Saturday, March 7, 2015

Why companies need me (or someone like me), and the return to work

I have been back at work following maternity leave for just over two months.  This continues to be a fascinating discovery journey in how I feel about being a working mom, and how others view it as well.

First, for all of the new moms out there, let's discuss returning to work.  I took 12 weeks off from work, and for anyone who is lucky enough to be able to afford taking 12 weeks (or even longer) off of work, I highly encourage it.  I remember distinctly feeling at 6 weeks of leave that neither I nor the little guy were ready to be apart.  I imagine that some people struggle with the idea of taking 12 weeks off of work, and how they might be viewed by their peers and leaders.  Here is one of the best lessons I have learned yet...When I returned, I learned that (drum roll) no one really noticed I was gone that long.  Now, I don't mean that I am useless or people didn't notice, but to my surprise almost everyone outside of my close circle said, "Oh you're back!  How long were you off, six weeks?"

That is right - no one really even noticed I was gone for 12 weeks.  It flew by so fast, that everyone thought I may have been missing for only 6 weeks.  The moral of the story is that my perception or worry that people would think poorly of someone taking 12 weeks off of work was truly my own, and no one else was counting.  Thank goodness I never let this internal question cloud my judgement on how much time to take off of work.

Now that I am back to work, I am continuing to evolve in my new role as a working mom with a new baby.  I realized that I have more perceptions or worries, like whether or not people will think poorly of me when I am out the door at 5:00 p.m. on the dot no matter what for the daycare dash.  Once again, no one has cared (I have even heard two women tell me they think it is cool that I am committed to leaving on time).  My own misperceptions could have gotten the better of me, but so far I think I am managing it pretty well.  Don't get me wrong - it is tough every day.  But if you are newer than I to this, I will tell you that (1) you do get better at it/it gets easier, and (2) we can add value in more than one place in our lives at once.

This is why companies need me (or people like me) working for them in leadership positions.  It can be easy to question whether or not I can handle a leadership role and be a new mom at the same time, but the reality is that if companies want to include a whole huge part of the talent pool they have to realize the value of a working mom.   Moms can be extremely efficient, great at multitasking, experienced under pressure, and bring a whole host of other skills that the female half of the workforce can often offer.  In addition, having moms in leadership roles means they not only bring something to that position, but they show that it is possible to every other female aspiring leader in the company.  This means big things to the organization.

It was my own perception that people might be upset that I don't work as late as I used to.  Instead I found out no one really cares.  If I can deliver great work and add value to the company, albeit in less hours, then I need to continue to do that.  I justify my time away from my little peanut by knowing I am a more present parent in the smaller time that we have, by knowing I am making money that will send him to college, and by being the type of strong female role model that I want to be for my son.  Not that you cannot be those things by staying out of the workforce, this is just my way to contribute.  And so help me if my misperceptions get in my way!

Another article that I read earlier this week struck a chord on this topic as well too - it is a reminder about what we didn't know before we had kids of our own.  Enjoy and be enlightened...
"I'm sorry to all the mothers I worked with" - Fortune column

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