I recently found myself drawn to a Quartz piece that detailed all things onerous about the term, ‘mompreneur’. While I found myself nodding to most of the sentiment in the article, I had cause to pause at one particular line, ‘… using the label mompreneur or boss mom implicitly denies women the freedom to exist professionally independently from their role as a mother’.
What was it that made me pause?
Labels aside, why do we need to operate like the professional woman and the mother can’t co-exist? Why can’t the two be interlinked? What makes women feel that by merging the two, we are denying ourselves career progression or professionalism?
I am a mum to a three year old, and I’m just about to embark on my third professional role since becoming a mother. My first was with the same workplace I was at before having my daughter. The second job was an opportunity for huge career progression and—with a role that was advertised as flexible—enticing for a working mum looking for career progression. When I went for this role I made a conscious decision to talk about my then nearly two year old in my interview. Why? I had decided I didn’t want to work for someone who wasn’t willing to accommodate working parents. I also made a conscious decision to bring my whole self to the workplace from day one. I later found out that my boss loves hiring parents. They are, she says, ‘more productive and organised than most’. She’s not wrong! Wrangling childcare, sick days, drop-offs and the occasional conflict means that efficiency is more important than ever.
What has bringing my whole self to work brought me? It has brought open conversation with other parents. There is nothing more comforting than hearing the challenges of other parents, of receiving advice from those with older kids, and offering advice to new parents entering the workplace. By bringing my whole self to work these last two years (complete with the occasional Weet-Bix smear or sticky hand print on my back), I have offered everyone around me the opportunity to do the same.
And it’s refreshing! Has it limited my career progression? Absolutely not! I have thrived and, as a result, I am able to move onto my next role with confidence in my ability as a working mother.
I have yet to start my third job. The job where, when asked in my interview, ‘What do you like to do outside of work?’ I responded with, ‘Well, I try to be the best mum I can be’. When the interviewer paused for more, I said, ‘I realise you’re probably looking for something more from that answer, but I work four days a week and I have a three-year-old at home. I don’t have time for much else’.
Here’s the thing. I got the job. I got the job with honesty, by being true to myself. In fact, they stated they thought I would be a good fit. I negotiated a full-time role down to four days. I set up hours that work better for childcare pick-ups (for hubby) and drop-offs (for me—I think it’s worth acknowledging a shared load here). I have brought my whole self from the get-go, and it has made me feel empowered, happy, and no less professional.
I’m not suggesting this is easy or always comes naturally, but when we persist in striving for separation from professional woman and from ‘mother’, we are often only hurting ourselves. We are creating personas, rather than honesty. We are creating stress when we don’t need to.
It has taken me years to learn how to be honest and true at work, and now I find myself in the strongest career position I have ever been. I know what I need from an employer, and by being myself I’m not offered the jobs that wouldn’t work for me, and that’s fine! For those who do hire me, they get a highly productive, dedicated employee, one who acknowledges life outside of work.
My advice to all mothers is to put your whole self first. Own who you are. You might just find that you end up doing amazing things with amazing people—people who embrace the whole you.
Written by Carly Greenwood, content strategist, sometimes blogger and mother of one. Passionate about empowering parents in the workplace and encouraging meaningful conversation between working parents. And coffee. So much coffee.