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Guest Editorial: One tough mother

By Holly Caplan | Guest Editorial

How being a mom can boost your job performance

Before I became a mother in 2010, I had been in the workforce as a sales person in the medical device field for years. It was a hyper-competitive market with lots of passionate people who wanted to party, make money and climb the corporate ladder. Which was exactly what I did.

My career was everything to me — it was my identity. It was who I wanted to be and I was super passionate about succeeding.

I eventually worked my way up and was approached about a management position. It was what I had wanted and was my next professional goal. So, before I interviewed for the management gig, I did my homework.

Enthusiastically, I spoke to the other managers to better understand what I was getting into. I wanted their candid feedback so that I would be prepared for my interview and get an idea of what to expect in this role.

I got a lot of a helpful advice about how to run the business and manage my sales team, as well as hiring and firing procedures. Pretty basic, right? Until I hit a conversation that surprised me and still stings me to this day, especially now that I’m a mother.

My male manager told me not to hire female sales representatives. Taken aback, I asked him “Why?” I’m thinking, heck, I’m a female, why wouldn’t I hire other women?

“Because they have babies and stuff and won’t do their jobs,” he said.

This manager also confided in me that this was a quiet rule between the managers. It was understood around the office. At that moment, my future challenges were clearly laid out before me, as I knew one day I wanted to become a mother — and yes, continue to work.

I did it though. I got the management job and had a baby.

According to the U.S. Labor Force, women made up 47 percent of the workforce in 2017. And guess what? Seventy percent of mothers worked in 2017 versus 11 percent in 1960. Additionally, mothers are the primary or sole earners for 40 percent of households with children under the age of 18.

How can the stigma of being a working mom still exist when we see momentum in these numbers?

I can personally tell you that becoming a mother made me better at my job and career. It didn’t make me “go soft” or unfocused. In fact, motherhood made me more assertive and decisive. It made me more strategic and thoughtful in my work.

You are forced to improve these skill sets and begin functioning at a higher level previous to children. In speaking to friends that are working moms, they experienced the same.

Here are five ways that being a mother can actually improve your job performance:

1. Better time management

Time management takes on a whole new role in your world when you become a mom. Basically, you learn that you can’t control everything and that you need to manage your time as such.

You are forced to think way ahead of schedule, be ready to manage disasters and expect the unexpected. Think carpool, conflicting ballet classes and soccer games thrown in with a sick child, pet at the vet, traveling husband, meeting with the boss and a work deadline. All of this makes for complete mayhem and disarray.

There was a time in my life that all of these components would have absolutely sent me over the edge, or into a bottle of pinot noir. However, eventually it taught me to manage my time better.

Motherhood teaches us to know how to efficiently run projects and handle the unexpected in the office. Admittedly, I do still pour myself a pinot noir in the evenings, but at least I manage my time around it.

2. Developing Low T

Mothers develop Low T — a low tolerance for bullcrap.

As moms, we have to manage our time differently, which means we have less time for B.S. with the kids. We won’t tolerate bullying, stealing or shaming at home, so why tolerate it at work?

Having Low T in the workplace helps us sniff out the drama from a mile away, address it quickly and move on. Mothers tend to stay away from the office politics, handle work challenges swiftly and can close a sweet deal like no one’s business.

3. More compassion

Being a mother will make you more compassionate. I mean, even when you are getting spit up on, changing a diaper, or dealing with a temper tantrum, you still love that baby with all of your heart and soul. It doesn’t matter how rough the scenario may be, you learn to roll with it and move on.

Again, this flows over well into the workplace. Increasing compassion can improve relationships, trust and performance. When employees feel they are in a safe and trusting environment, and that their colleagues do care about them both personally and professionally, they give back more to the organization.

4. Increased focus

Working mothers typically have less time with their children. It is part of it, and it isn’t fun. A job could require more travel, conferences and client dinners. What this means for moms is missing school events, piano recitals and even just the everyday conversation of riding home from school in the car.

Because of this, mothers are more focused on their goals and tasks at work. Since we are away more, we make our time count so that home life counts when we are at home.

Moms don’t want to let work interfere with the kiddos. This means that we are more organized, get projects done early and are prepared for upcoming meetings.

Also, moms are full-time problem solvers. We are forced to think strategically continuously. We are able to switch these strategic thinking skills into work.

As a result, we are super productive and efficient. Not only does this help the company, this helps us reach professional goals and with our own personal growth.

5. Becoming a master of stress

The common theme of mothering and working is the high stress factor. Stress can run rampant at home and work, and at times will feel inescapable.

But it can also be the underlying current that drives better time management, maintained focus and dealing with others’ issues. The surprising thing about existing with stress is that it has made me better at handling it.

My stress “freak out” level is much higher, and my capacity for patience is higher too. At home I have less of a heart attack when I see that Oreos have been smashed into my favorite white chair, and at work I breathe easier when approaching a deadline or dealing with an angry manager. It has taught me to deal with work stress thoughtfully, patiently and exit the experience gracefully.

As for the manager who told me not to hire women, and to his colleagues who believed the same? Today I would tell them this:

Don’t ever underestimate the strength of a working mother.

Oh, and Costco is having a sale in the wine department.

— Holly Caplan is an award-winning manager and author of ‘Surviving the D**k Clique: A Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Male Dominated Corporate World.’ For more information, visit hollycaplan.com.

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