For working mothers, flexibility is everything

The founder of ‘Inkwell’ aims to help women and companies rethink work-life balance.

For working mothers, flexibility is everything

Throughout our lives as modern women, we wear multiple identities. Every day--maybe even every hour--we switch between various roles we play; woman, professional, mother. I am a mother, an attorney, and the former executive director and general counsel for a women’s rights foundation. But I am more than that as well: I am a dreamer, a believer and a proponent of change.

As I have traveled through my adult life, I have often found myself, and the women around me, becoming too wrapped up in either the identity of professional or mother. There never seems to be a satisfying way to merge these identities, two of the major parts that define who I am. Women are constantly faced with this battle and the general consensus finds only one solution: Satisfy one identity and neglect the other.

Let’s face it: the 9-to-5 work model fits into the patriarchal structure of our society. It allows for only one partner, generally the man, to have both a satisfying career and family life. Somebody needs to be home – whether it is driving the kids to school and back, making dinner, or just generally keeping the house in order, someone needs to be there. And with childcare, it’s often more expensive for both parents to work and hire a nanny than for one to stay-at-home. And I don’t have to tell you how tough it is to be a stay at home mother; Steven Nelms of Dallas, TX calculated, based on similar services produced by professional home assistance companies, that stay at home mothers should be making $73,960 a year, and that’s a conservative number!

And being a working mother is no picnic in the park either. Women all over the world are pitching in on this topic: From Anne-Marie Slaughter’s 2012 Atlantic article to PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi’s comments at the Aspen Ideas Festival this summer, women are talking. Women work hard, and when we work, we invest our whole selves into our jobs. Working mothers then find it hard to balance the attention and care one needs and wants to devote to a child versus the attention and care one needs and wants to devote to their jobs. Working mothers almost always feel as if they’re being stretched in two, pulled in opposite directions. This effect is so strong that a 2010 study conducted by Georgetown University found that employee stress about their children after school is associated with decreased productivity and increased absenteeism.

I have felt this tension in my own life and was determined to fix it. In founding Inkwell, I want to revolutionize the traditional work model.

If mothers, professionals, and all women, are given the flexibility they need to devote all of themselves to both their professional and personal lives, I believe that workforce will finally see the change it needs.

Women can work just as hard as men, but because the majority of household responsibilities still fall on women, they need flexibility to make it all work. Inkwell works by pairing professional mothers with companies looking for contracted part time or full time (but flexible) experts in different fields, allowing women to work on their own terms, on a schedule that fits their lives.

With Inkwell, I hope to not only change the workforce, but also change the way mothers and professionals view their lives, not as either/or, but as one cohesive identity. Women can have it all, but we need to start defining the terms of the arrangement.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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