In celebration of Mother’s Day this Sunday, please enjoy some of our favourite insights from our recent online event, The Raw Truth about Working Motherhood with ABC’s Dina Rosendorff and special guest panellists Sarah Cuscadden (Worldwide WHS Senior Program Manager, Amazon), Rachel Surgeon (Head of HR, Multiplex) and Melitta Hardenberg (Manager, Learning & Development, SEEK Australia & NZ SEEK).
1. Going to work is easier than being at home
This is something that working parents have always known, but it’s taken a global pandemic for business leaders and managers to realise how unfeasible it is to work full-time and be a parent.
“One silver lining of COVID was that it forced both men and women to balance their work lives in unprecedented ways,” says Sarah. For Rachel and Sarah who both have experience in the traditionally male-dominated construction industry, it was the first time men really understood what their partners were dealing with on the home front. This newfound perspective in turn allowed fathers to spend more time at home than otherwise would’ve been possible. The challenge now for leaders is to retain this flexibility and hybrid work arrangement for not only parents but for all workers seeking a better balance.
2. We can’t be what we can’t see
“COVID helped us have a better awareness of what’s happening in the lives of working parents,” says Sarah. “We now have an appreciation that a daily check-in meeting at 9am isn’t the best time for parents of school-aged children and now that we have this insight, we have to maintain it.”
“Life isn’t perfect, and as a parent sometimes every hour is different,” she explains, “Creating an honest environment helps build trust and enables everyone in the team to support each other and recognise what that person needs at that moment.”
While bringing your whole self to work may not be for everyone or every workplace, Melitta emphasised the need to monitor your own ‘volume dial’ in being vulnerable and feeling comfortable to share your personal circumstances. Creating an environment where it’s ok to show vulnerability and lead with humility is vital in advancing female participation in the workplace.
3. Good enough is actually good enough
“Don’t wait to have confidence before taking risks in your career,” advises Rachel when talking about imposter syndrome. “Be ok with being uncomfortable and taking the risk knowing that self-doubt will come, but back yourself anyway.”
“I used to be terrible at that and always pull myself down and find what the issue was to work harder on next time,” says Rachel. “I’d rely on getting acknowledgment elsewhere, but it’s alright to give yourself some recognition and that helps build on self-doubt.”
4. The confidence gap isn’t a myth
“As women, we need to acknowledge that the confidence gap is real,” says Sarah. “I spend so much time pumping female colleagues up and saying ‘you can do this’ and ‘you are here because you are good at your job.’”
“Employers can equate low confidence with low competence,” explains Sarah. “We can help bridge the confidence gap by reframing our thoughts so they are positive and having a daily check-in on confidence.”
Melitta referenced an internal study by Hewlett Packard that found men apply for a job or promotion if they meet 60% of the qualifications, yet women only apply if they meet 100% of them. And even then may believe they’re not good enough for the job. By liberating ourselves of perfectionist tendencies, we can focus more on the bigger picture and on the work that matters.
5. There’s no ‘right’ time in your career to have a baby
“I turned down a promotion at a previous job because we’d decided to start trying for a baby,” Melitta said. “Then it took two years to conceive.”
“No-one raises this question for males,” adds Sarah. “It’s a conversation they don’t have to have and it rarely has a negative consequence.”
The goal is to live in a world where planning babies around our career isn’t a factor, but until we achieve this gender balance, our panellists agree it’s important not to limit our own career trajectory. Go for that promotion or role, because once that baby is in your life it actually makes you better at your job.
6. The juggle is real
“If I break the rest of the family crumbles too,” says Sarah on the importance of self-care. “My partner and I now have a switch-off mode every night where we turn off everything from work and sit and chat. Having that ritual of switching off – and it may only be half an hour before bed – makes sure we’re functioning well.”
Whether carving out ‘me time’ that works for you looks like exercise, quiet time with no screens, or simply “a hot coffee with no kids around” like one of our panellists, regularly checking in on your personal juggle and dividing the mental load is crucial to your success at both work and home.
7. The transitions don’t stop coming.
There’s a reason why working parents never nail the work-life juggle, and it’s because the goalposts keep moving.
“It’s a constant balance and check-in,” says Rachel. “The balance is not something I do right or well every week.”
“What our family needs is constantly changing,” reiterates Melitta. “The transitions don’t stop coming. It’s a constantly changing set of needs, but having a dialogue with your work and your partner is critical.”
Register to join us for our next online event, Flexibility Across the Lifespan: A conversation with leaders about redefining flexibility for the future of work-life wellbeing