I went to yoga on a Saturday. It’s nothing phenomenal, it’s barely significant. But it was.
I sat looking at my schedule for the week ahead and realized my upcoming week yielded little workout time with my workload and travel, so I decided to do a little self-care. One hour later, I bent and stretched and fought to stave off the guilt of not being with my kids for that one hour on Saturday afternoon. #momguilt
Then there are the times I’m in a work meeting and I realize I’m missing a big event at school. #momguilt
Or when I’m at a parent-teacher conference at 2:00pm, but I feel bad for leaving early from work - so much to do! #momguilt
And then the classic, I’m taking a conference call in the back of my SUV at school pick up and it runs long and I have to “shush” my kids instead of “hello-ing” them after school. #momguilt
Then there's the dreaded “phone-a-friend” to ask for help with school drop off or help with pick up because I have a meeting that's starting too early or running late. #momguilt
Ahh, isn’t modern motherhood grand?
Sometimes I feel like my life is just one big exasperated “I’m sorry” where I’m seldom satisfied in being fully present where I am.
You might say I have a guilt issue. And perhaps that’s true, but I certainly know I’m not alone. Let's be real about it. After that second glass of wine on a Friday night and exhale, just for a bit, we know. We all agree. We all know the challenges of modern motherhood. We all know too well the identity issues, the questioning around ambition and career, and the work/life balance conversations that run in our heads. We lament together. We are empathetic. We are sympathetic. And yet, we are a village.
Until Monday morning.
Come Monday morning and one woman’s maternity leave is another woman’s opportunity to show what she can do for the one spot available for promotion. When a male colleague bemoans yet another pump break for a new mom, we say nothing. (Come on good sir, you try presenting while staving off a let down). At a staff meeting when the team starts complaining about a fellow mom taking another maternity leave as a “vacation” in 4 years, we say nothing.
We are afraid of the political capital spent by defending another mom. Why? Because we might be seen as complicity in the cult of perceived incompetence that motherhood still brings to the workforce.
Why has the last year been a time of movement and progress? Because for once, we’re not just talking about the issues (I’m looking at you, #metoo), but also holding those who were complicit through quiet inaction - accountable, as well as the outright perpetrators of injustice.
And I’ll argue that until we, moms, stop being complicit and stop saying nothing in defense of our other working moms, that the cause of the competent and capable working mom will not move forward. It’s the little things that make progress.
It’s not letting the comments belittling a mom go unchallenged.
It’s not having a scarcity mindset and preying on someone else’s absence for your gain.
It’s defending the comments that we can be both fully exceptional and employees – even if the guilt makes us think otherwise.
So tell us – what can we moms do to move past complicity? Tell us how you’ll #momtoo in the workplace.
Sheila Repeta lives in Orange County, California and is a Senior Consultant for FutureSense. When asked if she wanted kids, her answer 20 years ago would have been “no”, but now as the mom of 3 tween/teen boys she couldn’t imagine it any other way. Two are biological, and one she traveled for to Africa to become his forever mom. Her days as a consultant start early and end late, but lots of “mom time” woven in to every moment as she tries to balance it all. Always a woman, but now a mom, she wouldn’t be the same person she is today without those tiny humans shaping her into the person she was supposed to be to her boys, partner, and the world around her.