With Mother’s Day coming up—a day that brings up different and often intense feelings depending on your perspective or experience—I’ve been thinking a lot about how the past few years have impacted and changed me as a working mom. During the pandemic, many parents had to leave the workforce, especially moms. With millions bowing out, maternal return to work has still not reached pre-pandemic levels, largely due to a lack of support from employers and our caregiving infrastructure.
As a working mom, I feel extremely lucky that I’ve been able to maintain a flexible job. I have the fulfillment of a career that helps provide for my family, but I rarely have to miss a preschool volunteer day or ballet recital. I cherish the ability to have a little extra time to drop-off my 5 year old at preschool or put my 2 year old down for her nap, just because I know she needs an extra snuggle from me that day.
I used to go to the office every workday, so I understand the benefits of group brainstorms, friendships formed with coworkers, mentoring junior staff, the list goes on. However, I wouldn’t trade any of that for flexible work hours and better work-life balance from all the time I save by not commuting! And I believe there are ways to cultivate relationships, mentor, and brainstorm virtually. Beyond that, when your kids go to bed at 6:30pm (mine do, #blessed), when would you see them if you were still on the train?
As many companies enforce a return to the office full- or part-time, it has me thinking: what is the best approach to this transition? Is there a balance? And how will parents—especially moms who have taken the lion’s share of the burden—be affected? With childcare expenses at an all-time high, long waitlists for daycares, and high demand for in-home care compounding the stress of working parents, it’s essential for employers to think of ways they can best support parents who are being asked to return to in-person work. At the very least, approaching the transition with empathy, lead time, and transitional planning support.
As a recruiter, I talk to working parents—and moms—every day, and we often spend a few minutes exchanging stories about pandemic childcare challenges, the need for continued flexibility, and the desire to be there for our children while still pursuing our career passions. Some women have chosen the path of freelance and consulting work, which often affords greater flexibility to choose your own projects, your own hours or the option to remain remote as a temporary contractor. This is a balance that has become a necessity, not a want.
On the other hand, many companies have expressed they are excited to get their employees back to an in-person environment in order to cultivate a culture of collaboration, mentor more inexperienced or new employees, and bring back the “watercooler chats.” The companies that are able to do that successfully, in my opinion, are those that offer some choice about what days people come in, offer flexible hours, or provide strong benefits related to commuting expenses. Most importantly, these companies listen, value employee feedback, and adjust accordingly.
So, what’s the right approach? Remote, hybrid or in-person? Or, would it be worth experimenting with giving a choice based on an individual’s or family’s needs?
While I don’t have a clear-cut answer, I do know that working parents and specifically moms need more support. We are all superheroes, but we shouldn’t have to be just so we can get in a full day’s work and also be there for our kids.
If you're a working parent or mom looking for a flexible, remote or hybrid position, I’d love to connect with you and help you find your next opportunity. I truly love to listen and troubleshoot. You can email me at email@example.com or visit my LinkedIn profile here.