One fascinating pandemic side effect has been the intimate window into co-workers' lives at home. Unmade beds, closets, bathrooms: we've seen it all. For the first time, our work lives and home lives have collapsed upon themselves, and the beauty of it is that we don't have to apologize given we're all in this together. The same has not always been true for working moms as there's no hiding a baby bump or the need to leave an important meeting for an OB appointment. And there shouldn't be.
We could list all of the research suggesting moms face what has been coined "maternal wall bias," but it's more constructive to focus on a different set of studies. There's the St Louis Federal Reserve report showing the most productive members of the workforce are women with two or more children. Or the BCG study highlighting the fact that companies founded by women generate higher returns. Then there's the Journal of Social Issues report finding parents engendered increased employee loyalty and engagement from their teams.
It's time we stop thinking about being a working mom as anything other than an attribute and acknowledge that being a mom and a founder aren't mutually exclusive paths; if anything, they're self-reinforcing.
Part of the problem is that culturally we applaud workaholism. We celebrate the 5 a.m risers who will stay at their desk until 10 p.m and never leave you hanging for more than 10 minutes on an email reply. If you're busy, that means you're important, and it's in our DNA to seek the admiration of others. But more isn't synonymous with better, and yet again, there's plenty of data to suggest the opposite: having full lives and meaningful relationships outside of work make us more, not less, productive. Tunnel vision isn't always additive, it can be a detriment.
As two working moms, we've seen it all. From pumping in a lock-free shared women's bathroom to being told, point blank-- yes, in this decade-- that all things considered "we'd always hire a man over a woman given the mommy track risk." The solution isn't thicker skin, but a change in the way we think about motherhood and work.
As two pregnant co-founders launching a business, we spent a portion of every call dealing with the seemingly requisite questions of how we'd possibly manage being entrepreneurs and pregnant. Our husbands fielded calls in the other room, and we can't once recall a time where they were asked a comparable question. Part of it is novelty, and part of it is generational, but none of the stigma is okay.
Being moms has made us better founders. Ultimately, we believe it comes down to not apologizing for putting what's important first. Not apologizing for being a mom and not apologizing when it's time to make that the priority. It's a matter of knowing when one of us needs to step up so another can run to a doctor's appointment. It's a matter of making sure our partners can cover bedtime if there's an important supplier call scheduled. We're both very lucky to have supportive partners and families who can step in and step out when necessary. But it's up to us to ask, and not view asking as a sign of weakness. If we'd built our business so that one of us stepping out for an hour led to corporate paralysis, we wouldn't have built much of a foundation.
Parents or not, having boundaries to protect our lives outside of work is critical. An HBR article showcased the importance of detachment as a recharging mechanism as well as an opportunity to strive to be our best selves. Sure, being a pregnant founder means you're probably spending more time than most being tired, but it also means you're an expert at organization, prioritization, EQ and (believe us) pain tolerance.
We are our best versions of ourselves when we're our whole selves. As two moms, we've talked a lot about the great Nora Roberts quote in answer to a question about how she balanced writing and kids. The key to juggling, she said, is to know that some of the balls you have in the air are made of plastic and some are made of glass. If you drop a plastic ball, it bounces, no harm done. If you drop a glass ball, it shatters, so you have to know which balls are glass and which are plastic and prioritize catching the glass ones. Sometimes easier said than done, but still a helpful framework for us.
We all make choices with our time, and we're all entitled to be exactly who or what we want to be. There is never a perfect time to start a family and the same could be said about starting a business. When we're not with our kids, it's because there is something else worth committing 110 percent to for that hour or day. So when we set out to launch our company, we did it because we were moms, not in spite of the fact.