From Our Blog: Using Mom Skills at Work

Working mom holding her toddler daughter

For some, International Women’s Day may serve as a point-in-time reminder that supporting working women is critical to success – both at work and at home. For us? It’s a celebration of something that’s top of mind every day of the year. We’ve always understood the importance of supporting women in the workplace – in part because working moms tend to be natural leaders with skills that benefit the bottom line.

Our Vice President of Communications, Ilene Serpa, sat down with Lynne Robertson, founder of Lead Like a Mother™, to discuss how you can apply the mom skills you use every day at home to give yourself a boost at work. Check out their conversation below!

Q: What are some tips for a first-time mom returning to work?

A: First and foremost: cut yourself a WHOLE lot of slack. It’s going to be messy, you’re going to be messy, and there are going to be days when you want to just pull the covers over your head. It’s. All. Normal. Everyone goes through it — some people are just better at looking good while faking it.

From the start, establish a process and optimize as you go; this can look different for everyone. If you’re a night owl, then get everything prepped for the next day the night before. If you are more of an early riser, kick-start everything in the morning. That said, with kids, mornings have a way of going awry fast, so the evening time might still be your friend. Keep track of what works, and what makes it go horribly wrong, and then only keep the good stuff.

Calendarize everything. You’re never going to remember later. Remember baby brain? Multiply that by 1,000 with everything you have going on now! Jot down notes on a smartphone app and add them manually later. I forgot Picture Day one year. I’m still hearing about that.

Be selfish about your weekends. You’re going to need them to recharge. And if that means lying in bed with the baby, so be it. These days are few — embrace them, mess and all. 

Q: How can I approach asking my manager for flexibility (work from home, managing my child’s sick days, etc.) and what’s a reasonable amount of flexibility to expect from my employer?

A: Getting what you need starts with understanding what your manager needs. How can you make what you want help him/her to look and do better? For example, say your manager struggles with keeping up-to-date distribution lists. Offer to take on this additional duty in exchange for more flexibility in your work schedule. The more valuable you become, the more he/she will want to show appreciation for you. As for what’s reasonable, think about it in terms of your own expectations for someone reporting to you. One of the core values of my firm is, “Don’t let people down.” As long as you’re delivering, it shouldn’t matter where it’s happening. But first, you’ll need to establish trust that “out of sight” doesn’t mean you’re off-line. Suggest a trial period so you both can try it on for size. It’s a low-risk proposition for your manager to get comfortable with a different paradigm.

Q: How can I free myself from the mom guilt that comes with missing a lot of their childhood in favor of my career?

A: Guilt goes with the territory, I’m afraid. You’re going to miss things —on both ends. And you’re going to feel bad about it. Get over it; you’re amazing. You’re raising a family and bringing in income to help care for them. And despite what all the “expert” bloggers and shamers say, kids are pretty basic. They need love, consistency, and moral support. That can manifest in many forms – not just physical presence.

As long as you’re a consistent, positive force in their lives, they won’t begrudge your time away as much. That said, they don’t usually like surprises. So back to the calendar — if there’s going to be a scheduling pile-up, make sure you give them advance notice, and then let your presence be known in other ways. Send them a quick text, pack a note in their backpack, or call them to wish them luck. It’s about how you show up, not necessarily where. 

Q: How can I avoid burnout when I’m juggling so much with only 24 hours in a day?

A: Oh man, I wish I had a magic wand to banish burnout. The only thing I’ve found that keeps it at bay is establishing your own personal holidays – well, maybe not whole days – but enough time to sufficiently reboot. Self-care is not selfish, it’s survival. If you don’t do it, you’ll end up forgetting what makes you happy in your quest to make everyone else happy and it could blow up in a giant backlash of resentment. And that’s the kind of blowback that leaves a mark.

Now, I’m not saying a luxury spa event (although, totally cool if that’s your thing) but maybe a couple of hours on a Saturday to hit some estate sales. Plug it in on the calendar — regularly. 

Q: How can I get ahead at work if I can’t do a lot of overtime?

A: Is overtime the only way to gain advancement? Are there other things you can do to show commitment and dedication? Are there things you could work on while at home? You can’t split yourself in two. Try having a candid discussion with your manager if they’re approachable. Tell them how much you want to succeed and maybe you can both work out a succession plan that doesn’t just require overtime.

Thanks so much for sharing your tips and tricks, Lynne! 

Learn more about how Bright Horizons supports women at every age and stage here.  

About Lynne Robertson In addition to her role as dreamer-upper and wisdom-bestower for Lead Like a Mother, Lynne is also the CEO/Owner of Fame, named TBWA’s fastest growing agency in 2010. In 2015 Lynne purchased Fame from TBWA/Omnicom to become sole proprietor. She is a member of The Hub Braintrust, an honorary AdFed Board member and Vice President of the Twin Cities Retail Design Institute. She serves on numerous industry panels for leading marketers and trade associations like The Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, Shopper Insights and The Path to Purchase Institute, and is a frequent speaker on the topic of retail design and measurement.

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Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Working mom holding her toddler daughter