Philadelphia, PA - Before I became a mother in 2010, I had been in the workforce as a sales person in the medical device field for years. It was a hyper competitive market with lots of passionate people who wanted to party, make money and climb the corporate ladder. Which was exactly what I did. My career was everything to me – it was my identity. It was who I wanted to be and I was super passionate about succeeding.
I eventually worked my way up and was approached about a management position, which was awesome! It was what I had wanted and was my next professional goal. So, before I interviewed for the management gig, I did my homework. Excitedly, I spoke to the other managers to really understand what I was getting into. I wanted their candid feedback so I would be prepared for my interview and get an idea of what to expect in this role. I got a lot of a good advice about how to run the business, manage my sales team and how hire and fire. Pretty basic, right? Until I hit a conversation that surprised me and still stings me to this day, especially because today I am a mother.
The advice I was given by male manager was not to hire female sales reps. Taken aback, I asked him “Why”? I’m thinking, heck, I’m a female, why wouldn’t I hire other women. He said, “ Because they have babies and stuff and won’t do their jobs”. Not only did he advise not to hire women, this manager also confided in me this was a quiet rule between the managers. It was understood. At that moment my future challenges were clearly laid out before me as I knew I one day wanted to become a mother, and yes, continue to work.
I did it though. I got the management job, and had a baby.
In 2017, according to the US Labor Force, women make up 47% of the work force. And guess what? 70% of mothers work in 2017 vs 11% in 1960. What’s more is mothers are the primary or sole earners for 40% of households with children under 18.
How can the stigma of being a working mom still exist when we see momentum in these numbers?
I can personally tell you that becoming a mother made me better at my job and career. It didn’t make me “go soft”, or unfocused. In fact motherhood made me more assertive and decisive. It made me more strategic and thoughtful in my work. You are forced to improve these skill sets and begin functioning at a higher level previous to children. In speaking to friends that are working moms, they experienced the same.
Here are five ways that being a mother can actually improve your job performance:
1. Improved Time Management: Time management takes on a whole new role in your world when you become a mom. Basically, you learn that you can’t control everything and you need to manage your time as such. You are forced to think way ahead of schedule, be ready to manage disasters, and expect the unexpected. Think carpool, conflicting ballet classes and soccer games thrown in with a sick child, pet at the vet, traveling husband, meeting with the boss and a work deadline. All of this makes for complete mayhem and disarray. There was a time in my life that all of these components would have absolutely sent me over the edge, or into a bottle of pinot noir. The flip side to this is that it taught me to manage my time better. This translates well into the working world because our minds become trained to think on point and ahead of time. All. Of. The Time. It teaches us in our jobs to know how to manage time, efficiently run projects, handle the unexpected and continue to make all of it work. Admittedly, I do still pour myself a pinot noir in the evenings, but at least I manage my time around it.
2. Develop Low-T: Mothers develop Low T. And I don’t mean Low T in the Viagra sense. I mean Low T in the sense of having a low tolerance for bullcrap. After all, as moms we have to manage our time differently, which means we have less time for B.S. with the kids. We won’t tolerate bullying, stealing or shaming at home, so why tolerate it at work? Having Low T in the workplace helps us sniff out the drama from a mile away, address it quickly and move on. Mothers tend to stay away from the office politics, handle work challenges swiftly, and can close a sweet deal like no one’s business.
3. More Compassionate: Being a mother will make you more compassionate. I mean, even when you are getting spit up on, changing a blow out diaper, or dealing with a temper tantrum you still love that baby with all of your heart and soul. It doesn’t matter how rough the scenario may be, you learn to roll with it and move on. Again, this flows over well into the workplace. Increasing compassion can improve relationships, trust and performance. When employees feel they are in a safe and trusting environment, and their colleagues do care about them personally and professionally they give back more to the organization.
4. More Focused: Working mothers typically have less time with their children. It is part of it, and it isn’t fun. A job could require more travel, conferences, and client dinners. What this means for moms is missing school events, piano recitals and even just the everyday conversation of riding home from school in the car. Because of this mothers are more focused on their goals and tasks at work. Because we are away more, we make our time count so that when we are at home, home life counts. Moms don’t want to let work interfere with the kiddos. This means that we get projects done early, are prepared for upcoming meetings and more organized. Also, moms are full time problem solvers. We are forced to think strategically continuously. We are able to switch these strategic thinking skills into work and practice them frequently as we do at home. As a result, we are super-efficient and productive. Not only does this help the company, this helps us reach professional goals and with our own personal growth.
5. Masters of Stress: The common theme in all of this mothering and working stuff is the high stress factor. Stress can run rampant at home and work, and at times will feel inescapable, (speaking from personal experience here). But it can also be the underlying current that drives better time management, maintained focus and dealing with others issues. The crazy thing about existing with stress is that it has made me better at handling it. My stress “freak out” level is much higher, and my capacity for patience is higher too. At home I have less of a heart attack when I see that Oreos have been smashed into my favorite white chair, and at work I breathe easier when approaching a deadline, or dealing with an angry manager. It has taught me to deal with work stress thoughtfully, patiently and exit the experience gracefully.
As for the manager who told me not to hire women, and to his colleagues who believed the same? Today I would tell them this:
Don’t ever underestimate the strength of a working mother.
Oh, and Costco is having a sale in the wine department.
Holly Caplan is an award-winning manager and author of Surviving the D**k Clique: A Girl's Guide to Surviving the Male Dominated Corporate World. For more information, please visit, www.hollycaplan.com.