Friday, August 20, 2010

Working Mothers Redefining Success

MSNBC.COM recently ran a great article aggregating several new studies and research statistics about the changing roles of mothers in the workplace. Eve Tahhimcioglu's article cites new studies showing that women now make up the majority of the workforce (51%, but still...), are delaying starting families, are better educated and are, in short, redefining the rules of success.

I recall my first performance review cycle after returning to work following the birth of my twin boys. It was "fine," you know- meets expectations consistently with a few exceeds expectations in there- but I'm not just "fine." Doggone it, I'm a rock star! How could I be just average? Well, I'll tell you how. Because 2 or 3 nights a week I was up several time nebulizing an infant with an inflamed respiratory tract, I had to leave at 5pm to make daycare pick up and frequently missed work for sick kids. Why couldn't they couldn't get sick at the same time, but rather, one after the other?

My husband has always been an equal partner and in fact during that time period he took the morning shift (including daycare drop off), split sick days and was a frequent flier at the Pediatrician's office. But what that review cycle told me was that I wasn't superhuman, I was not the same employee I was before I had kids, I had (significant!) external factors that limited my ability to go above and beyond.

With the help of a dear friend, who returned to work after having twins the same day I did, we sat down and drafted "New Goals for Success." They're outdated, company- and industry-specific, but the gist of it was we could not judge ourselves against our child-free co-workers. It was just apples and oranges. All we could do was our level best day in, day out, and then get home to our families.

I urge each of you to think about redefining what success means to you. Does it mean the proverbial corner office? A "C" in your title? Well good on ya, you have my vote ! But for you it might mean being off every other Friday to volunteer in your daughter's classroom, or home by 6pm on Mondays to lead cub scouts, or the ability to work from home when your little one is sick. There are tradeoffs for each of these, no doubt, but if they're your goals, you won't feel like you're missing a thing.