Right now, there are over 18.5 million working moms in the U.S. Some are running on empty, while others might not be sure if they can do it anymore—but they are all making it work.
The good news is that there are many companies committed to helping women grow their careers without sacrificing their own needs. The other good news is that women can achieve balance in their home lives without sacrificing their career success. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the ways that working moms can make power moves both in the workplace and at home.
Challenges of working moms
Women with children experience pressure from all sides. Managing the many different hats that working moms are supposed to wear is a blessing and a curse. Accomplishing career goals and being emotionally available for friends and family leaves little time for full-time moms to take care of their psyche.
According to a recent survey, parents only have about 30 minutes per day of “me time” where they can have the ability to unwind and recharge. This is probably the biggest struggle that working moms face. So it’s no surprise that many mothers are looking for positions with companies that come with benefits that reflect their needs.
Finding your path and what to look for at a company
The number of women in fields such as technology, business, and finance are steadily rising as women and male allies work to overcome gender bias in traditionally male-dominated fields. There are still pay gaps and opportunity differentials between women and men in many industries.
However, even a novice freelancer can make between $20 to $40 an hour in the United States on average. This makes a career as a self-employed freelancer a promising choice for mothers who are looking to get back into the workforce or a good option for those looking for a change of pace.
So, how can you ensure long-term success as a working mother? Whether you’re returning to the workforce, looking for an industry change, or developing in your career, finding the right place to work plays a big part in a working mom’s job satisfaction and how she sees herself. Here are a few work factors that should be high on every mom's priority list:
Find a company that promotes a healthy work-life balance as well as their employees’ wellbeing. This can include more flexible hours, the ability to work remotely, and paid leave. Before you accept a position at an organization, ask potential employers what they do to cultivate their community, specifically for working parents.
You should also consider how your company stacks up against others when it comes to their DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion). According to McKinsey, companies in the top quartile were 25 percent more likely to achieve above average profitability, so this is something that every company should be prioritizing. (It's also the right thing to do.) If your employer is not actively promoting gender equity, it’s time to find a different one.
Consider offerings such as paid parental leave and health insurance for family members that will help you as a parent. Also, in an interview, ask potential employers what a typical workweek looks like and if there are certain days or times of the year when the pace intensifies. This will give you a clear picture of the time that will be required of you.
For example, are there lots of client dinners or other after hours commitments involved or are you expected to leave the office (or log off) around the same time most days? These questions will be important when it comes to having a work-life balance as a parent.
Remember, though, that a prospective employer asking about your kids or family plans during the interview is illegal. Be on your guard.
Find a company that offers substantial 401(k) matching benefits, even if you haven’t started investing yet. Studies show that while more than half of Gen Z adults have started investing before they hit age 25, only 8 percent of Baby Boomers started by the same age. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking ahead.
What's more, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, women are less likely to have a retirement plan, and those who invest in their retirement do so conservatively. Particularly as a parent, you can’t neglect financial planning for yours and your family’s future.
Read more: A Beginner’s Guide to Investing
At some point in your career, you may feel the need to expand your area of expertise. More and more companies are adopting new technologies and going through digital transformations everyday, so they are in need of skilled staff that can manage emerging apps and systems.
Some employers offer to pay all or part of tuition costs for their employees pursuing higher degrees. Ask potential employers if they cover the costs of classes and workshops that are required for certifications in your field or if they offer returnships, which can help moms return to work after a long absence.
Finding balance at home
Finding balance between work, play, and rest can be especially tough for full-time working moms. Even freelancers often find themselves working after hours in order to market themselves, look for new gigs, and network.
Here are some tips to help working moms achieve balance in their daily lives:
1. Co-parent equitably
Parenting relationships are a source of stress for many families. If you rely on a co-parent or someone else to help you with raising children, then take some time to discuss ways that you can work together in more equitable ways. Divide up child rearing responsibilities in a way that is good for your kids, your co-parenting relationship, and yourself.
2. Prioritize your mental health
If you’re feeling constantly tired and disengaged from your work or your family, chronic workplace stress might be to blame. Many women agree that it can be hard to say no at work because they have to work twice as hard to get recognition for their efforts. However, you can’t perform your best if your mental health is in decline. So, take some time alone with a good book, spend time in nature, or do anything that helps you relax and recharge.
3. Learn how to say “not right now”
Working moms may often feel like they have to put others before themselves and can get caught up in constantly doing things for other people. Friends, family, relationships, coworkers, bosses—they all demand your time, and you might find yourself feeling spread too thin. Sometimes, working moms need to say “not right now” so that they can work at a pace that helps them stay focused without becoming overwhelmed.
Read more: Learn How to Say ‘No’ Professionally
4. Have a hobby that is only yours
In order to feel more like a person and less like a “working mother,” many women enjoy picking up a hobby or a class that has nothing to do with their job or other commitments. This nurtures an independent spirit while providing plenty of purposeful space from the numerous duties that mothers are held accountable for. It’s also a great way to make friends outside your normal networking circle and learn new things about yourself.
Navigating motherhood, relationships, and building a career is a lot of work. There are deadlines, networking opportunities, and new fires to put out every day. Add in gender discrimination, discrimination against or mistreatment of pregnant and breastfeeding women in the workplace, and the gender pay gap, and it might seem like having a career, a family, and happiness is impossible for moms who do paid work full-time.
Although things are decidedly still not great for women in the workplace, we have more rights today than our mothers did while raising us. If you find yourself in a career that is no longer suited to your goals and personal needs, working mothers can feel confident in their abilities to make moves that benefit themselves and propel them to even greater professional heights.