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Mother's Day is just around the corner, and it's time to celebrate all the amazing mothers who have made an impact in our lives. These women juggle the demands of motherhood with their professional responsibilities, and they do it all with grace and determination. Their unwavering dedication to their families and their jobs is truly inspiring, and we are grateful for the unique value they bring to CE.
And whilst Sunday is a day to especially celebrate mothers, we aim every day to support and care for all of the working parents in our company. At Central Element, we promote equality and equity, recognising that everyone has different circumstances that needed to be supported. We have a Parental and Return to Work Policy in place for both primary and secondary carers to ensure that all employees can balance their busy, but wonderful, family and work life!
We spoke with two of our working Mothers; Jess and Anika to further understand their daily demands:
What are some of the biggest challenges you face/have faced as a working mother, and how do you overcome them?
JESS: When I had my first child, guilt was the biggest challenge for me. I worried whether I was making the right decision for my child or if it was selfish to go back to work. But deep down, I missed the connection with people, the intellectual stimulation, and the desire to learn. I wanted the balance of doing something for ‘me’ which was working, and being a mum.
Another challenge was letting go of control. As Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, said, “We’re at a point now where men and women have to work together, don’t just equate female with family.” To go back to work, I had to let my husband take on a lot of the responsibilities at home with the kids. I couldn’t be there to decide what they ate or how they went down at bedtime. I had to accept that I couldn’t do everything and be everywhere at once, which took a lot of effort (and I’m still working on it) to be okay with. But I learned that everything will be fine even if it’s not done 100% the way I would do it.
ANIKA: It took a few years for my husband and I to work our roles that allowed us to equitably share what it takes to raise kids and work (and I have a great husband!). In the early years, I choose for my career to take a back seat while I took time off for maternity leave, or returned to work part time. But we both needed to adjust to the fact that if a child was sick or I had to work back late, that it wasn’t always on me that had to deal with these issues. It was also good to share the stress of rushing from work to pick up the kids from Daycare and avoid the dreaded late fee!
Having three kids, I did struggle with lack of work progression over a period of about 8 years. While my husbands work seemed relatively unaffected, my decision to work 3-4 days for periods during that time meant that my career took more of a back seat. But once my little ones turned into more independent ones, that all naturally resolved and I was able to continue to work full time and take on more challenging roles at work. In hindsight I’m so glad I choose to spend quality time with my kids in their early years, rather than focusing on career progression.
How do you balance your personal and professional responsibilities, and what strategies have you found to be effective?
JESS: I learnt pretty quickly with my first kid that you can’t do everything at once and keep everyone happy. You can’t take a work call while your little one needs your attention – it just doesn’t work out well for anyone. Either you miss something important or your child ends up in tears. Now, if I have the kids with me, they’re always my top priority. I’ll ask to call the person back at a more convenient time when I can give them my full attention. It’s just too much stress to try and multitask like that.
To keep things running smoothly, I’ve blocked out specific times during the week in my calendar for work. That way, my husband and I can have clear roles and responsibilities, particularly around day-care drop off and pick up, and my team knows when I’m available and when I’m not. It’s all about consistency!
ANIKA: Learning to make the most out of every minute in the day! These days my daily routine consists of waking at 4:30am so I can get to the gym, walk the dog, prepare the lunches and breakfast all before starting a day of work! Making the time to exercise is crucial to me being effective at work and feeling calm and balanced at home (even if my two boys are having their fourth argument of the day).
What are some of the most rewarding aspects of being a working mother?
JESS: Whether you choose to be a full-time mum or pursue a career, I really believe that your kids benefit from seeing you go after something with determination and perseverance. Even if they don’t fully grasp what you do, they see how much it means to you.
And for me, becoming a parent has actually made me more ambitious. With two daughters, I want to show them that women can hold influential positions.
ANIKA: I now work effectively. I don’t waste time at work, I’m more focused and disciplined. I know if I don’t get my work done during work hours, there isn’t the luxury of doing it later in the evening (unless I wake at 4am!). I also love that I can come home now to my kids’ smiling faces. It’s a beautiful way to end a working day.
How has your role as a mother influenced your leadership style or approach to your work?
JESS: Since becoming a parent, I’ve found myself more strapped for time, but surprisingly, it’s made me work more efficiently. I’ve learned to prioritise better, and as a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I’ve had to make decisions more quickly and confidently. Plus, having a little one to take care of has really put things into perspective for me. I used to worry over things that weren’t even a big deal, but now, I’ve got a new outlook. I know that things won’t always go perfectly, and I worry less about it all.
Overall, being a parent has added another level of empathy to my life. Not just for other parents, but for anyone going through something or just feeling overwhelmed. I’ve learned to recognize that there’s usually more going on than what meets the eye.
ANIKA: I am more aware of what may be going on behind the scenes with those I work with. I’m more understanding and appreciate that people have lots of different things to juggle apart from work. I probably check in more with people than I use to.
What advice would you give to other working mothers who are trying to navigate the demands of their job and their family?
JESS: Be honest and open with your colleagues about the various responsibilities you are juggling. You don’t have to act like you’ve got your sh*t together all the time! It will allow them to understand and empathize for instance if you are particularly tired or have to leave a meeting early. As a woman, there may be pressure to downplay the impact of motherhood on your work life or even apologise for it, but it is important to own this experience and set an example for others. Talking about the demands of being a parent only helps lower the stigma of being a working mother.
ANIKA: Don’t be so hard on yourself! Easier said than done, but we are all our worst critic. Work will always be there, even if you take a bit of time out. Prioritise spending quality time with your kids, especially when they are little because they grow up so fast. And lastly always make the time to look after yourself (whatever that may look like for you) because then you can turn up and be the best version of yourself.
What support or resources have been most helpful to you as a working mother in our company?
JESS: I had the opportunity to create my own return-to-work plan that provided a gentle transition, without any pressure to jump back into full-speed work immediately. Having flexible work arrangements, such as the option to work remotely or adjust my schedule as needed, recognised that unexpected child-care duties can arise. However, what made the biggest difference for me was the supportive group of colleagues. I did not experience any stigmas that many new mothers face when returning to work. Instead, I was treated normally and received positive praise, which only boosted my confidence.
ANIKA: Being able to negotiate working from home days has completely changed being able to balance the demands of kids and work. I actually get more hours to work (2hrs a day previously spent commuting) and have the ability to get focused work tasks completed. I love that I can walk them to school and still be at my desk on time.