Today while Emma and I were waiting for Aubrey to finish her ballet class, a beautiful Indian woman named Rajiv started chatting with me. Emma had reached out, touched her arm, and smiled so from that moment forward we were mom friends.
I came to learn that she has a daughter Aubrey’s age. As she spoke her eyes sparkled. I was trying not to stare, but she had the most gorgeous lashes and thick black hair. When she pointed at her small rounding tummy and shared that she’s expecting a baby boy in February I was not at all surprised – she was glowing.
She also shared that she travels extensively for work. She’s a high level marketing executive and has to be on the road to promote new business development. In fact she had just returned from a trip and admitted it had been an exhausting week. At nearly 6 months pregnant she said she was “slowing down” and wanted to sleep in on this Saturday morning, but her daughter had ballet class followed by swimming lessons so here we were.
Then her voice lowered and she confided in me, “I’m already exhausted now, but when the baby is born… (long pause)…I don’t know how I’m going to do it.” She didn’t say anything more and she didn’t need to. I completely understood. Her baby isn’t even born yet and she’s already looking ahead at what will be her new normal and wondering if, where, and how work fits in. She is every working mom I know.
I thought about Rajiv for the rest of the morning. More specifically, I thought about her question: “How am I going to do it?” The individuality of it struck me for the first time. She’s no doubt successful at product marketing because she works with a team of people who, together, take an idea from conception to marketplace. Even in our individualistic American society we know that success at work depends on diverse teams of people collaborating with one another to get the job done. But when it comes to having children while working, moms are on their own to figure it out.
But what if we weren’t? What if managers and moms sat down together and asked the collective question, “how are we going to do it?” What if these conversations happened around the time moms begin worrying about it, before maternity leave starts? It would be a win for everyone. Moms would have more peace of mind knowing they have a plan. Employers would also benefit by winning mom’s loyalty and reducing turnover. It’s costly and inefficient to lose moms after they have kids. But find me a manager who rolls up their sleeves and says, “I’m committed to you. What do WE need to do to make this work?” and I’ll find you an army of moms who decide to stay.