Need a minute,
mama?
Get the best of Motherly—delivered to your inbox.
(We thought so.)
Subscribe to the Motherly Minute
for need-to-know parenting
news + top product recommendations
delivered daily to your inbox.

By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy
and Terms & Conditions

Welcome to
#Team Motherly.

Check your inbox for an email
to confirm your subscription
—we can’t wait to start bringing
the best of Motherly right to you.

Werk is on a mission—to provide flex jobs to mothers where care + career are equally valued

Print Friendly and PDF

Motherly @ Work features the stories and insights of modern women growing their careers—and their families.


Like Anna Auerbach and Annie Dean co-founders and co-CEOs of Werk—a platform providing flex job opportunities to women everywhere. Werk supports that life you envision—you know, the one where you’re able to find that elusive balance between work and life—conference calls and family dinners together at the table. Think jobs where working remotely or limited in-office face time is the norm.

Werk wants you to advance your career without feeling like you need to give anything up. We caught up with Anna and Annie to find out what their hopes and dreams for Werk is and how they came together in the first place.

FEATURED VIDEO

What made you decide to start Werk? How did the collaboration between you two happen?

Anna Auerbach: I’ve had a dozen entrepreneurial ideas over the years. A few I tried, and most were just passing thoughts. But I’d been fixated on the idea of the challenges of women and work, particularly after my son was born. I had been kicking around the initial idea for Werk for about a year, but I needed the right partner to get it off the ground.

Annie Dean: After my second son was born, he had some medical issues I didn’t anticipate. His birth refocused my priorities. I have always been someone with big dreams, and I knew it was time to leave my comfortable law firm job and act on them. I called all my closest girl friends and said, “Look, I want to talk to the smartest women you know. I want to hear what they’re doing.” And very quickly I was introduced to Anna. At the end of an hour long conversation she mentioned the business she’d been dreaming about for a while. We built a business plan, financial projections and our vision in a week, and we’ve been sprinting ever since.

Join Motherly

What was the need in the market for a service like this?

Anna Auerbach: The best businesses solve a problem the founders know intimately. Annie and I both spent our careers in high-level professional services. We both observed that women were leaving the leadership track in droves, usually because they couldn’t reconcile their career with motherhood, and those that stayed were unbelievably overstressed and overtired.

Annie Dean: When I was a young law firm associate at my firm I was like, “What women’s movement?!” I worked so hard, I fought for the best opportunities, I was compensated fairly, I spoke up for myself, and the men (and women) listened to me. But when I was 27, I got pregnant for the first time and the pregnancy was clearly viewed as a lack of commitment. I was hospitalized during the pregnancy because I was overworked. And when I came back, it was clear that no one respected me anymore. My work streams were gone. I was miserable and my confidence was destroyed.

No matter how hard I worked I couldn’t get anywhere, not at home and not at work. It took me a year to recover from that environment. Then I started critically thinking about what happened. I realized the situation was not my fault, and that potentially it was an institutional failure that could be fixed.

As a culture, we need to figure out how to help women on their way to the top stay on track in the context of caregiving.

Women are going to keep having children. This is an exciting fact for the future of the human race! But unless we fix things, women are going to keep getting squeezed out of the leadership track.

Do you feel the workforce is currently changing for the better for mothers?

Annie Dean: We’re making progress—good progress in some areas—but it’s incremental and based on patching up a broken system that often systematically disadvantages women and parents. The hidden underlying premise inherent in an all-or-nothing work culture, is: “Working moms don’t belong here, at least not right now.” We reject that premise. We’re insulted by it. And we think fellow mothers should be too.

As high-level employees, we’ve been encouraged to focus on achievement, and outsource care. But that’s not what we want.

The next phase of the women’s movement is about embracing ambition and care simultaneously, and equally.

Women need flexibility to perform at their highest potential, and to advance. Companies need women in the highest positions of leadership. If companies do not provide and encourage flexibility, they will force women to opt-out or force them off the leadership path.

We aren’t going to solve this problem by telling women to cobble together freelance work for five years while they have small children. We aren’t going to solve this problem with “family friendly policies” if there isn’t any support for women who need flexible work arrangements, which demoralizes the high-performing women who need them, and the high-potential women that work under them. We are going to solve this problem by building real, advancement-track positions that are compatible with the lives of the talented women that are qualified to fill them—and that’s what Werk is all about.

Is there one key ingredient for making working motherhood work? Is it flexibility? Something else?

Annie Dean: Empathy. Working moms need empathy from the people in their lives, and they need to be patient with themselves. Ultimately, flexibility is about empathy.

How can companies improve conditions for working parents—so that they retain the best of the best talent (some of which are parents) by creating an environment that parents can thrive in?

Annie Dean: We need women to consult on these issues—particularly younger women who are less entrenched in company culture and can be truly vocal about what their needs are.

In the absence of that advice, we need male leaders to actively imagine what it’s like to be a woman and what our needs are. We need flexibility in terms of our in-office hours. We need the ability to respond to our family landscape, like come in late if our kid has a doctor’s appointment or was up all night with a fever. We need breast feeding facilities, and market-rate family leave policies.

These are the very basic elements of what it means to create an inclusive environment for women. There are many, many other aspects of integration that are more subtle. But let’s focus on what we can win at.

What kinds of roles do you offer?

Anna Auerbach: We offer full-time flex and part-time senior-level positions. The full-time flex roles that we offer are regular, full-time, full-compensation, promotion-track roles. They just have an element of flexibility built in. That could mean that the you head out at 5pm every day to eat dinner with your family and put your kids in the bath, so that you can plug back in after bedtime. Or it could mean one or two days working from home, or unlimited vacation days, among other things.

We help women negotiate the deal that works best for them by normalizing the conversation.

The part-time roles we offer are senior level positions at small, scaling start-ups, like a part-time CFO or part-time COO. Startups want the exceptional talent, but they can’t compete with the full-time salaries at big law firms or banks. So we find them the best talent on a part-time salary. And we provide the women with a part-time role that is worthy of her time.

When sourcing our opportunities we require that each role is both flexible and ambitious. No more motherhood penalty, no more mommy track.

How can women use their maternity leave to reimagine or to advance their career?

Annie Dean: I love this question! My two maternity leaves were my most creative and productive periods of my life. I built a company during my first maternity leave, which ultimately failed. And during my second maternity leave, I built Werk with Anna.

Maternity leave can be crazy and very unstructured, and instead of imposing order on the experience, I really let myself just take each day as its own adventure. After I recovered and got settled, I read so many books! I stayed inspired! I sang to my babies a lot. I had so much “free time” to think creatively and think big. As all new moms know—“free time” is a relative term.

The days were disjointed and bizarre. I wore the same outfit everyday and never really washed my hair. I slept in 2 hour increments. But I was able to do a lot of things for my soul.

What inspires you to do this work?

Anna Auerbach: I spent the last eight years of my career in nonprofit and philanthropy. I’ve always been committed to making a difference and, at the same time, being very entrepreneurial. Werk combines those drives in the most perfect way. Every day, I wake up motivated to move this business forward. Not only am I ensuring that women never feel forced to opt out when they didn’t intend to—but it’s also amazing to build a business from the ground up.

What are your hopes and dreams for Werk?

Anna Auerbach: We’re out to reinvent work for women…millions of them. The vision is lofty, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Werk is the only company out there bringing leadership ambitions and motherhood into focus at a scalable level. We see ourselves as the future of the women’s movement—valuing care and career equally. And we’re working like crazy to advance the cause. Demonstrating to the investment community that betting on what women want wins. Influencing business leaders and cultures at large to get the best out of their women employees. And, most importantly, empowering every professional woman who crosses our path.

How did you come up with the name Werk, and what is the symbolism behind the name?

Annie Dean: WORK is all about showing up, going through the motions.

WERK is about nailing it, looking in the mirror and knowing, “I GOT this.”

But no one woman is going to fix this problem on her own. We need to do it together. That’s our inspiration: this generation of women is game-changing. We can’t turn work into werk without the we.

What does “Motherly” mean to you?

Annie Dean: Being motherly is about resilience. It’s about being tough enough to keep giving long after our reserves of patience are gone. As mothers we choose love on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Nothing has made me tougher, more focused or more dedicated than motherhood, and no experience has been more hard-won.

Anna Auerbach: Being motherly means it’s not about you anymore. It’s about this amazing tiny person. And how you ruthlessly reprioritize every day to make sure you do right by them.

?Can we get a slow clap for these ladies? ?


Join Motherly

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Thanks for subscribing!

Check your email for a confirmation message.

By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions

As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

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


Our Partners

On Friday President Trump announced that the Centers for Disease Control is now advising people to wear a cloth mask if they need to go out in public. It's not a rule, he says, but a recommendation.

"It's really going to be a voluntary thing," President Trump told reporters. "I'm not choosing to do it."

First Lady Melania Trump is urging others to do it, tweeting, "As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously. #COVID19 is a virus that can spread to anyone—we can stop this together."

What the CDC says about cloth face masks:

The CDC says it's recommending cloth face masks because recent studies show that people can have COVID-19 while asymptomatic, meaning they feel fine and because they don't know they are sick they might still be going about their daily routine in their community.

FEATURED VIDEO

Basically, masks don't protect the wearer as much as they protect people from the wearer (who might not know they are sick) by blocking respiratory droplets

"So it's not going to protect you, but it is going to protect your neighbor," Dr. Daniel Griffin at Columbia University, an expert on infectious diseases, tells NPR.

CDC experts are "advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure."

They say if you're going somewhere where it's hard to maintain the proper social distance of six feet, like a grocery store or a pharmacy, then it's a good idea to wear a simple cloth mask.

"The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance," the CDC states.

"You may need to improvise a cloth face covering using a scarf or bandana," the agency notes on its website.

A DIY cloth mask is an extra layer of protection:

The CDC still says that staying home and practicing good hand hygiene is the best protection against COVID-19, but a cloth mask would be an extra layer of protection if you must go out to get food or unavoidable medical care.

According to Dr. Scott Segal, chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, certain types of fabric are better than others when it comes to making a mask. While he CDC says improvised bandanas or scarfs are better than nothing, Segal says DIY mask makers should aim a little higher for the masks to be effective.

"You have to use relatively high-quality cloth," Dr.Segal, who is researching this topic, tells NBC News.

According to Segal you don't want to use a knit fabric (like an old T-shirt) but rather a woven fabric. He suggests a double layer of heavyweight cotton with a thread count of at least 180 (like quilters cotton). If you don't have a cotton with that high of a thread count, line it with flannel.

For more tips on how to sew a fabric face mask, check out these instructions from Kaiser Permanente.

No-sew methods:

If you're not a sewer you can still fashion a mask, and there are plenty of no-sew tutorials online showing you how. Use heavyweight woven fabric like Segal suggests and make one of these without a sewing machine.

How To Make a Pleated Face Mask // Washable, Reusable, No-Sewing Required youtu.be

Should kids wear masks? Talk to your doctor.

The CDC is not recommending masks if you're just going for a walk around the block or playing in the backyard (which is the extent of most kids' outings these days). The masks are more for grocery runs, which many parents are opting to do alone these days.

But solo parents and those with partners who are in the military know that leaving the kids behind isn't always an option if you're the only adult in the home. If that's your circumstance, choose delivery options when possible to avoid taking your children to public places like grocery stores and pharmacies (the kinds of places the CDC recommends masks for).

If you are concerned that you may need to take your child somewhere where a mask would be required, call your pediatrician for advice on whether a mask is appropriate for your child's age and circumstances. Babies' faces should not be covered.

If you have no one to watch your children while you get groceries and cannot get them delivered try contacting your local government, community groups and churches for leads on grocery delivery help. They may be able to put you in touch with someone who can fetch groceries for you so that you don't have to take your children to the store with you.

News

Lizzie climbed up the playground stairs on all fours, walked across the small suspension bridge and slid down the big red slide at our neighborhood park. I followed just inches behind my 4-year-old daughter ready to catch her.

I had become her shadow by necessity. Her actions were often unpredictable and sometimes dangerous so my arms became her safety net. Her big brown eyes and unruly curly brown hair encapsulated her carefree spirit, and I adored her with a love I never thought myself capable of.

She walked over to the swings and stood there, stiff, her eyes glazed over. She didn't look to me for help. She didn't point, raise her arms up or ask me to place her in the swing. But I knew what she wanted—I sensed it.

FEATURED VIDEO

"Do you want to swing, Lizzie?" I asked in a gentle voice. She remained silent.

I didn't expect an answer, but I always asked in hopes today was the day she would choose to use her voice to form a word for the sake of communicating with me. I placed her in the swing anyway and pushed her to the exact height I knew she preferred.

A look of contentment came across her face and a giant smile curled her lips. She was in her happy place. This place was a place I wasn't allowed in—not yet anyway. She lived in an alternative universe inside her head, and after the park, we would spend the rest of the day inside using therapy techniques to pull her from this place into the real world. I missed my daughter and the connection we once had.

There were so many quirks I thought were hers alone, when in fact they were symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.

Here are five possible signs of autism parents should know about. If you notice something that concerns you, please reach out to your pediatrician.

1. Change in language

As a baby, Lizzie's language gradually changed from babbling to gibberish. "With typically developing language skills, infants will babble often as early as two to three months indicating first instances of intentional and social communication," says licensed clinical speech language pathologist Julie Liberman. "An early sign of autism may be seen in infants creating nonsense syllables without added social-communicative behaviors."

Lizzie lost her social-communicative sounds and began to mimic noises from her environment such as screeching sounds or sirens. She also developed a few sounds such as "diddle diddle" that she would repeat all day long. The transition was subtle and slow—enough that at first I didn't recognize that it was happening. .

2. Sensory processing issues

"Sensory processing is how our brain and body organize and respond to sensory information. Issues develop when we are over or under-responsive to sensory information which impacts the body's ability to organize it, or modulate it and so responses range outside of typical parameters and dysregulation is observed," writes licensed occupational therapist Rachel Wolverton.

Lizzie walked on her tiptoes, flapped her arms when she was excited and ran full speed into the couch cushions over and over again. Many toddlers do similar behaviors, and we thought she was just being quirky and adorable. As part of her diagnosis, though, we came to understand that these repeated behaviors were signals that her processing was under-stimulated. She needed these movements to help her body and brain function. This also works the opposite way, too. Many kids are over-sensitive to lights, sounds and/or touch, so they become easily overstimulated. They might cover their ears, melt down when clothes are put on their bodies or withdraw from crowds.

3. Lack of response to name

Lizzie displayed what I call "selective hearing." I would stand in front of her, saying her name with a raised voice and she wouldn't respond or look up. She appeared to be deaf, but as soon as the theme song from her favorite Dora the Explorer TV show came on, she would run from the other room to watch.

As autistic teen advocate Matteo Musso explains, "Because we hear your voice so much, we don't usually respond to our name. It's that you say our name the same way all the time. A TV is more auditorily complex. One-word, same voice, can get lost in our thoughts and in our brain."

4. Repetitive behavior

My daughter began lining up her toys by color and her green peas at the dinner table. We thought she was brilliant! She is brilliant, but as it turns out, not because of her repetitive behavior.

While many children love repetition—as any parent who's got their child's favorite bedtime story memorized knows—what I learned is that the kind of repetitive behavior we saw in Lizzie is one of the core symptoms of autism.

"Individuals with autism typically find much comfort in repetitive behaviors, giving them a sense of control over their environment in a quite unruly world," says Dr. Caroline W. Ford, clinical psychologist and director of the Fairhill School and Diagnostic Assessment Center in Dallas. As she explains, autistic children experience real difficulty when their repetitive behaviors are interrupted: "When asked to change or alter the repetitive behavior, many autistic children become overly anxious."

5. Loss of connection

One of the most beautiful moments between mother and child is the first time her baby looks into her mom's eyes. It was in that moment with Lizzie, the connection formed was so strong I knew I would be willing to do anything for her.

Slowly over the course of months, she became more and more distant. She wandered around the house aimlessly and didn't seem to need me at all. As long as there was food and drink available, she was content to be all alone. It was hard to measure because it was a feeling, a distancing, a loss of connection. I second-guessed my feelings regularly. Mothers have a built-in intuition with their children, which should never be underestimated.

After my daughter's diagnosis with autism at the age of two, we researched and implemented a 30-hours-a-week home therapy program (although it's important to know that early intervention supports can also be found through community organizations and school systems—you don't have to do this alone). Now, I'm happy to say, Lizzie has made good progress, and I've found (and offered) support in the generous community of parents of autistic children like mine. I even started a non-profit, United in Autism, which partners with local charities to bring community-building, emotional-support events to special needs moms all over the country.

My daughter continues to be a source of joy and amazement. Most importantly, I know now that my daughter and I are not alone—and we never were.

Learn + Play

Starting this weekend Target and Walmart will be limiting the number of people allowed in its stores to give shoppers and staff more space to spread out and adhere to social distancing recommendations during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Beginning April 4, Target will actively monitor and, when needed, limit the total number of people inside based on the store's specific square footage," Target notes in a news release.

Walmart's corporate message is similar: "Starting Saturday, we will limit the number of customers who can be in a store at once. Stores will now allow no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet at a given time, roughly 20 percent of a store's capacity."

FEATURED VIDEO

At Target you will also notice staff wearing gloves and masks over the next two weeks as the company steps up its coronavirus protection measures.

Many people are choosing to stay home and order groceries online, but that's not an option for everyone as long lines at some Target's prove.

"We're incredibly proud of the commitment our more than 350,000 frontline team members have demonstrated to ensure millions of guests can count on Target, and we'll continue to focus our efforts on supporting them," says Target's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, John Mulligan.

Target is open this weekend but—along with Costco, Aldi, Publix and Trader Joe's—Target stores will be closed on Easter Sunday to give the essential employees in these stores a much-deserved break.

News

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."

FEATURED VIDEO

According to attachment theory, when you respond to the needs of your child, a strong bond is formed and woven into their personality, serving as a basis for all future emotional ties. So your kids love and depend on you. And they can feel anxious when involuntarily separated from you, like when you are asleep.

Child psychologist Esther Cohen suggests that it is fairly universal that infants and toddlers try to open the eyes of their sleeping parents. Her theory is that when you are present, but with your eyes shut, you are not responsive, and on some level this causes your child a form of "emotional distress." So the best and easiest way for them to feel better is to wake you up.

Cohen believes that reestablishing eye contact bridges the gap between your physical presence and your emotional presence, making the situation feel normal again. Your kids are relieved that you are alert and there to interact with them—and that you are available to protect them.

Kids are hardwired to seek our attention all the time.

At birth, your brain is only about 25% of its adult volume. Born particularly vulnerable, you depend on years of loving care. This prolonged helplessness has resulted in the evolution of certain behaviors—like baby coos, smiles and crying—that increase your odds of survival within your family.

By the time you are a toddler, you've developed a sense of who you are and what you can do in relation to people and things. You also know that you are a separate person from your parents. Toddlers also have the sense of what's called object permanence—the ability to understand who or what is, or is not, present. That means you can search for objects and people. (And wake them up when you find them.)

Bottom line: When you sneak off for a nap and your toddler looks for you, know that this is a natural instinct for them, and they will grow out of it. But for now, when you are asleep, you are not there, so your kids must. wake. you. up.

And for an extra fun fact: Research indicates that this also could be why it's so hard for you to ignore your partner when working from home. They are there, but technically not available, so you

continually find reasons to interact with them—just like waking them up from a nap. 😉
Life
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.