When you find out you’re pregnant, you’re probably bursting to spill the beans to your partner, your BFF and your mom. One person you’re likely not looking forward to telling? Your boss. For many working women, the “motherhood penalty” is a very real problem: Research has shown that for every child a woman has, her earnings suffer by about five percent.

Add to that the conclusion of a new study—that women have to be nicer at work than men do—and it may not seem like a pretty picture. But, according to career coach Eileen Chadnick, the same skills that make us great moms make us assets in the office.


“This is not a weakness,” Chadnick told Motherly. “You do not need to compromise those beautiful skills of empathy and compassion.”

In the newly released study about how women’s attitudes influence their perceptions in the office place, the authors expressed concern that having to appear “nice” may further slow down a women’s advancement. For their research, which will be included in the forthcoming Human Resource Management journal, they analyzed how supervisors regarded more than 200 computer engineers at a multinational company. They then found that men who self-assessed as confident were more likely to be perceived as influential by colleagues. The women, on the other hand, were only perceived as influential if they were confident and demonstrated a level of concern for their colleagues.

According to Chadnick there’s nothing wrong with looking out for one’s coworkers—but there are a few other actionable ways women can stand out as leaders.

“There are incredibly nice, compassionate women who are very strong and know how to take a stand,” she said. “And they’re trusted and admired by others even if they need to say ‘no’ to their employees.”

In order to be seen as leaders—without constantly getting weighed down by the mental load of caretaking at work—Chadnick suggested working women instead concern themselves with authenticity. As she said, “There’s no reason why women cannot be assertive and liked all at the same time.”

In this way, who could possibly be more qualified than moms? (Raise your hand if you were successfully assertive with little one today! ?)

Thankfully, in her experience as a career coach, Chadnick said it seems more employers are recognizing the advantages of these unique qualities.

“Increasingly, smart organizations are hiring people for leadership roles who are able to grow their team,” she said. “That is not just their own self-confidence, but are they leaning in and developing others.”

And, if there’s one thing moms are great at, it’s helping others grow.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I was blissfully asleep on the couch while my little one was occupied elsewhere with toys, books and my partner. She got bored with what they were doing, escaped from his watch and, sensing my absence, set about looking for me. Finding me on the couch, nose-level, she peeled back my one available eyelid, singing, "Mama? Mama? ...You there? Wake UP!"

Sound familiar? Nothing limits sleep more than parenthood. And nothing is more sought after as a parent than a nap, if not a good night's rest.

But Mother Nature practically guarantees that you are likely to be woken up by a toddler—they're hardwired to find you (and get your attention) when you're "away."


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