Working Moms Bring the Best of Both Worlds
Recent findings from Pew Research1 indicate that a majority of mothers work outside the home today. According to the report, 7 in 10 moms with kids younger than 18 were in the labor force in 2014, up from 47 percent in 1975. It states, “In fact, mothers are the primary breadwinners in 4 in 10 US families.” And even though US fathers are spending more time caring2 for their children than they did a half century ago, moms still tend to be the primary caregivers, meaning most working women are balancing between a full-time job and full-time parenthood.
Finding a way to do both, and do both well, might even be considered a third full-time position. And working mothers are uniquely up for the task.
Lyndsey Wickles has steadily climbed her way through the ranks at State Street, rising from fund accountant to vice president of Institutional Investor Services. In the last three years, Wickles has also taken on another title: mother. She has two young children and, as her managers would attest, that hasn’t hurt her productivity.
“Do I require a little more flexibility to balance my schedule? Maybe, but I think you could argue that my flex work arrangement pays out in dividends for my team,” Wickles explains. “If I say I’m going to get something done for you, it’s going to get done and it will be done well.”
Society celebrates motherhood on Mother’s Day through books and parenting blogs, in memes and greeting cards. But contrary to Wickles’ experience, in too many workplaces, mothers are often concerned that the demands of parenthood will hurt their performance. The “get it done” attitude that Wickles and other working moms embody may go unrecognized.
We shouldn’t be measuring productivity on paradigms set up generations ago for and by men.
Katharine Zaleski, co-founder and president of PowerToFly, an employment platform for women, concedes that before she became a mother, she harbored her own misguided perceptions of working moms. Zaleski, who once worked in media and famously penned a a public apology3 to working moms on Fortune.com in 2015, says that she had worried that moms’ kid-centric schedules would somehow negatively impact their careers.
But today, Zaleski is a vocal advocate for women—– especially mothers—– in the workplace, calling for flexible schedules, remote work opportunities and more solutions that help mothers ensure they have the best opportunities for success in both roles.
“We shouldn’t be measuring productivity on paradigms set up generations ago for and by men,” she says.
Some argue that working moms, in fact, often perform better on the job. A study4 of more than 10,000 economists by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that, over the course of their careers, working mothers were equally, if not more productive than their childless peers. Experts like Samantha Ettus, author of “The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction,” says “What happens when a working mom is at work is that she is aiming to be 100 percent efficient with her time because she has so much to get back to at home,” Ettus says.
Ettus says the working moms’ life experience also helps them better navigate office relationships. Wickles says she’s found this is true in her own life. As she’s learned to adjust her own behavior to meet her children’s emotional needs – adopting a calm demeanor with a toddler can certainly help ease the stress of the morning rush, for instance – Wickles has also become more conscious of how she works with others, particularly her direct reports.
“When you’re stressed out about something, you’re probably in some way putting that pressure on your direct reports as well,” she says. “In general, you have to learn how to manage your emotions and your stress levels, and make sure you’re not pushing that off onto the people who are around you, whether at work or at home.”
Wickles says her colleagues don’t bat an eye when she has to adjust her schedule to fit in both work and parenting responsibilities and that also helps her manage stress.
“It certainly provides a level of comfort that I feel I need to be able to focus on my job,” she says.
While Wickles is grateful for the supportive environment at State Street, she also looks forward to a future when moms aren’t underestimated, no matter where they work. In the meantime, she believes that women can bolster their own spirits by taking pride in their accomplishments.
“My self-worth comes from, ‘Do I feel like I’m doing a good job at work? Am I proud of my career? Am I proud of the kind of mother I am?’ Those things are what drive me to excel — at work and as a mom. Wickles calls it a personal victory; one that merits celebrating on Mother’s Day … and all year long.
1. Livingston, G., & Bialik, K. (2018, May 10). 7 facts about U.S. moms. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/05/11/6-facts-about-u-s-mothers/
2. Livingston, G. (2018, January 08). Most dads say they spend too little time with their children; about a quarter live apart from them. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/08/most-dads-say-they-spend-too-little-time-with-their-children-about-a-quarter-live-apart-from-them/
3. Female Company President: 'I am sorry to all the mothers I used to work with'. (2015, March 3). Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2015/03/03/female-company-president-im-sorry-to-all-the-mothers-i-used-to-work-with/
4. Krapf, Matias, Heinrich W. Ursprung and Christian Zimmerman. Parenthood and Productivity of Highly Skilled Labor: Evidence from the Groves of Academe. January, 2014 Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Retrieved: https://files.stlouisfed.org/files/htdocs/wp/2014/2014-001.pdf
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