As I write this, it’s Mother’s Day and I am away from home, unable to celebrate with my family. I wanted to take this time to honor mothers and the work that they do, both in and out of the home.
My own mother did not work outside of the home, and she has had a profound influence on my life. At Learning House, I see many women who are exceptional employees and also moms, and I want to ensure that we, as a company, support all of our team members.
I reached out to the working moms who I work with most closely at Learning House and asked them for advice they would give other working moms who want to “crush it,” both at home and at work. A lot of this advice was relevant to me as a working father, so I think everyone, parent or not, can benefit from some of this wisdom!
Advice From Working Moms
- Be present in all things you do. It’s easy to bring work issues home and home issues to work. As much as possible, stay focused on the task at hand or else you will not be as productive in either role. One of the moms I reached out to said she is a better mother because she works, and she appreciates the time with her children more as a result of having to be mindful about planning time together.
- Understand your priorities. Juggling work and kids can be hard, and each role will take precedence at different times. If school calls because your child is sick, obviously that becomes a priority. But having a great career and being a great mother are not mutually exclusive. While at different times you have to prioritize differently, there is enough time to dedicate to both.
- Cross train. Skills that apply in the workplace can be used at home, or vice versa. Organization, positivity, prioritization and a willingness to let things be messy are all important for success raising children or navigating a career.
- Get as much help as possible and delegate. The old saying “it takes a village to raise a child” exists for a reason. Asking for help as much as possible will relieve stress and help you focus on the most important items.
- Practice JOMO (joy of missing out). Decide what really matters and focus on it. A good question to ask when things get a little hectic is, “In five years will I regret …” The answer is, probably not! Dave Clinefelter, our Chief Academic Officer, likes to say that “you can have everything you want, just not all right now.”
- Build your network. Children don’t come with an operating manual, but you are not the first person to have a baby. Try to connect with other parents who have navigated the tricky waters of returning to work after maternity leave, day care, work-life balance, etc. It’s good to see that someone else has been there and lived to tell the tale. The loneliness factor is not as dominant when you have others to really talk to.
- Build flexibility into your work schedule. Kids get sick whenever you least expect it, or have a million school functions. If they aren’t having an emergency, the house might be, like the HVAC going down. Parents or grandparents might be ailing and need your help. Plan ahead as much as possible, communicate with your teams, and be flexible with your time. We are looking at revisiting our policies to ensure this kind of flexibility is prioritized, and in the meantime, I try to give my team as much autonomy as possible in deciding how to prioritize between work and home.
- Be a role model. One of the working moms I reached out to said that she is a role model for how her sons view women. Her example shows them that women can be strong, confident and successful, which helps keep her going when she’s feeling stressed or missing them. This is true for all of us — how we carry ourselves influences those around us, and we can positively shape the next generation.
- Stay organized. There is always something to remember or a task to be done. However you manage your to-do list, being prepared and staying organized are critical. One of the working moms told me she uses Nozbe (a web-based organizational tool) to plan everything from budgets to birthday parties. Nothing falls through the cracks, and valuable time that was spent thinking “what did I have to do again?” can now be spent productively.
- Get the job done. One of our primary colors at Learning House is Total Ownership, which means getting things done and never saying “that’s not my job.” Working parents, and working moms especially, exemplify this concept of working to find solutions until the problem is solved or the opportunity is seized.
- Find ways to restore your emotional energy. Be very thoughtful on how you spend your free time by engaging in activities and friendships that build up emotional reserves, not deplete them. Spending time outside, having a date night and having fun with a close group of friends help give some of our working mothers I spoke with the emotional resources to be the best mother possible.
- Have fun. Kids give you a chance to play despite the heavy burden and responsibility. Soak in as much of that fun as possible even as you are trying to keep all the details of their life intact.
- Be good to yourself. Mothers tend to put themselves at the bottom of the priority list, but taking care of yourself helps you take care of others.
As I thought about this blog post, I realized that the working mothers on my team epitomize our primary colors: Growth, Total Ownership and Servant Leadership. I do not think this is a coincidence!
Although it’s hard, I believe that you can have your cake and eat it too. For both working mothers and fathers (and others with significant obligations), it can be challenging to feel like you are succeeding at everything you have to do. But I think that being intentional about what you want, setting a plan to get you there and then being ridiculously disciplined along the way can help you achieve your goals. I want Learning House to be a company where people feel like they can win at work and at home, and we are working to create a culture that supports this mission.
Finally, I am so eternally grateful to my wife, who allows me to succeed at work, including three to four days of travel each week. I’m also grateful to all the mothers at Learning House, who dedicate so much energy to making this company great while maintaining their responsibilities as a mom, however they define this. Thank you to everyone for all that you do.