This made me so angry.
I recently read an article in Forbes magazine titled “Moms Have Been Quiet Quitting For Decades – Will Executives Hear The Wake-Up Call?”
I felt a strong emotion towards this title. How about you?
If I know anything about working mothers, it’s that we’re not quitters.
The strength, determination and focus it takes to juggle being a parent and progressing your career can not be labelled as quitting.
The back-breaking shapes working mothers have to contort themselves into to manage their careers with their family responsibilities can not be labelled as quitting.
The lengths working mothers went to during the pandemic with home learning while still wanting to show up fully for their jobs can not be labelled as quitting.
If anything, we see working mothers carrying the majority of the unpaid labour in their homes *and* taking on extra unpaid labour in the workplace. Many of my clients take on the additional responsibility of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) in their workplace – whether informally supporting others or formally running initiatives such as an Employee Resource Group.
The Women in The Workplace report found that women in senior leadership are 60% more likely to provide emotional support to employees and are also twice as likely to spend a substantial amount of time doing DEIB work outside of their formal job responsibilities.
This is not quitting.
For many women, we’re not just doing the ‘double shift’ of our paid work in the workplace and our unpaid work in the home; we’re doing a ‘triple shift’ of doing additional work in the workplace that is often formally unrecognised or compensated.
This is absolutely not quitting.
Working mothers struggle most days with the conflict of wanting to progress their careers whilst showing up for their families without burning out in the process.
The ambition, creativity and ingenuity it takes to navigate this conflict can not be classed as quitting.
Now don’t get me wrong. Every working mother I know has considered quitting. Wondering if the struggle and juggle are worth it.
But all of the women I work with – they love their careers as well as their family.
They are driven and conscientious.,
Their career gives them a strong sense of identity.
They’ve worked hard to develop their career before becoming mothers.
Quitting isn’t an option they want to consider.
And they have so much experience, expertise and value to offer.
But it comes at a cost.
The data on parental burnout, particularly for mothers and especially for mothers of young children and ethnic minorities, are shocking.
Now I need to say at this point that the article that triggered my anger wasn’t saying that working mothers are quitters.
It was sharing that mothers have to quit the hustle of our working culture, as once we have children, it becomes unsustainable.
The article states that wanting a healthy work-life balance shouldn’t be framed as quitting. It should actually be considered normal.
It argues that employers should be very concerned if their employees have to consider quiet quitting because it’s a red flag that they haven’t created employee satisfaction, psychological safety and engagement.
However, the title of this article feeds into the unhelpful narrative around working mothers that fuels the motherhood penalty. The unconscious bias causes the perception that working mothers are less able, committed and ambitious.
I strongly disagree with this and know all of my clients do too.
If anything, there is a motherhood advantage that comes from women making the transition from working woman to working mother.
But unless organisations can recognise this and invest in working mothers and their families, they are at risk of contributing to the worrying statistics on maternal mental health.
Whilst many people might consider maternal mental health to be related to when a woman is pregnant and the months following the birth (i.e. when they’re on maternity leave), the timeline is much longer than that.
In my experience supporting working mothers in the workplace, their maternal mental health is vital to pay attention to when they return to work after maternity leave…..and beyond that. Navigating their motherhood journey alongside their leadership journey can significantly impact their mental health.
As we approach Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week (1st to 7th May 2023) it’s a great reminder to leaders and organisations to support their working mothers.
Those that do will reap the benefits. Not only retaining their female talent – as organisations that offer exceptional benefits for their working parents are twice as likely to retain them and have a 45% lower rate of working parent burnout. But they are also found to have 5.5 times the revenue growth of their peer organisations, according to a report from Great Place to Work and Maven.
And as Micheal C. Bush, the CEO of Great Place To Work, states:
“When companies are great for parents and aspiring parents, they tend to be great for everyone else as well. And those high-trust, parent-friendly workplaces aren’t just better for people. They’re better for business – with higher innovation and productivity. And they’re better for the world. Because every time a working parent can shift from their job duties to care for their kids in a kind, patient way – rather than a stressed-out way – we all win.”
So as we approach Maternal Mental Health Awareness week – I call upon leaders, managers and organisations to ask themselves, what are you doing to support your working mothers to thrive at work and home?
Is your organisation planning a Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week event?
I love creating engaging and impactful sessions, so if I can help support you and your organisation with your event – get in touch and let’s chat.