My experience, thoughts and confusion behind motherhood and exclusion
Before having my daughter, I spent a lot of time trying to wrap my head around potential schedules in which I could fit in work time after she was born. At the time, my schedule was well-planned; I was content and flexible. As I skated through my pregnancy with these thoughts in my head, I was convinced my daughter would have a solid routine, sleep x-times per day, and I’d get a solid amount of work in on a daily basis. I mean, I’m a founder, have managed a company before, dealt with greuling schedules and have gone without sleep. It couldn’t be that hard juggling work and being a mother, right? Right. Let’s take a moment to realize the ridiculousness of this thought and have a moment of silence for me.
Okay enough. Now meet the other me. The side that panicked about not having time to work, wondered whether or not my peers, colleagues, and others in tech wouldn’t take me as seriously because I had a child, worried that I might fall drastically behind in in my career, and didn’t want to be seen as a mom who isn’t physically capable of adding more to my work/life plate.
I’d like to say the thoughts and anxiety were irrational, but the fear was real to me. It helped knowing I was and am not the only mother with this fear. But realistically, I needed to figure out a happy medium to ensure both my desires as a mother and for my career could live happily ever after. As one of the many women who are doubted for being not only a woman but now a mother, I certainly needed to prove what others think about a mother in the workforce (in this particular case, tech) is the only irrational thought here. So once Emma was born, I focused heavily on figuring out the best way to hack it as a mom in tech and came up with something that ensured max productivity* and time spent with my daughter.
Endurance and dedication
Even before becoming a mother, I never could understand why managers were hesitant to hire a woman with children. Women make up over half of the population of this earth and over 45% of the global workforce. After becoming a mom, implementing the routine changes and seeing them in action, I couldn’t fathom why people saw any mother in the workforce as weak. Let’s not even discuss what actually has to happen to bring that human being in to this world. Weak? Oh word? I.think.not.
I took about 3 months off after having Emma. I had the luxury of not only working on my own projects, but working from home to do so, and I checked in on the status of things each week. My husband took 3 of the 12 months’ paternity leave that Germany allowed, and it benefited our entire family in ways one cannot fathom. Between breastfeeding (for 1.5 months, before I got sick), not sleeping, and wondering how I wasn’t dying after sleeping only 3 hours over the course of a few days (this repeated weekly for months), I couldn’t imagine how we could function if we attempted do anything other than taking care of Emma. Date night? No. Blinking alone was exhausting. And it pained me to think about so many women in America who are forced to go back to work 6 weeks after the birth. It’s physically unhealthy, arguably unnatural and sends a clear message about how we value life.
But after 3 months, we were in a groove. Ben and I had the itch to get back to working on our projects and were determined to make that work while not sacrificing any Emma time. By then, she was sleeping 6–8 hours per night, which was a godsend. But many other mothers don’t have the luxuries I had and have. For starters, Ben and I have pretty simple lives and work from home. On top of that, we had always split the housework and that carried into our routine once Emma arrived. He also picked up the cooking, and considered it an even trade-off given the fact that I had just manufactured a human in 9 months and became velcro for said human.
Given that, when men in positions of power have the audacity to question new mothers’ work ethic and dedication, I think of the painful exhaustion these women survive, the breast pumping they do throughout the day (even when they’re belittled and harassed for it), and the fact that they’re responsible for another human being — not including trying to keep their careers afloat and worrying about losing their jobs because their boss is a prick and/or the government sucks for putting small business owners in a binding position.
Productivity on max
I struggle to wrap my head around the idea that mothers are less productive or focused. And the more I hear it being said (to other women) the more I became genuinely confused rather than angry.
Being a mom taught me how to maximize productivity within the time constraints I have. Many say an infant’s sleep pattern drastically improves and planning is so much easier once they turn 3 months old. As I write this, I can safely tell you, that’s horse shit. And there’s simply no way to sugar coat that.
But even though the amount of time I can work now has drastically decreased on a daily basis to about half of what I was, my productivity level has drastically increased. Before, 40 hours of work was made up of my tasks for the day, plus number of diversions like perusing social media or populating my GIF collection (don’t judge). These days with Emma, I never know how the day will go, so I truly make the most of my time — which includes knowing when I can be most zoned-in and when it’s alright to slack off a bit. This, in turn, benefits my offline life. I know now that my daily work time is cut into smaller chunks (1.5 hours, 2x per day, when Emma naps) and about 2 hours where Ben spends 1:1 time with her so I can get work done. A total of 4–5 hours per day.
Whether we like it or not, we — not only as mothers, but as women — wrongfully have a lot to prove. I’ve always advocated for gender equality in the workforce, but after experiencing a different and new kind of fear about my career and knowing how much harder I have to work now as a mother, it infuriates me. Does the advocacy work? Yes. Solely because in order for change to happen, it needs to be continually discussed. Gender equality and equality for mothers in the work force needs to continually be a relevant topic. And it starts with exposure and cultural shift.
While a number of companies will argue the reasons for their behavior, the numbers don’t lie. Researchers found that having more women in leadership positions was tied to greater profitability, but “are still underrepresented at every corporate level and hold less than 30% of roles in senior management”.**
Let’s not forget that the reluctance to hire a mother heavily implies that a father handles and prioritizes the situation differently. I can safely tell you, Benedikt values and prioritizes this job of parenting the same way I do. As do many other fathers. But what message does it send if we preach the importance of a human life but refuse to provide the support necessary for that human’s foundation in this world?
In order for that foundation to be stable, it requires maternity and paternity leave, job security for a healthy mother returning to work once her partner and child have bonded the adequate amount, and ideally a company culture that embraces family rather than a clear reluctance to support its existence. And that starts with our government providing companies with the tools and financial stability in order to do so, along with penalizing those who intentionally sabotage mothers (and women in general) in the workforce.
At the end of the day, nobody should ever live in fear or be made to feel inadequate and less committed at work for being a mother. No reason is good enough to treat any human being that way, but of all things, not for being a mother. Will you need to go get your kid from the nurse’s office for a belly ache someday? Probably. Are the odds high that some days you’ll go into work exhausted? Yep. Goodness I’m so exhausted. But remember, you’re doing two jobs. So moms, don’t let anyone ever tell you you’re not a strong candidate or not dedicated enough to the job. Continue to push forward and lean-in against the insecurity and fear. You literally tore your body apart to bring a human into this world. If you ask me, you can run circles around most in the strength and dedication department.
Are you a mom in tech who has gone through this before? I’d love to hear your experiences.
Pregnant or a first-time mom who has a ton of questions? Let me know if I can help in any way!
Reach out via email or on Twitter
*I use Gyroscope (Pro) to monitor both my productivity and physical health
**Research can be found here
Huge thank you to Holly Hetherington for helping me with this post and everyone who gave it a proof-read.