On a daily basis I feel frustrated by employers who fail to understand the benefits of employing mothers. There seems to be this long established belief that they are less committed, reliable, worthy somehow of promotion or long term investment.
Perhaps because, god forbid, we might force the way we work into the 21st century with our flexible ways (they must know that this will happen anyway with the next generation who won't stand for the 9-5 office based sh*t.).
Or maybe it's the long-standing 'baby-brain' misnomer. I am conscious of when I use this term nowadays since of course it does reinforce the inaccurate (researchers have since proven our brains actually see positive changes) belief that mothers will be less capable.
Or maybe it's that they feel these pesky tired mothers no longer have the skills they need. Wow, that whole 12 months odd out of the market is going to have destroyed all those years of experience and expertise. I mean if they had gone travelling that might have been different but months of child rearing, well that is surely different. It's not as if we can now deal with the most challenging of situations, problem solving like a ninja on an almost hourly basis.
I can honestly say (my previous career being in Talent and Leadership Development) that I would actively promote and encourage employees to take longer periods of time away from work. You see what returns is this fresh pair of eyes. Someone who knows the business but hasn't become bogged down with the politics or routines of 'this is how things are done'. New ideas, thinking and adaptability.
And that's not the only thing. Our skills haven't been lost, far from it, they are stronger and more multi faceted than ever before.
Take this morning, we had a crier at 5am (our youngest, 20 months) - which meant potentially the whole house would be woken and our older two would stagger through knackered and grumpy. This was decision making under pressure, see if the cry would end when she found her Bappy (sleep toy) and risk the waking OR tip toe at pace across the landing (adding agility to the mix here) to reduce the noise and avert the disaster. I'll spare you the details, it didn't end well but let's ignore that bit.
Which leads to skill number two, remaining positive in the face of adversity. With 3 grumps' in tow we headed downstairs for a small fight to emerge between the oldest two over who had the 'sparkly cup' for their milk, they are both adamant that it is their turn and neither are willing to compromise. This is pretty much akin to any boardroom situation only with perhaps more respect going on. Add negotiation skills in to the mix as I step in to help proceedings and an agreement is reached and everyone happily plonks down on the sofa for 3 (or 10) episodes of Peppa.
Then it's on to making breakfast whilst carrying the littlest and trying to read with the eldest (multi tasking), having a full chat with the middle to understand why he launched the plastic hammer at the eldest's head and explain why this can't happen in future (empathy and developing others. To be honest this was probably a revenge act after sparkly cup gate but with the porridge burning I pretended otherwise) and then getting everyone out the house by 8.30 (remaining calm under pressure).
I am not of course suggesting I'd use these examples in an interview or most work situations but my point is a serious one.
We gain so many new skills through motherhood on top of the ones we already had. Unfortunately due to the sleep deprivation, confidence and possibly what we are constantly told about mothers and work, we don't always feel or sell these when asked, but they are definitely there.
And as for the commitment question, well yes if you are talking about being available 24/7 for our jobs, prioritising work over all else then yes you're possibly right. In most cases our commitment does change. But who wants this anyway? The research is clear and many big businesses are now investing in wellbeing programmes, starting to acknowledge that employees want more than just work and actually perform better when treated like individuals. That's when I think you get real engagement, real commitment and the highest productivity. It's the same for everyone, not just mothers but I tell you what, provide flexibility, support, empathy & belief in a working mother and you will get a level of commitment you never had before.
So big employers, senior leaders, small business owners, please take note. I've not even started on some of the financial benefits (probably for another blog post) of employing mothers.
And fellow mothers, I know it is really bloody hard (I have been there) but try not to doubt your unbelievable value, your skills, your unique contribution.
Within my Rock your Return workshops here's what I advise if you are due to return to work after maternity leave or longer out of the market. Take an hour, on your own with a cup of tea and write all these skills down. Then think back to work pre children - get out any past appraisal or review notes, think about interviews, projects that have been successful, highlights in your career and write down EVERYTHING you have achieved. All the skills you have. Why you are even more capable & worthy of success now than you were before.
Because know this, you 100% are.