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It’s often said there’s no tougher job than being a mother. Managing family activities, schedules, meals, and much more is difficult enough. This becomes even more challenging when you add in having to integrate it all with a full- or part-time job. And the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated this, as many working mothers pivoted to a fully remote work environment while juggling household and childcare responsibilities.
According to a 2020 McKinsey report, facing these problems has caused one in three working mothers in North America to consider “downshifting” their careers or dropping out of the workforce entirely.
We recently spoke with two customer experience professionals, Faith Borst and Jessica Mallach, to get their insights on the challenges and rewards of being a working mother — and what employers can do to better support working mothers in their roles every day.
Faith, a Senior Technical Support Manager with Data Recognition Corporation, leads a team of technical project managers and support specialists who serve as the primary interface between clients, operations, engineering and development teams. She has more than 11 years in customer-facing roles and is the proud mother of a four-year-old daughter and 13-year-old stepson.
Jessica, a Continuous Improvement Coordinator at Edenred Brasil, boasts more than 14 years in customer service and currently works with a multidisciplinary team of project analysts who are responsible for demands for supporting the service team. Jessica lives in Brazil and has a four-year-old son.
What do working mothers struggle with the most today? How can employers help?
Faith Borst: Mothers, when primary caregivers, struggle with flexibility within their schedules and often must sacrifice to achieve a balance between being a mother and being a business professional.
I believe using vacation time for caregiving responsibilities leads to burnout. If you are using your vacation time and not getting a break or vacation, you will feel the stress of juggling your supposed vacation time by worrying that you may not have enough time off throughout the year should a child become ill or need extra care. Additionally, not taking time to take a holiday adds more stress.
Mothering is not just diapers and runny noses. Mothering includes birthday celebrations, holiday preparation, scheduling, dance classes and hockey tournaments — not to mention the psychological and emotional strain of those mothers’ mom‘in it without a support circle, partner or family. Employers can help by offering a flexible schedule for caregiving responsibilities.
Employers also can offer benefits to employees for those unique things that mothers can feel guilty for missing, like volunteering to help with the trip to the zoo, or helping on the PTO, holiday classroom parties and the school play.
Employers should think about the mother, caregiver and the children. Our children are our future; having to explain to a child that mommy must miss the 1 PM yearly program they have been preparing for months because they can’t take any more time off from work is heartbreaking to the child (and the mother). We need to get better at understanding the employees from a personal perspective.
Jessica Mallach: Work overload and responsibilities. In Brazil, maternity leave, for example, is not equal. In the company where I work, there is an extended license, which already helps in the matter. In some companies, also only mothers get a certificate to take their children to the doctor; fathers do not.
How has your work-life situation changed for the better in the past 2.5 years (since the COVID-19 pandemic)?
Faith: I suppose it was difficult for all of us in different ways. I continued coming into the office, but only a few of us were making the commute. We contract with the Department of Defense, deeming my management role ‘frontline.’ I particularly enjoyed the traffic situation but did feel uneasy as more people returned to the office. Many of my coworkers voiced a sense of relief in their caregiving responsibilities while working remotely, stating it is less stressful while having the opportunity to work from home. However, I enjoyed coming into the office and am happy to have had the space to distance, get out of the house and have a quiet place to focus on work.
We didn’t have to worry about the childcare issues many of my coworkers faced because we were fortunate enough to have my sister-in-law, who keeps my daughter for us during the day. She was able to manage her three children’s distance learning simultaneously.
Jessica: Now that I work hybrid [in the office some days; remote other days], I don’t waste so much time in transit and I can enjoy more time with the family. The office is not that far from home, but commuting adds a whole new level of logistics that consumes time. Working hybrid allows me to spend more time playing with my son, having a “movie session,” and cooking at home with the family.
What was the best piece of advice you received about being a working mom? What do you wish someone told you?
Faith: I don’t know if I received any positive advice about being a working mom. It’s almost as though other working moms only struggle in silence. Some don’t even talk about being a mother in the workplace for fear of judgment.
One experience came to mind when I was a new mother navigating motherhood’s ‘back to work’ woes. Our company offers wellness rooms on each floor, an excellent perk while being a new mother. I would schedule my wellness room time and use the room twice a day. One week someone had scheduled the time before mine and did not leave the room when my time had come for three days in a row. I mentioned it to a coworker in passing on the third day in frustration and fear of embarrassment later in the day, knowing I had back-to-back meetings and would not be able to re-schedule the room.
What she did next was the best thing that could have happened at that time in my life. She said, “Come on.” I followed her down the hall to the occupied wellness room and she knocked on the door. My face flushed. The door opened, and she said to the man that I had scheduled the time. He walked out and I walked in. I felt intensely embarrassed but realized over the next 15 minutes, reflecting on me being uncomfortable, that all I had to do over the past three miserable days was knock on the door and politely say I had booked the time.
I laugh to myself looking back. After all, knocking on the door would have been disturbing someone but, truthfully, I had not even thought about sticking up for myself until that co-worker did it for me. She gave me the confidence to be assertive, and for that, I am genuinely grateful.
Jessica: I was told: You are a great professional, stop doubting yourself so much. It’s still a daily stimulus — knowing I’m doing my best, which is enough, that I always need to balance family and work.
How do you decompress after a long day?
Faith: My decompression comes in stages. On my commute home, I clear my mind, call the husband for a “temperature check,” and listen to an audiobook. Then I pour a glass of wine and play and laugh with my daughter. And I never miss our bedtime routine. These three things, in that order, help me slide out of work and into life.
Jessica: I decompress with books, TV and family time.
Please share your most humorous moment as a working mother from the past year.
Faith: My daughter is my world, and she leaves little humorous things for me to remember while I am at work. She always makes me laugh, from the fruit snacks, random socks, and toys in my laptop bag, to me occasionally showing up to work with little fingerprints on my clothes from whatever sticky mess was eaten for breakfast. She leaves me with a story to share quite regularly, comes up with some fantastic outlooks on life, and can honestly verbalize her feelings better than most adults.
Jessica: In the middle of an awards show with my director, he asked a question and my son answered “No” in the background — at the same moment I answered “Yes.” My director said, “Clearly someone doesn’t agree!”
At the end of the day, every working mother’s experience brings its own unique set of challenges and rewards. At Genesys, we recognize the sacrifices working mothers make for their jobs, their customers, and their families — and we’re proud to shine a spotlight on all working mothers in customer experience and the companies that support them. We look forward to seeing how working mothers take their careers to new heights.
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