Creating a Good Culture for Moms in the Workplace — and at Home

Previously I’ve shared 5 reasons why moms are well-equipped to deliver the goods in business. As a reminder…..

1. Moms reign supreme at time management.
2. Moms are great multi-taskers.
3. Moms — and women in general — are very creative.
4. Moms — and women in general — have tremendous empathy.
5. Moms just get shit done.

Moms can’t do it alone, though. Well, they can, but it’s a lot harder.

As a recent New York Times op-ed put it, we live in a Toxic Work World and the reality is “our workplaces do not fit the realities of our lives.” Neither do our homes for that matter.

Here are some ways companies and partners can create the ideal conditions for moms to do their best work:

At Work

1. Give everyone flexibility. In today’s digital world, it shouldn’t matter when you come and go as long as you get the afore-mentioned shit done. To the extent your business involves knowledge work, let folks do it from home, the coffee shop, or any other location that has the interwebs. Allow for time-shifting too. Everyone will benefit, not just moms. Workers will cultivate days that work for them. And companies will attract more workers – and work – and ultimately cultivate more profits.  As for moms, some prefer cranking out an hours’ work in the morning before any kids are awake. Some prefer to do it after their brood is asleep at night. Some want a lunch break. Others don’t. Who cares? Put your focus on outcomes not inputs and measure success based on quality and on-time delivery.

2. Hold people accountable. In order for a flexible work structure to, well, work you must have objective and transparent goals. There’s no room for ambiguity. Set and share priorities and timelines and hold everyone – moms and others alike – to hitting them. Without this clarity, you’ll find folks – moms and others alike – stepping on each other’s toes, fading into the background, and/or taking advantage of the flexibility.

3. Communicate actively and deeply. Don’t be afraid to talk about feelings. Get to know each person’s motivations in life and career so you can know when a particular situation calls for a little nudging vs. a little listening. Keep an open dialogue around how things are going and what, if anything, needs to change to make it all work better.

4. Provide fair compensation. Pay people what their work is worth. Period. The notion of a “mommy penalty” is ridiculous.

At Home

1. Share the load. Regardless of if your partner has a “day job,” be an active contributor in housework and child-rearing. In her book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg shared how important it was for her (sadly, now deceased) husband Dave to be a true partner at home. Even if you can’t create a 50/50 division of labor, commit to at least some percentage and then deliver on it. For example, I always try to leave the office by 5 to get home in time to help with the witching hours. And Tuesdays is my day to get home first so my wife can tool around carefree after work. It’s only 1 of the 3 days she works but, hey, it’s something – see #4 below.

2. Be clear about who owns what. Just as accountability is key in the workplace, you need to have it at home too. Never assume the other person is going to take care of something. Talk it out and stick to it. That way, each of you can focus on what needs your attention and actively forget that which doesn’t –  freeing up headspace for work stuff. In my world, I handle finances. My wife handles school (although, I’m starting to realize this may be too broad a category). I deal with home repairs – by outsourcing. My wife deals with healthcare – also by outsourcing unless it’s in the O.T. wheelhouse. I take out the trash. She buys the kids’ clothes when they’re trashed. She cooks. I do the dishes. I kill the bugs. She tries not to scream. We each do our own laundry.

3. Create your own definition of balance. Balance is in the eye of the beholder. Don’t listen to anyone else tell you what the ideal work/life balance is. Find what works for you and your partner. And remember that it’s subject to change. After 10 years of marriage, my wife and I still have to continually (re)calibrate to stay in a groove.

4. Strive for progress not perfection. Don’t get hung up on being the perfect parent or partner. It’s impossible. Just seek to constantly improve. As long as you’re carefully managing expectations and over-communicating, you’ll be on the path to a happy home and give your partner what he/she needs to achieve success and satisfaction in the workplace. Embrace the mindset of infinite iteration. At the end of the day, sometimes good enough is just that…..


Aaron Goldman
About the author: 

Aaron Goldman is the CMO at 4C Insights in Chicago, IL.  Previously, Mr. Goldman was on the Board of Directors for CIMA, and was the Chief Marketing Officer for Kenshoo. In 2010 he published “Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned from Google” (McGraw-Hill). Follow Aaron on Twitter.