As you may have heard, the Big 4 accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has a program that matches experienced working moms with moms-to-be about to go out on maternity leave.
What an excellent program! It gives new moms an experienced “mentor mom” to talk to about all of the issues they are concerned about while on maternity leave and in those first few super-hard months back on the job. Issues like how to function on very little sleep, how to handle the separation from your little one, and the practicalities of pumping on the job. Love it!
PwC has formalized a strategy that I preach to my working mom clients — gather together with other working moms at your company for aid, comfort, and receiving the wisdom of your corporate foremothers. Not only can they tell you which bathrooms are best for pumping and/or crying, they can give you really great advice on how much flexibility you can ask for without jeopardizing your career, and how to push back -– if you want to — on some of the things you used to do, such as traveling a lot, or almost-daily client dinners. My clients and I have found that hearing how other women in the company asked for and got flexibility in their schedules or were able to put off travel for the first six months and whether or not there were any consequences really helps when you’re stuck in the mode of thinking that you have to work exactly the way you did before you had your baby or risk being on your rear within the year. There is often far more wiggle room than you might have thought. Plus being around other working moms who demonstrate that they made it through those first few tough months and are now not just surviving but thriving will help you see through your sleep-deprived haze to know that it will get better.
So if your company doesn’t have a program like this, start one! Especially in mid-size and small companies, there may not be any forum yet for moms and dads who want to talk about parenting and their careers. At my last company, I created an email group for all of the moms in our company. We were spread out across four different locations, so email became the best way for us to connect with each other to ask about different schedule options, post adorable photos, and get support for those tough days when neither work nor home seems to be going well. You could start a monthly coffee hour or breakfast. Or, if establishing something group-based and formal like that isn’t your (diaper) bag, at the very least find two or three “mentor moms” you can talk to on a regular basis. Ideally, look for a mom who’s a couple of years in, who will remember those first few months back on the job, and ALSO one who is much further along and well established in her career. They can each give you different and helpful perspectives. And you might make some important allies for you and your career along the way.
Do you have a “mentor mom” in your life?