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Playbook: Getting the support, help, and benefits you deserve at work

By Christine Michel Carter

Let me share some facts about your fellow working mothers at the end of 2022:

I know this sounds like I’m talking about you, and in a way, I am. These are just some of the common problems facing working mothers, but you know it’s not an exhaustive list by any means. If you showed these stats to someone and all they replied was, “Man, I’m sorry you have it so bad,” then they’re missing why this matters to them, too. 

I’ll spell it out: The United States will crumble if we allow working mothers who contribute more than half of their household income to leave the workforce. 

If you can’t even pay your important bills (think rent or car payments), then you’re definitely not going to spend any money frivolously stimulating the economy. That’s what could eventually lead to a recession, which, in some cases, involuntarily forces many of us—parents or not—out of the workforce.

Oh, I bet they’ll care a little more now.

What do working moms need?

For many people, a lack of support in the workplace is leading to burnout, or that overall physical or mental collapse you feel from overwork or stress. Add kids on top of that, and it’s no wonder we’re grasping for straws.

Did you know?
In September 2022, the term “caregiver burnout” peaked on Google, when many of us were not only navigating full-time work but a new school year as well.

Did you know?

In September 2022, the term “caregiver burnout” peaked on Google, when many of us were not only navigating full-time work but a new school year as well.

According to Motherly’s 2022 State of Motherhood survey, working moms need:

  • Increased flexibility (such as more part-time work, remote work, job-sharing, or schedule flexibility)
  • Mental health benefits, 
  • Higher pay
  • Fewer business travel trips (or more advanced notice),
  • On-site childcare or subsidies for childcare 
  • Longer paid maternity leaves and equal maternity and paternity leave options
  • Expert help to support working parents (such as sleep, lactation, or parenting coaches)
  • Programs to support off-boarding before and after maternity leave
  • Updated performance reviews to reflect working parent reality
  • Clearer communications regarding individual performance expectations,
  • Proactive communication from managers to better understand the needs of working parents
  • An internal community to increase support among fellow working parents

Working mothers benefit from having a supportive workplace.

Did you know?
For 43 percent of working mothers, a supportive workplace looks like increased position flexibility, meaning part-time, remote work, job-sharing, or schedule flexibility.

Did you know?

For 43 percent of working mothers, a supportive workplace looks like increased position flexibility, meaning part-time, remote work, job-sharing, or schedule flexibility.

How to find a supportive workplace

You need to be in an environment that works for your lifestyle. You can only “make this work” for so long before something gives. Being in a supportive workplace would give you the freedom to complete household tasks, care for loved ones beyond just children (like aging parents), or even care for your own mental or physical health.

  1. If you need to leave to find a supportive workplace, do your research. During the interview process, ask about the company culture. Listen to what’s said, but don’t trust what you hear.
  2. Check out former and current employees’ reviews on Glassdoor. Watch out for red flags before you even apply, like a lack of women on the executive leadership team.
  3. During the interview process, ask if the company allows remote work or schedule flexibility. If you land an on-site interview, ask where the Mothers’ Rooms are located.
  4. Doing the research and asking these questions subtly states your boundaries, and serves as a self-reminder that you are entitled to have boundaries.


Create your own support network at work

At your workplace, find a “parent buddy” who knows the lay of the land. There’s no better way to get the support, help, and benefits you deserve at work than to use another working mother as an example with your manager. When I speak in front of employee resource groups for working parents, I always end the presentation by encouraging HR teams to randomly pair up attendees, so they have a parent buddy.

It’s less formal than a mentor/mentee setup where a more junior person is matched to a senior person, but more intimate than a networking or support group. Sure, they can commiserate over parenting, but they now also have a colleague at work who might have a perspective on how to navigate and advocate.

Generation Z women need to see a role model who advocates for her own self. Negotiating for a supportive workplace can help lift up junior employees or future employees when they are ready to start their own families. Yes, Generation Z is increasing female labor force participation rates. But they’re also planning to postpone childbirth and/or have fewer children than Millennials. Why? 

These women are watching how Millennial moms are being treated, and they’re watching how we respond to this treatment. In their minds, working motherhood is an unbearable burden for women who value their careers. This breaks my heart. We’ve got to show them we haven’t given up.

We can’t lead them to believe that having a career and being a mother is an either/or situation.

We can’t lead them to believe that having a career and being a mother is an either/or situation.”

And lastly, if you’re a manager reading this, you must ensure that your department is also providing the best possible support for its working parents, inside and outside of the workplace. For example, when a parent requests a deadline extension on a project, practice active listening.

A good active listener puts everything aside, gives complete attention, and asks open-ended questions to get to the real issue at hand. Deadline extensions are normally due to factors the parent can’t control, and sometimes when a working parent feels out of control, the support of a manager goes a long way.

Did you know?
Pre-pandemic, 3.6 percent of women were unemployed, and after a rocky three years, the United States has just returned to that national average.

Did you know?

Pre-pandemic, 3.6 percent of women were unemployed, and after a rocky three years, the United States has just returned to that national average.

It took three years! Because of that, I’m here to tell you: Don’t quit. I can’t let you leave the workforce. It will cost all of us far less to give you the support, help, and benefits you deserve at work.

Meet the author

Christine Michel Carter is the only award-winning global advocate defying the stereotypes and expectations that block ambitious women from having rewarding careers and being badass moms. Christine elevates the honest truths of working motherhood as a Senior ForbesWomen Contributor, the author of the children’s book Can Mommy Go To Work?, and the author of the adult novel MOM AF. She is also a working parents and women’s ERG subject matter expert; employees have ranked her signature mental health talk the best corporate programming event of the year. 

She’s also worked on the maternal initiatives of Vice President Kamala Harris, is an advisory board member for Mom Congress and received a Congressional Citation from the U.S. Senate for going “above and beyond in ensuring that Black Moms and Moms of Color have access to important health information for their children and families.”

Meet the Author

Christine Michel Carter is the only award-winning global advocate defying the stereotypes and expectations that block ambitious women from having rewarding careers and being badass moms. Christine elevates the honest truths of working motherhood as a Senior ForbesWomen Contributor, the author of the children’s book Can Mommy Go To Work?, and the author of the adult novel MOM AF. She is also a working parents and women’s ERG subject matter expert; employees have ranked her signature mental health talk the best corporate programming event of the year. 

She’s also worked on the maternal initiatives of Vice President Kamala Harris, is an advisory board member for Mom Congress and received a Congressional Citation from the U.S. Senate for going “above and beyond in ensuring that Black Moms and Moms of Color have access to important health information for their children and families.”

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