It's working for Courtney Schinke Cashman, Senior Associate Editor at Harvard Business Review
It’s one thing to be reading about the research about the barriers and biases women face, but it’s different to see it firsthand or hear about it in the experiences of my fellow moms.
Don’t feel pressured to do what everyone else says you should do. “Should” is the worst word in parenting. Every family and every child is different, so why would there be “one way” to do things? What works for others might not work for you, and that’s ok. You’ll figure out your own ways of making it work.
It’s one thing to be reading about the research about the barriers and biases women face, but it’s different to see it firsthand or hear about it in the experiences of my fellow moms. The value of the topic hasn’t changed—it was then and continues to be an incredibly important topic—but the way that I look at it, and the types of advice and solutions for both men and women, has changed. Whether that’s because I’m a working mom or simply because I’m further along in my career and have spent more time with the topic, I’m not sure. But I am much more likely now to consciously notice it than I was before.
Ha. Like most people fresh out of college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to work with books and had a love of grammar, but that’s about it. I would have never thought I’d end up in business publishing, but I’m glad I did. It’s given me the opportunity to explore a lot of areas of work that I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. And I never predicted how much I’d enjoy bringing someone else’s ideas to life in a powerful way.
When we have a good back and forth, and there’s clear respect and trust between us. We’re both open to hearing each other’s ideas and feedback, and eager to work together to make the work better.
I wish I did. That would make it so easy! But I’d say having a support system, not just for logistics but to bounce ideas and experiences off of, is essential. You don’t want to feel like you’re working or parenting in a vacuum. I think that’s why working on and having a book like Advice for Working Moms is so great—you’re hearing from a variety of experts and parents who have all kinds of creative ways to approach working parenthood and the challenges that come with it, so you can try things out and see how they work for you.
I don’t—at least not alone. If I didn’t have my husband, I’d be lost. He’s always had a passion for cooking, and that has transitioned into his taking over the majority of meal prep and planning. That leaves me to handle some of the other things, like keeping track of what the kids need for school and daycare, playdate schedules, doctors’ appointments, school commitments, and so on.
But beyond that, it’s all about time management and prioritizing. I look ahead at my week and plan what projects I’m going to work on and when, and I note any big things that might be happening outside of work with my family. If more things come my way throughout the week (and they always do), I can then look to see how that fits into what I’ve already planned to see if it’s feasible.
Well, for one thing, I’m a champion napper. If I see an opportunity to nap, I will take it. But more seriously, since the pandemic began, I’ve really tried to keep track of my energy levels, especially when it comes to my job. If I’m burned out, I’m not going to do my best work and, truthfully, I won’t be all that pleasant to be around. So I just need to be aware of that, and even if I have a day where I feel like I need to do more work after the kids are in bed, sometimes I just need to put that aside and take care of myself.
My husband and I both work full-time, and our families live far away. So when we were looking for childcare for my first, we knew we needed a daycare to cover traditional work hours, on a strict budget. Fortunately, we found a combined daycare and preschool that we loved, and we were able to keep my son there until he started Kindergarten. My daughter is there now.
The harder part has actually been summer camps once my son started elementary school. There’s a reason there have been articles discussing families who can’t afford summer. They are extremely expensive, and many of them don’t even cover a full workday. We’re lucky that we can plan and afford summer programs, but even then, some camps open up their registration as early as January and can fill up quickly. You’re rolling the dice if you wait to see what other options become available. Fortunately, we have a friend who has an older son who was able to tell us programs to look into and when. Without that, we were at the mercy of scouring the internet which is not very helpful.
Yes and no. There were certainly challenges, especially returning after maternity leave. You have to remember that while you might have been gone and your job is technically waiting for you, the organization is still moving along without you. After three months, you have to play a game of catchup to see what developments you may have missed, find out where your team or organization’s priorities are, and decide how to adjust your work to align with those shifts, as big or small as they may be. You may have new colleagues you have to meet and establish your expertise with or even just take the time to get back on meeting invites. It’s rarely just jumping back in with a to-do list. But at the same time, after taking care of someone else’s needs for three months, it’s nice to have something that is distinctly yours.
The larger challenge for me was emotional. Of course, I missed my kids both times, but it was more a feeling of, what am I missing? What milestones am I not seeing? How much time am I losing out on that could be spent with my kids? And how much can I squeeze into those two hours between work and bedtime that will be meaningful, even when we’re all exhausted after a long day? My oldest is eight, and I still have those feelings.
Look into what your company offers you, not just for leave options, but long after that. Don’t expect all the information to come to you. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn by reading your employee handbook or talking to fellow parents. Fellow parents are key! They can share a lot. And don’t worry too much about being tired. It’s awful, but you’ll get through it.
Definitely my husband and my family, but I had a great circle of people who supported me at work as well. My bosses were very understanding about my needs, and I had a group of fellow parents in the office that I could talk to, ask questions to, or vent to when I needed it. And share stories. It’s very fun to bond over the silly things your kids do—or even the things that make you want to pull your hair out.