There were days when the kids, mostly my 4-year-old, would have extremely “hard times”, activities planned the night went down the drain, and I had tight deadlines to meet as my own boss, I would say out loud to my husband “I would not have been able to work at [previous employer] and do this homeschooling thing” – on MULTIPLE occasions throughout the year (is post-employment PTSD a thing?)
Now, from ex-employed mom to employed-mom, I want to ask you this: are you asking your support system to meet you where you are?
After leaving corporate America, I did a lot of introspection, and I want to share what I learned that will apply even in a post-COVID world.
1. Default parents, be honest with your manager about your needs and don’t undersell yourself.
Corporations know how hard it is to hire and train new staff. Yes, we’re replaceable, but not as easy as you think. Even if you need to work at a lower capacity temporarily, most managers will try to make it work. I told my employer exactly what I told you – I’m feeling burnout and have guilt about not being there for my kids. My ex-employer gave me a month off and another six-month leave of absence to recharge and figure out what I wanted to do. This is an example of a company that did right by a working mom.
2. Tell your partner what you need and ask for help with childcare.
My husband is older with a head start in his career. I found myself minimizing my needs to support his career by taking on most of the childcare (Dr. visits, WFH when they were sick) and the mental load that came with it. In retrospect, it should be the other way around. He’s already established his career and is in a better position to support me. But I never spoke about any of this with him. I assumed if he was able to, he’d support me. Employers need to meet fathers where they are too and it starts with pushing men to ask for what they need at work.
I realize this is personal given my husband is probably reading this, but I feel I will not do working moms any justice by not sharing our story. He’s home full-time because of COVID and we’ve had both productive and contentious conversations about how men can support working women. Today, I’m extremely satisfied with our split in childcare and his support for me as an entrepreneur.
3. Ignore or push back on “you should…” statements from family members and STOP comparing yourself to what other moms are doing.
The mom FOMO is real and it’s tearing our minds apart. I wish I practiced this back then more. If your MIL heard that a friend of a friend’s friend’s kid already learned how to play the piano, can use an abacus, and is part of a homeschool pod – nod and try to handle it with as much grace as you can muster up. I’m sure she means well.
#3 is definitely easier said than done. I’ve had my fair share of moments when I did let the judgment and comments get the best of me. A lot of it was due to the lack of knowledge and confidence in myself as a mother and memories of my experiences during my childhood. As a third-time mom now, my experiences have led me to become a resilient and confident mother unashamed of the parenting decisions I chose to make (or not make) for my family.
These are some high-level actionable tips not accounting for your partner’s position on women’s equality and your employer’s policy and culture. If you come out feeling a little empowered then that’s all that matters.
Sheryll Yu is a wife, mom to 3 boys, Finance and Investments by training, and founder of TigerKubz, provider of accessible early childhood enrichment products. She envisions a world where parents can have a thriving career and play an active role in their child’s early development. It was during a career pause where Sheryll was able to reflect on her journey from being kicked out by her abusive step-father at 16, single mom at 19, to being a first-generation college student and landing a lucrative role in Wall Street. Sheryll is on a mission to empower parents to their fullest potential as their child’s first teacher.