How often does someone ask you the question, "what do you do for a living?" It's an easy conversation starter when you're getting to know a person. It's a question I'm guilty of asking people on a regular basis. It's a question that gives me a pit in my stomach whenever someone asks me.
My go-to response is, "I stay home with my two daughters and do freelance writing, but I was a TV news producer pre-kids." I left my job as a television news producer eight years ago, yet I always make sure to mention it. Since leaving the TV world, I've gotten a master's degree, I gave birth to two daughters less than 18 months apart, stayed home full time for five years to raise my girls, and started a freelance business. Therefore, I can't help but wonder why I feel the uncontrollable urge to let people know what I used to do?
From my perspective, when I say, "I'm a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer," those around me smile politely, slightly tilt their head, and nod quietly. Yet as soon as I mention I used to work in TV news, their eyes widen and they start chattering away, spitting off question after question.
I left the television industry when I was eight weeks pregnant. As a morning show producer, my alarm started going off at 9:30 pm; while my husband was brushing his teeth for bed, I was brushing my teeth for work. My hours at the station were 11:00 pm to 7:00 am, I worked all holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve and my bosses approved vacation time based on seniority.
While many women continue working in the TV business after having kids, the long hours, lack of flexibility and intense pressure did not fit into my vision of motherhood. Combine that with the low pay and the high price of day care and I realized if I did keep my job when I became a mom, my entire pay would go to childcare.
I would be in a newsroom while my kids were home from school on snow days instead of making memories and snow angels alongside them. And I would be sleeping while they were eating dinner and getting ready for bed, instead of sitting next to them each night sharing favorite parts of our days.
In my eyes, the lack of support for moms made it impossible for me to see how I could stay in the industry. Not once, in my five years in TV news, did I see anyone step up during a snow day and offer to cover for a mom so she could be with her kids. Not once did I see the morning anchor I worked with, who came on the air at 4:30 am, have the opportunity to see her twins off to school in the morning. I didn't want to miss the school drop-offs or the snow days.
Motherly's Health and Wellness Director Diana Spalding recently penned a piece where she wrote, "It's not normal to not care about mothers." It may not be normal, but from my experiences, it feels true; society doesn't really care about moms. While people say they do, actions speak louder than words, and I have yet to see actions that debunk the statement. I'm not alone—17% of moms said combining career and motherhood felt "impossible," according to Motherly's 2021 State of Motherhood survey.
So, what are some actions you could take to tell moms you support us? Ones that percolate in my mind are showing empathy, creating a compassionate culture within the workforce, offering help, and providing flexibility.
The above should go without saying, but I don't think it does. Over the past year, I've found myself walking away from a handful of opportunities due to lack of flexibility within the job description, lack of understanding that even when I can get the work done just because it may be during regular office hours must mean I don't have the bandwidth to succeed in the position. With both my daughters home 100 percent of the time as a result of the pandemic, I had to put being a mom and virtual school facilitator first.
Don't get me wrong, there are exceptions, especially when you come across that awesome mom boss and mompreneur who welcomes the mid-zoom meeting disruption from a hungry child who needs their 5th snack of the morning. But while those leaders do exist, they are few and far between.
One of the many reasons I've stayed freelance is because of this lack of support I've felt from corporate America. And I'm not alone considering more than two million women left the workforce over the past year. The struggles moms face when it comes to trying to find a career and be a mom are highlighted now more than ever before, but it's been that way forever and was how I felt when I left my job in 2013.
Today, I'm blessed to have the option to freelance, which gives me the flexibility I need to work and mom. But I'm in the minority because most people can't afford to constantly hustle for their next project, not knowing where their next paycheck will come from. I'm lucky, but what about all those women who don't have that same luxury?
As constant communicators, master negotiators, and pro-multi-taskers, it's time employers recognize moms as an asset to the workforce as opposed to a hindrance. Once leaders realize hiring moms is a benefit to their organization and productivity level, I believe the support will finally follow.