The same year my mom started singing the famous line of Helen Reddy’s 1975 hit, “I am woman, I am strong, if I have to, I can do anything,” I was learning my first words. Surely, I was influenced by my mom’s struggle to find her footing as a career woman and as a mother. Many women in the ‘70s were going through the same struggle. This was the first decade in history, after all, in which women had viable choices in career and parenting. So I grew up believing that I could do both. Now, as a mom of young children with a marketing writing career, I’ve learned that doing both requires a lot of hard work and determination. But I also know that the perseverance, creativity, and flexibility that come from learning to succeed in both business and motherhood are the same characteristics that make moms essential to the workplace.
Many hiring managers gravitate toward workers who seem to have fewer family commitments, assuming they’ll be more willing to travel, work late hours, or give up a weekend when needed. That’s especially apparent in the high-performing Silicon Valley culture, and some of these assumptions are often true. But being a parent of young children can also prepare one for a fast-changing, high-stress, and results-driven environment. I’m now convinced that businesses – especially startups – need more moms. Here are several reasons why:
Kids Teach You How to Be Flexible
“Kids keep you very close to experiences. You’re kind of constantly thrown off track and that’s good for a poet.” – Deborah Diggs
Working for a startup, priorities are often rearranged – sometimes multiple times a day to accommodate unexpected tasks or urgencies. You can’t get set in your ways, react emotionally, or take it personally when your plan changes. There’s no time to worry or complain. You just do it. It’s a lot like when, just as you’ve quieted a tired and crabby two-year-old into her afternoon nap, the school calls that your kindergartener is waiting in the office for a clean set of pants. You get up, you go, you take care of it. You know that interrupting your toddler’s nap will completely change the course of your day, so you’re forced to adapt. After a good decade of this “constantly thrown off track” state-of-being, I’ve learned to think several steps ahead and quickly respond to small issues before they become bigger problems – skills that serve me well in the workplace.
Kids Force You to Be Creative
“Parenting is the most creative thing I’ve ever done” – Jodie Foster
When I had my first child, my days were filled with more diapers and feedings than writing and editing. I feared that my creative mind was regressing. Then when I heard and considered this statement from Jodie Foster, whose first child was a toddler at the time, I looked at it quite differently. I started appreciating parenting as an additional avenue for creativity.
Parenting demands the utmost creativity, especially when you’re intent on avoiding dependency on iPhones or iPads to constantly soothe and entertain your kids. Quick thinking, made-up songs, silly quips, and jokes have been my arsenal for interrupting the onset of an impending tantrum or getting healthy food into a tiny mouth that’s shut tight. Getting a stubborn toddler to comply is not something a person figures out once and repeats – what works once will not necessarily work the next time. Creativity and determination drive parents to generate new strategies. The same principle is true in marketing writing – an angle or message that works in a particular market, at a particular time, has no guarantee of succeeding in the next situation; every audience and venue must be addressed uniquely.
After Potty Training, You Can Persevere with Anything
After you’ve patiently endured six months of bringing a 3-year-old to the toilet every 30 minutes, you build confidence in your ability to stick with something to the end. Once you’ve lost count of the times you’ve done midnight clean-ups after a child with the stomach flu who is too young to understand why something is spewing out of her all over her bed, you’ve achieved a level of both humility and tenacity that will serve you well in the business world. When you’ve made the choice to have another child that you know will do the very same things, you’ve shown a certain staying power to achieve your goals, despite the cost. This is the type of resolve I see in many moms who find ways to stick with their careers without sacrificing their families.
Of course motherhood is not the only way to develop flexibility, creativity, and perseverance. The reality is that businesses need people of all ages to bring various levels of energy, experience, and perspective, and there are many avenues to building the diverse characteristics and skills needed for a successful business. But in honor of Mother’s Day, I want to acknowledge the great value of moms in business, especially in startups. I wouldn’t want to be in a workplace without them.