The Mommy Effect Study: Did You Underestimate Working Motherhood?

mommy effect studyHave you seen the recent Wall Street Journal article called “Working Women Often Underestimate Motherhood Costs”? It reports on a recent study, “The Mommy Effect,” which found that many women have unrealistic views of what it’s like to be a working mom. The researchers say that women underestimate the time, money, and effort it will require — from childcare costs to the pressure to breastfeed — and are too optimistic about how their careers will fare. (Not surprisingly, this often leads to them leaving the workforce.) Let’s discuss it today: Did The Mommy Effect study resonate with you? Do you think you had unrealistic views of what it would be like to be a working mother? On the flip side, do you feel like you were too pessimistic about being a working mom before you became one? 

Psst: you may want to check out some of our previous discussions on career changes after baby and work-life balance advice to your pre-mom self.

Here are a couple of key passages from the article so that we can discuss (note that the WSJ is subscription-only), or you can take a look at the full study:

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Family Vacations and Coworker Jealousy

family vacations and coworker jealousy

Here’s what is perhaps an odd question: Do you ever feel like there is coworker jealousy surrounding your family vacations? What are your best tips for office etiquette and family vacations — what are the best tips on how to take family vacations without instilling coworker jealousy? (AND: How many “buffer” days to you take off to prepare/recover from your family vacation?)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a vacation with kids is a trip — not a vacation! Still, as we’ve talked about before, many parents schedule regular family vacations, which means it may “feel” to coworkers like you’re going on lots of “fun trips.” (I vaguely remember feeling like this when I was a single girl working in BigLaw — and I think there’s definitely a difference to be made in “messaging” around the vacation.) Furthermore, because you may already know the upcoming dates and schedules for school and so forth, you may book the vacation and have it calendared FAR in advance — and that may make coworkers feel like you’re “taking” the best vacation dates. (We got into this a bit with our discussion of holidays, vacations, and office etiquette over at Corporette.)

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Mistakes to Avoid When Working From Home

mistakes to avoid when working from homeOne of the big flexible work arrangements a lot of parents push for (particularly when they have little kids) is reduced face time and the ability to work from home some of the time. So I was interested a while ago when Corporette readers started talking about things they hate when coworkers work from home as well as the WFH culture in general. As always, it was an unfiltered look at a problem and might have some good clues as to what you can do to make a work-from-home arrangement go more smoothly — as well as mistakes to avoid when working from home. (TONS of people in federal offices wrote in particularly to discuss the WFH culture at their offices.) So let’s discuss, ladies: For those of you who work from home on a regular or semi-regular basis, have you adopted any standard operating practices that you think makes the arrangement a success? If you’ve had to fight your boss on this kind of arrangement, what kind of hurdles did you need to overcome? What have you learned to avoid when working from home?

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Not Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

not returning after maternity leaveHave you ever considered not returning to work after maternity leave, either so you can stay home with your little(s) for a while, or get a new job with better hours or logistics (like an easier commute)? We’ve talked about how to resign gracefully in general, offered SAHM career tips, as well as pondered how to negotiate maternity leave ahead of time — but not specifically about quitting right after maternity leave. How can you quit without burning bridges or cheating your own family out of maternity leave benefits? Reader M asks: wondering about not returning after maternity leave - image of a pregnant mother

I have a question about potentially not returning to work post-maternity leave. I have been thinking about transitioning to another law firm that is much, much closer to home and that has significantly less travel (I have an hour commute each way and will have two children under the age of 15 months once this one is born). The other firm is open to my coming on board when I’m done with maternity leave. My question is when would you tell your current workplace that you are moving on? We had an associate come back from a very extended leave and quit her first week back and it left a bad taste in the partner’s mouths. I don’t want to burn bridges, but I also don’t want to hurt my benefits while on leave (I’m in California and will be receiving a mixture of disability pay and Family Bonding pay — my firm does not offer any paid maternity leave). When would you advise giving notice?

Oooof. Tough question, and I can’t wait to hear what readers say. Because every company’s policy is different, as are the state laws surrounding disability and maternity leave, it’s kind of difficult to say in general — but these would be my considerations:

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How to Manage Up With Regard to Family Commitments

how to manage up with regard to family commitmentsHere’s a suggestion for a topic we got from folks who took the survey a while back: how can working moms “manage up” with regard to family commitments? Along similar lines, “how to explain your new life choices to an employer who is used to you working long hours”? I can’t wait to hear what you guys say — what’s YOUR best advice on managing up once you become a working mom, ladies?

(Pictured: Hall & Oates women’s tshirt (I Can’t Go for That- No Can Do), available at Etsy through Exit343design’s shop.) (Affiliate link.)

Just to throw in my $.02 of tips, I think a lot of it comes back to general advice on how to manage up:

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Advice on Work-Life Balance — To Your Pre-Mom Self

Advice on Work-Life Balance from Working Moms to Their Pre-Mom Selves

2018 Update: We still love all the advice on work-life balance in this post — but you may also want to check out our more recent discussion on The Mommy Effect study and whether working moms underestimated the trials and tribulations of working motherhood. 

Over at Corporette, we recently rounded up some of the top advice readers have shared over the years for women wondering about getting pregnant — the planner’s guide to TTC, if you will. But moms, here’s the question for YOU today: What would you tell your younger, pre-kid self if you could? Is there any other major advice you’d impart to someone who wanted to get pregnant? Would you make any serious changes in your life, either on the family side or the career side, if you could? What’s your best advice on work-life balance, as a working mom, to your pre-mom self? 

I keep seeing stories like this one and this one where working moms talk about how they were total jerks to their parent coworkers before they had kids, and NOW they get it — why a 4:45 meeting is a bad idea, why you’re not lazy or antisocial if you don’t want to come out for drinks after work, why occasionally your family is more important. On the flip side, I’ve seen many comments from younger readers who are annoyed at all the work/life balance advice at conferences — they don’t think it’s helpful, they don’t think it’ll apply to them, they don’t understand why we constantly complain about it. I also see articles like this one and this one about how women are annoyed when they’re asked about work-life balance as moms. I understand their point if we’re talking about a situation in which there are, say, five parents on a panel and the men are all asked about their backgrounds and work while the only person asked about work/life balance is the mom — BUT, as someone who struggles with work/life balance, I wish it were talked about MORE, among all parents.

SO: What would you tell your pre-mom self about work/life balance, if you could? What do you wish you had known before you decided to get pregnant? In general, what’s your best advice for work-life balance from a working mom perspective?

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