A women, we understand the complicated, confusing demands placed on our shoulders by society. We’re expected to juggle the same things as every other working person — making time for relationships, working 40+ hours/week, while still finding time to eat, exercise, sleep, and shower — while also throwing in some women-specific “duties:” raising a family, nurturing and supporting the people around us, maintaining beauty standards, avoiding violence, etc.
At some point along the way we’ve probably taken a moment to discover all of the amazing (and sometimes absolutely inhuman) things mothers do. As we’ve said before, mothers are truly superheroes, but sometimes, motherhood doesn’t happen for you. Maybe you’ve decided to throw your entire self into your career, you’re worried about the financial implications of children, you’ve struggled with infertility, or motherhood just simply isn’t your jam. Whatever the reason, be it simple or complex, you’re living a child-free life.
But being child-free doesn’t mean we don’t want to support our child-having sisters! Here’s how we can support mothers in the workplace:
1. Accommodate Flexible Work Schedules
There are many reasons why technology is our friend in this industry, and supporting working moms is no exception. Whenever you have to set a meeting, have a collaborative conversation, or ask for feedback, leave an option for it to happen digitally. Drop dial-in information into the G-Cal invite so mom can take the call from the drop-off lane. Send her the document so she can review it at home with her sick kid. Work doesn’t, and shouldn’t, suffer because someone is taking care of another human being.
2. Schedule Appropriate Meeting Times
For god’s sake, do not schedule a client meeting at 8 a.m. on a Monday. There’s no way she’ll be able to peel her kids out of bed, get them dressed, drop them at school, and get her breakfast and coffee in before that meeting. In the same vein, do not schedule a meeting at 6:00 p.m. on a week day, or ask her to stay past work hours. Big moments like performances or basketball games, or small moments like family dinner and bath time, will be so important for her and her child. If it can wait until later, move it.
3. Take Your Sick Day
No, seriously. This is not only good for your own sake (hello, self-care!) but it also prevents you from passing your sickness to your coworkers and their children with not-yet-developed immune systems. I know the pressure to be overly-productive is so real, but as a child-free woman, you can more easily take time for yourself and rest. If your coworker with three kids gets sick, her chances of staying in bed for a full 24-48 hours are much slimmer. Do her, and yourself, a favor, and stay home.
4. Know Her Rights
In 2014, the Women’s Economic Security Act was passed in the State of Minnesota, providing women with a lot of important rights, such as the right to discuss their wages with coworkers without penalty, as well as many rights for mothers, including:
Nursing mothers must have access to unpaid break time each day to express milk for her child.
Nursing mothers must have access to a room other than a bathroom or toilet stall, shielded from view, with an electrical outlet, and without threat of intrusion from coworkers to express milk.
Women taking parental leave are entitled to return to their formal positions or positions of comparable duties, hours, and pay when returning to work.
Knowing her rights will allow you to give her access to the accommodations she needs if you are her employer, or help you advocate for her and present a united front to your employer.
5. Provide References
It is very common practice for women in our field to take a few years of leave from the traditional workplace to freelance and to be home with their children in the first few years of their lives and avoid the cost of daycare, with hopes of re-entering the workplace once their child is old enough to go to school. But, this is clearly no easy task when all potential employers will see the four-year gap in her resume. If you have a former coworker looking to get back into a more traditional work environment, support her hustle and be a reference! Invite her to networking events, write her a review on LinkedIn, or bring her name to your boss. No woman should be penalized for prioritizing taking care of her kids.
So, yes, moms are amazing, but you don’t have to be a mom to be so kick a**! Showing your support for moms can help them in more ways than you know. Find ways to champion these women, ask how you can help and be there to stand as a united female front when they need you.
/written by Nora Allen
/image by Barbara Alçada