Moms can be tough on each other. Working moms often judge stay-at-home moms and vice-versa. The decision to work or not to work is a tough one and it’s not always a choice. I have a photograph in my office of seven of my close girlfriends. At the time the picture was taken all the women in the photograph were employed at the same corporate organization (a Fortune 500 company) in high level salaried positions. Five of the seven women in the photograph had husbands working at the company. Notably, just a few years later, each of the seven women had left the company while all five husbands remain employed there. Based on discussions with these women, each one left the company due to a conflict with balancing an inflexible corporate career with family obligations. If we accept the opt-out theory (that women are choosing to stay home after having children), you might expect that these women are currently unemployed and focusing solely on family obligations. For the most part, this is not the case. Only one woman in my example is currently a stay-at-home-mom and has been so since the time of her transition. Of the others in the group, five started their own business and one (me!) is currently working full time in Higher Education. If women are so content with their choice to leave their jobs (as the media commonly suggests) why are so many of them working shortly after?
Unfortunately, as much as we hear about how flexible the workforce is becoming, ultimately meaningful part-time, reduced hours or flexible work is still fairly rare. It seems to be an all or nothing corporate culture which obviously doesn’t work as well for women and is particularly detrimental to working mothers. In fact, many studies show that the majority of women want to go back to work after having children, but satisfying part-time or flex work is hard to find for mothers who wish to get back into the workforce. Even for women wanting to dive back in, “on- ramps” back into the workforce after a temporary leave are few and far between. Hopefully this will continue to change, but we must all be part of the change. We need to ask ourselves as leaders, managers, and perhaps most importantly as powerful, influential consumers; what am I doing and what CAN I do to be a part of the solution? Certainly supporting (rather than judging) all moms is a great first step!