Empowering Mothers in the Workplace 

Working Moms Empowerment

Welcome to the first of A10 Empowerment for Female Leaders blog post. We are excited to launch this new blog series that will provide encouragement and enlightenment for fellow working women and mothers. 

We are launching this women’s empowerment blog the week of Mother’s Day because my purpose, as a female Chief Executive Officer, now transcends the day-to-day business of running A10 Associates. I am responsible to support not only my peers, but the next generation of women who will run businesses bigger and better than mine.

A quick google search will show you the disparities between male and female salaries (16% in the USA), and an Amazon search can give you hundreds of books written by Harvard graduates and “experts” on being a working mother. Believe me, now that my kids are older, I have read a lot of those books. The one fact that matters most: women need to know that they are “enough.”

The Perfect Plan

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, Josephine, Sheryl Sandberg’s famous book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” hit the shelves. Sandberg is the former COO of Facebook, one of the wealthiest women in the world, and a mother. This book promised to teach me how to close the leadership ambition gap, sit at the table with the men in charge, be more likable, communicate openly, and to find and be a mentor.

A Vice President at one of the top lobbying firms in the United States, I had this book right on my newborn’s nightstand, ready to read empowerment while nursing my new baby on a schedule, eating organic food, losing the baby weight, and getting a promotion at my job… but it didn’t happen quite like that!

I never finished the book, never got my body back, and left my job. The tiny little baby that I was nursing had colic and screamed so much I couldn’t wash my hair in peace until she was age one – let alone read a book or even think about how to apply it to my life. The day that sweet little baby came into my life I was in 24-7 survival mode.

How Do You Plan for Real Life?

Later that year, Madeline Albright came out in an interview at the New York Public Library with what seemed to be a more realistic solution – stating, “Women can have it all, just not at the same time.” Albright, our first female Secretary of State, had figured out how to segment her path in life, making decisions based on timing, looking at life like a game of chess. That seemed more like it.

However, life seemed to have its own plans. I had a miscarriage right after Josephine. Then, I had baby number two: sweet baby boy Mario. I was thrilled, but my son brought more challenges: he was born with multiple health issues and needed almost a dozen surgeries in his first two years of life to be healthy (which thankfully he is now).

Charting My Own Path

I learned in business school that every career path has challenges, not just lobbying. I had to chart my own path, and the only way I was going to be able to be the mother and the professional I dreamed of was to start my own business.

Looking back, even that was by accident. But here we are almost six years later. I have become accustomed to working 16 hour days, filled with traveling, cooking, snuggling, typing, calling, and never stopping.  Some days are amazing and I feel so incredibly blessed… but other days I just feel incredibly stressed.

YOU Are Enough

If you are reading this blog today and you are a working mother, you are “enough.” Even on your worst day your children love you and they look to you for direction. The fact that you are out in the workforce shows not only that you are helping support your family finances, but you are modeling to your children work ethic and accountability. You are also not alone.

In the U.S. today, 66% of mothers are working full-time year-round. Working women with children earn more than all women combined, on average. 71% of women with children under the age of eighteen are in the labor force. You are not the only woman (like me) who left the house like a tornado today, rushed to work with your suit wrinkled, spilled your coffee, had no breakfast, and Door Dashed seven things they forgot at the grocery store!

Moreover, all the wrinkled suits and coffee spills are good for your children. In fact, multiple studies have come out since 2018 proving that children of working mothers not only are more gainfully employed, but they also tend to hold managerial roles and are paid 23% more on average than children of working mothers. Your babies see you and they model what you do.

How to Cope with the Mom Guilt

No matter how many great statistics I share, or how great your next promotion feels, sometimes it doesn’t cure the aching feeling of that daycare drop off where your little one is crying, or the day you forget your kid’s jersey at home. I promise you; it will be okay. It is already okay.

I am not a perfect mother or CEO, but here are the rules I live by with my kids that have helped me cope with the “mom guilt:”

  1. Be kind.
  2. Tell the truth.
  3. Do your best.

Teach these three things to your children, expect this from yourself, and push this on your work culture.

When you don’t do these three things… life goes south at work and home!

Kindness is Key

Kindness is different from being nice. Kindness is genuine empathy for others and going the extra mile to care. Being nice is, well, being nice. Kindness is deep. Kindness is something that your children will notice and appreciate.

This year on Mother’s Day I asked my children in tears (because for some reason, our entire server and web domain decided to go down at Mother’s Day breakfast) if they were okay that I am a working mother and if they ever feel abandoned or unloved.

The little one replied to me, “Mommy, you are so kind to us, you kiss us all the time and snuggle us, you love us too much.”

But my tween daughter replied to me, “Of course not, Mommy, we know you love us. But you were NOT kind to that Internet company on the phone and you need to apologize to them.” And Josie was absolutely right.

How powerful is that? She noticed the practice of kindness and notices even better when I fail at it.

Tell the Truth

Stuff happens. Things go wrong. We make mistakes.

The number one reason I have ever had to fire an employee is always related to lying. Moreover, as someone who has successfully achieved presidential pardons for white collar criminals, I can tell you that the cover up is usually worse than the crime itself. Telling the truth will never hurt. Whether that is being honest with the kids about how long you are going to be away at work, or honest with a client that your child is sick, honesty is the best policy.

Recently, I decided to stop traveling so much and try as much to spend as many nights as possible at home with my children, no matter what. For the first two weeks, that change was a big adjustment for clients, and I have been afraid to share. But I am learning that the more honest I am about the need to raise my children, the better and more authentic the results.

Do your Best

As an employer, it is surprising to me how many people just do not do their best. We live in a world now of quick fixes, “insta” everything, and immediate gratification. Analyzing us as humans, basic utilitarianism that we learned in college philosophy tells us that we are prone to animalistically “maximize pleasure and minimize pain.” For this reason, we are not always programmed to do our best. Because we are not always programmed to do our best, when we give our all, it really stands out. It becomes apparent to our family, our kid’s teachers, our kid’s coaches, our colleagues, and our bosses when we do our best.

If you want to be successful in business and as a mother, it also stands out when you do not do your best. Recently, my daughter received a 40% in art – a 40%! She is a straight A student and has an F in art. Why? Because she was away visiting my family in Indiana and missed a day of school where they started art projects. She had one day to do her project, she did her best, and she was given a 40%.

Now, it is a little bizarre that a teacher would grade her that way. But, dealing with it at home, I was able to confirm that she did her best. She cannot control the outcome of her teacher’s decisions, but she controlled that she did her best. We move on, and we move forward.

I am the first to admit that I am far from perfect. I have made more mistakes than I can count daily to get to be the businessperson I am today. I have all the little voices in my head at night pounding me with insecurity. They may never go away. But the way I fight them back as a working mother, is that I ask myself each day – was I kind, did I tell the truth, did I do my best?

Your Goal This Week

Throughout this series of blog posts, these themes will continue to return. For our inaugural empowerment blog post, I challenge each of you to focus on these three things this week that you can control. Not the laundry, the boss, or the crazy teacher – and see how you feel at the end of your working mother week!

Love to all of our new readers!