are. Communicate your boundaries and any special requirements and obligations you may have. No guilt, no regrets. Any company worth being a part of will understand and want to help you be your best!
6. Be on the same page with your partner – Trying to handle it all on your own is exhausting, and assuming your partner knows what they can do to help isn’t fair to them. Leverage Fair Play to split responsibilities within the household and talk about owning tasks from conception to planning to execution. This will create space for you and your partner to own different daily tasks, giving you time and energy back.
3 Ideas for Creating Better Boundaries at Work
Creating boundaries at work is important. It’s a matter of the right conversations and the right everyday practices. Once again, it depends on you and your work, but here’s what I did:
1. Talk to your manager – It is of paramount importance that they understand that there are mom duties that will take precedence over work. Moms are often the first person called to pick up a sick child. Plus, we are often responsible for bringing them to appointments and picking them up after school. None of these things will keep you from being the work badass you are. However, it is important for your manager to know when they need to accommodate you.
2. Set your intention – I recommend you block 15 minutes on your calendar each morning to set your intention for the day. This gives you the ideal opportunity to set your priorities and be present all day. Consider this your “old” commute time, if you work from home like I do.
3. Make a cultural change – This is a gradual process but it’s a FUN one, too. Normalize talking about your kids, sharing pictures, and telling stories with your boss and coworkers. This makes family a welcome topic in the office, and it will ensure that everyone understands you as a mom – as well as a professional.
At the end of the day, know you are not alone. There is a tribe of working moms with the same mom guilt, the same list of to-dos, and the same societal expectations of them. My goal today, and every day, is to talk about my own experiences and how I am handling those things in the hope that it makes even the smallest difference for other working moms!