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As a working mom, I dread The Question. You know the one, since literally every mother who either wants and/or needs to work outside the home has been asked The Question a bare minimum of six thousand times.
“How do you do it all?”
This, of course, usually means “How do you manage to work and raise children simultaneously?” I’ve been asked a variation of The Question more times than I can count, and more often than not the person posing The Question is waiting for me to wax poetic about how meaningful motherhood is, or crack a joke about how little I’m sleeping and how my meals have devolved into nothing more than chicken nugget and mac & cheese leftovers. The reality, however, is far easier to convey: there are some things I simply can’t be bothered to care about anymore, and that has made both work and parenthood much easier to handle.
This is not to say that I’ve become apathetic towards my career since popping out a kid. In fact, the exact opposite is true: I have found more meaning in my work, and instinctively cling to the moments when my work validates the non-mom related parts of me. I’m more productive, more focused, more creative, and more goal-oriented now that I’m a mom. And as it turns out, science is on my side, too: a 2014 study found that moms are more productive than employees without children. I care very deeply about my job and my career trajectory, as I believe it vital to my ability to maintain a sense of self of an identity that isn’t tethered to my children.
It’s just that, there are certain aspects of #WorkLife that are… well, how do I put this? A complete and total waste of time. And nothing will throw those things right into focus like a needy newborn or a strong-willed toddler. Us moms “do it all” (whatever that means) not because we’re super human (We need help! And support! And we make mistakes!) or because we’ve managed to lean all the way into the unrealistic expectations of working moms to the point of burnout (don’t do this!). It’s because we’ve found a way to be more efficient, by not giving a single solitary you-know-what about the following:
1. Getting your inbox to zero
It’s a futile endeavour. Seriously, it’s never. going. to. happen. And that’s OK. Even the most unruly email inbox pales in comparison to the utter devastation that is your living room after your two kids spend 20 minutes playing together. You can deal with a little bit of mess.
2. Being constantly available
Fear of being judged or unfairly scrutinized for being a working mom is real, and not unfounded.
As moms, our wages decrease 4% with each child we have, we’re less likely to be hired, and managers assume we care less about our careers after we have kids. So if you feel like you have to constantly be “on,” lest your manager or coworkers hold it against you, you’re not alone.
But motherhood has a way of reminding us, in the most blunt of ways, that we have to find a balance that allows us the opportunity to also focus on ourselves. You know, the whole “put your own oxygen mask on first” thing. So when that initial fear subsides (if it ever existed), us moms are all about setting those out of office replies and shutting our computers and shifting our focus from work to our families.
3. Office gossip
Alright, so it’s still a tad enticing. The drama of Sesame Street can only take us so far, and sure there’s Real Housewives and Shahs of Sunset, but you don’t know those people like you know your coworkers. This is free entertainment!
But it’s also exhausting, and you have the drama of the Kindergarten playground to worry about, too. Because if that little Karen pushes your 5-year-old one more time…
4. Keeping work life and personal life separate
It’s simply impossible, especially in the era of COVID-19 when we’re working from home and our feral children are making unscheduled Zoom cameos and screaming in the background during conference calls. Who cares if someone sees your kid? Hell, your baby will be a stand-in reprieve from the humdrum of the work day and whatever meeting you’re in (that could have definitely just been an email). There’s no reason to pretend like you don’t have a life outside of work. Because you do, and it’s pretty great, too.
5. Being constantly “in the know”
Micromanaging is not the name of your work game. Nobody has the time for that, and it’s a productivity hindrance. You’re more than happy to stay in your lane, focus on what you’re best at, and if there’s pressing information looming in the near future, you’re sure someone will let you know. You’re more than happy to let go a little and trust that the people around you will handle things on their end.
6. Asking for time off or a sick day
Again, fear of being judged for taking time off or a sick day (even though they’re legal and you’re allowed to take them!) is real. But life happens, especially when your life is at least partially dedicated to caring for the lives of others. Kids get sick, kids get hurt, kids spend nights at the emergency room with mentally and emotionally exhausted parents. Time off and sick days are often a necessity, so us moms get really great at putting in those requests and facilitating those conversations.
7. How much your coworkers are making
Just kidding. Seriously, ask those you work with what their salaries are and ask often! Moms are paid 71 cents for every dollar dads make. Pay inequity is real, and worse for Black women and women of color. So advocate for pay transparency and share those salaries! Other stuff, feel free to let it go. You won’t miss it — and you won’t be held back by it.
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