The One Thing I Wish Every Working Mom Had

Ladies, I am telling you right now there is one thing that has helped me get through the ups and downs of parenting while working.  Surprisingly, it isn’t Amazon Prime, the Roomba, a day planner, or even wine.  It isn’t the perfect breast pump, daycare, giant travel coffee mug, magic concealer, or laptop bag.  It is my mentor.  That is, my working mom mentor. 

Lucky for me, my company has the philosophy that we should “bring our whole self” to work.  Of course, for me, that includes being a momma.  I can’t just leave that giant piece of my heart at the door and pretend like those lessons, struggles, and triumphs don’t permeate every aspect of my life. 

My mentor has been such an important factor in my work life that I was curious what other working mommas thought about mentoring and the impact it has on us.  Do other moms have mentors at work?  Do they find that relationship as invaluable as I do?  Here is what some working moms had to say…

Why is it important for working moms to find a mentor?

“I think it is extremely important to have other working moms to share stories with, seek advice, ask for recommendations, etc.  We are all in this together!  It is amazing how many times I find myself in a situation where I need some helpful advice and another working mom / friend / colleague comes to the rescue and really saves the day.  The more we can help each other out, the more we are going to succeed both at work and at home.” – Full-time Accounting Senior Manager, Momma of 2

Overwhelmingly, working moms responded that finding a working mom role model provided them not only with an example of how to make it work professionally, but also gave them a support system that helped them be successful in both roles.  The knowledge that someone else out there has been through what you are going through and came out the other side, allows us to see the big picture and keep moving forward successfully.

When you returned to work after your first child, did you already know a working mother that provided support and guidance as you figured things out?

“Yes and no … my professional mentor ended up being a great sounding board for all my concerns, but there was a natural tension there because she wanted me to also be a productive attorney.” – Full-time Law Partner, Momma of 3

The answer here varied greatly, but it seems we are at least trending in the right direction. Most of the working moms who answered “No” were further along in their working and parenting journeys.  In general, there are more working moms who are currently stepping up and opening lines of communication with each other.

What do you think is the most important benefit of having a working mom as a mentor?

“I think we all just want someone that understands our triumphs and struggles in all areas of our lives.  For me, having another person at work who listens and understands what it means when Grandma {the babysitter} has pink eye during a busy time allows me to re-focus on how to find the best balance for my family while succeeding in my career.” – Part-time Accounting Manager, Momma of 1

Overwhelmingly, most of the responses to this question were essentially “emotional support.”  Having a working mom mentor doesn’t necessarily mean she will have solutions to every issue you have, but that she hopefully will listen and support you as you work through your struggles and determine your goals.

What do you think new moms / pregnant women should look for in a mentor?

 “Who I consider my work mentor is actually a single, childless coworker.  Not only is she someone who challenges me professionally, but she brings a non-mom perspective to my working mom / wife issues.” – Full-time Recruiter, Momma of 1

I think what is so important here is to find someone you can be open and honest with.  This might mean that the person you look to for support and help with balancing mom life with work life might be a childless coworker, someone younger than you, or even a father that you admire.  As long as you can have open conversations to help you navigate your individual issues, an open mind when searching for your mentor can be a great thing.  Right after I had my son, I worked mostly with men, and surprisingly, some of them gave me the most support as I navigated both roles. 

What do you think is one of the most challenging aspects of balancing working with motherhood?

“Being present wherever you are.  I find it hard because I am always feeling guilty about my personal kids when I am at work, and then feeling guilty about not doing enough for my students when I am at home… You can’t be perfect and do everything on your own!” – Full-time Teacher, Momma of 2

As parents, we are all struggling with prioritizing our responsibilities and being present for our kids.  I think we all know the feeling of trying to balance different needs that all seem to be urgent and wanting our kids to feel like the time we spend with them is still the most important thing.  Talking to your mentor about consistent challenges that pop up and ways to determine what can wait and when can be a huge help in freeing your mental energy so you can actually enjoy play time with your kids. 

If you could tell the young mothers that look up to you one thing to help them with their careers, what would it be?

“Focus on success in the long term.  There will always be times that you feel like you are failing but as long as you are making progress {even slow progress} towards your long term goals, don’t let the short term challenges and setbacks derail you” – Full-time Accounting Partner, Momma of 2

“Know yourself.  There is no script to being a good mother and having a successful career.  Write your own script and make it work for you.” – Full-time Accounting Senior Manager, Momma of 2

No one had a magical answer that makes being a working mom easy.  There were, however, two similar themes in these responses.  You can’t expect to be perfect in your career every moment of every day so give yourself a break when you aren’t.  Second, your career is in your hands; no one can tell you exactly what it will look like for you.  Not even your mentor.  Know what you want and don’t be afraid to ask for it. 

If you could tell the young mothers that look up to you one thing to help them with motherhood, what would it be?

 “GRACE, GRACE, GRACE.  You HAVE to give yourself grace.  The days are long but the years really are short.  I don’t work in a job that is life and death so I always remind myself to put my phone down and sit on the floor and play with my kids.  I don’t regret the times I waited to answer an email to go outside and play.” – Full-time Accounting Partner, Momma of 2

These responses had a bit more range including letting go of the guilt and giving yourself grace, really enjoying the time with your kids while they are little, showing up for your kids for the things that count, and that you can do it!

If you could go back and do 1 thing differently as you went back to work, what would it be?

“I’d have found even more things to laugh about.  I’d have taken myself less seriously.” – Full-time Law Partner, Momma of 2

“I would delegate more.  Give tasks to other people.  They can’t help you if you don’t give them something to do.” – Full-time Teacher, Momma of 2

“I would have given myself a lot more credit and a lot less guilt.” – Full-time Accounting Senior Manager, Momma of 2

As for me, I wish I would have realized sooner that trying to do everything perfectly only makes me more stressed.  As a solo mom, while I often feel like I am everything to that little man, I would have reminded myself sooner that he has a LOT of people that love him and there is nothing wrong with letting them help out when we need it.  The time he spends with them is just as important as the time he spends with me.

Is your working mom mentor your best accessory?  As a momma, do you try to support new moms at your office?

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