What Mom Does Anything 60 Percent?

Here’s an interesting question to consider: What mom that you know does anything at 60 percent?

It’s hard to think of something, to be sure. Being a mom, by definition almost, means doing everything at max effort -- kids, work, life, everything. The stakes are simply too high. Every one of us is surrounded by women who are pouring it all in, day in and day out, with very little praise or even recognition for their effort. And yet, day after day, they wake up, and do the same thing all over again. They do it because it’s the right thing to do, they do it to provide a bright future for their kids, they do it because something about becoming a mom changes your DNA and you just can’t think of it any other way. You all know what I mean.

So then, why is it so hard to find a situation where a company is willing to “let” a mom work three days a week? This is still pretty rare, even in the modern economy, and this is even with the recognition that you’ll probably get a lot more value out of a mom working a part-time or flex schedule than you would almost anyone else. It doesn’t make any sense.

The American workplace is not hospitable to mothers. It’s not hospitable to parents at all -- dads, we’re included in this too -- but especially not mothers. But it doesn’t have to be. There are many ways that companies can endeavor to become more hospitable places for parents and support the idea of working families, which are so important to our country’s history and its future alike.

Here are some simple things that every company can and should do to become more hospitable for parents:

Start to measure parenthood

At Holistic, we see a ton of companies, and we are frequently surprised at the general lack of information that companies have about their employees. One thing in specific that is shocking is just how little companies know about the families of their employees. Sure, you might know that Tiffany in account management has kids -- “You have two kids, right? Three? Really? When did you have another kid?” -- but on a macro level we find that pretty often companies don’t know how big of a deal parenting is for their employees.

Not only do companies not know about whether or not their employees have kids, they don’t know the ages, and we all know that parenting needs and emotions change dramatically as your kids grow up. Having two kids under four is a lot different than having two kids going to college. Both are extremely challenging.

We encourage companies to start measuring parenthood in every fashion possible -- who has kids? What percentage of our staff is likely to have kids in the future? How supported do our parents feel? This is about building a bedrock of information that is useful in determining policies, benefits, best practices -- you have to have the data before you can make decisions.


Get your shit together on parental leave

The U.S. just basically sucks at doing parental leave. 43 percent of mothers don’t return fully from maternity leave. 43 percent! And the cost to turn over these positions is absolutely enormous. This is to say nothing of the tremendous trauma that is caused to many mothers by thoughtless leave policies. You can’t come back to work two weeks after giving birth to a human child and expect it not to have a negative impact on your work, your life, and most importantly your child’s life. Yet many people do.

I’m gonna leave this right here: Companies should, whenever possible, offer a minimum of three months paid maternity and paternity leave. Companies should eat the cost, straight up. No use of vacation time, no short-term disability, no maternity leave donation parties, none of that crap. Pay it. It’s worth it. We are conducting a ton of research on the value of this, but suffice to say the evidence is overwhelming that taking care of parents in the immediate aftermath of having a child is essential for companies.

Also. If you want dads to take equal responsibility for parenting, or more equal responsibility, give them equal time off. Yes, I understand that biologically dads can’t breastfeed and they are not the ones actually giving birth. But there is still plenty of work that they can do to take care of children, and providing the option for dads to have more than two weeks off is essential as well.

Think about flex work schedules and have a plan

The time to consider a flex work schedule is not in a meeting with a mother who has been a parent for three-and-a-half-months, and hasn’t slept a full night in, well, at least three-and-a-half-months. And the way to consider a flex work schedule is not on an individualized basis where it becomes a de facto evaluation / review of that mother and her worth to the company. Even worse, too often this de facto evaluation / review of that mother comes from her -- she’s the one who has to ask for it, provoke it.

Every single business person or company reading this article can do something very simple, this morning. Convene a meeting of the key leaders in your company to discuss flex work schedules. You need to answer three simple questions: What is our current plan and is it codified and consistent? What do we think makes sense for our business / what can we offer our employees? And, most importantly, how can we implement this consistently, fairly, and in advance of when we really need it?

Have that conversation. Today. Your company will be better for it.

No meetings before 930 or after 430

Someone asked me once what it’s like to be a working parent. I said imagine leaving work at 5 pm and feeling co-worker guilt for abandoning your teammates and then 30 minutes later parental guilt for picking up your kids last at school. Basically ending every single day feeling like a shitty employee and a shitty parent at the same time. It’s real.

Mornings are equally terrible. I sometimes joke that an amazing business would be to just walk up to working families trying to get into the car in the morning and offer them a Starbucks and a couch for 50 bucks, and you’ll put their kids into the car for them. You’d get some takers.

Nothing creates more stress for working families than early-in-the-morning meetings or late-in-the-afternoon work meetings. There is already a tremendous opportunity cost being a parent -- it’s not trivial to be able to network, attend events, go to breakfasts, whatever, if you have kids. And so you miss out on a lot of opportunity. This is compounded by the fact that companies routinely, and in an extremely blase fashion, schedule meetings at inopportune times. 99 percent of these meetings could take place at 930 instead of 9 (or 830 or 8) and everything would be just fine. This is one of the surest fire statements that a business can make that parents are a priority, and you can do it via email this morning.


Audit your space with parents in mind

Step one: Nursing room. Check out this article for what we did at 1871, which will tell you just about everything you need to know.

But what else? Are there pictures of people’s families in the office space? Are there resources available that show that your workplace is parent friendly? Are there things you can do for mothers or fathers or prospective parents that will help?

This is part of what we offer at Holistic and we find that workplaces are often very receptive -- just simply walking around and seeing what works for parents, what doesn’t work, is a huge gesture that can lead to some unexpected albeit very valuable rewards. (BTW, this sort of space audit can be useful for other purposes at the same time; looking at inclusion, looking at accessibility for people with physical disabilities, etc).

Understand the creative benefits that are available

Just like every other aspect of the work experience, there has been tremendous innovation in terms of the benefits that are available to parents. Technology can be super useful in easing the burden, if only we would let it be.

One great example is Pediasource. Pediasource is an innovative company out of Chicago that offers a resource for parents -- a place to call to check in on key issues and get an understanding of what the next steps are for your kids’ health issues, without necessarily having to go to the doctor (or, worse, not go to the doctor but worry for weeks).

Taking time off of work is debilitating for parents, but worrying all day long about your kids is even more debilitating. There’s a lot of technology and other benefits programs out there that are designed for parents that can be used to collectively ease the burden, help manage schedules, and take some of the pressure off.

Embrace being a parent-friendly environment

Finally, the best (and, ironically, easiest) thing that companies can do for parents is to simply lean in. This is about will, on some level, and the business community making a conscious decision to become a hospitable place for parents. Companies that commit themselves to being parent friendly environments will become parent friendly environments; and if throughout the business world this is something that we start to expect and demand, it will become the norm, not the exception.

The descriptions above are most relevant to the white collar, office-work world; however, if you look to hourly, blue collar or service industry jobs, the treatment of parents is 100x worse. The point is that the change has to come from the business community -- we can’t wait for government and we shouldn’t force parents to be the force for evolution.

The other point is, there’s a lot that can be done today, right now, immediately, to start the process of change -- it’s about consciousness, it’s attitudinal. Let’s do better for our moms, our dads, our parents. They deserve it.


To learn more about Holistic’s Parent Program, please fill out the form below.

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Tom Alexander