Working Americans at every level are being asked to produce more than ever before. The result for working moms: reverse guilt. “I feel this haunting sense of guilt about my work—not my family!” revealed a senior manager during the Q&A at a speech I gave recently. “I’m worried I might let my company down even though I’m going all out every day and then getting on my computer after I put the kids to bed.”
I hear this increasingly as I speak around the country, and my response to this heartfelt statement is clear: “Stop the work guilt.” Working mothers are the most productive employees ever. We have a built-in gyroscope for efficiency and effectiveness because of our urgent desire to get home to our children. We work hard and smart. We skip a lot of watercooler talk and socializing, much to the detriment of our advancement. And if we work from home or on a flex schedule, we often do more than our fair share just to prove flex can work—for us and for everyone.
The stigma of working motherhood still hangs over our cohort like a moldy blanket, even after decades of proving ourselves. We still feel the need to do better than co-workers or suffer the prejudice that comes with the duality of our lifestyle.
Our work guilt is a rising tide aggravated by a difficult economy. As employees are laid off around us, our work doubles before our eyes. And the pride of being a strong, capable working mom turns to fear of the conscious and unconscious bias against us.
But it won’t work to keep on bowing to work guilt. We need to stand tall and claim our place in the workforce; to reiterate our need for balance; and to remember to tell everyone we are doing it. We’re raising a family and building a career. We’re the foundation upon which most American businesses operate.
Like the Working Mothers of the Year we celebrate in this issue (read it here), we are the backbone of hope for this country’s economic future because of our powerful roles at home and at our companies. Treat us well, America. See our strength and let us at least get rid of work guilt!