Working Mothers Have the Chance to Make a Generational Change in the Workplace

One mom's transitional shift from working woman to stay-at-home mom motivated her to fight for more recognition and appreciation for mothers' multitasking abilities to be great at all things—work, home and beyond.
working mothers generational change

When I was 32 years old, I made a vision board, and at the top, in big bold letters, I put “Director of Operations.” It was the name of the ultimate position I was striving for in my career at the time; a goal I could reach in five to five to 10 years. 

I earned the title within one year. Partly by luck, but also because I was a beast. Fourteen-hour days? No problem—and with a smile. Travel last minute overseas? Happily. Take the younger staff out for drinks to boost morale. Every week! I was the only female at the director level and the only female at any table most of the time. I thrived and I loved every moment.

Like many ambitious women, working was my normal, natural state. Since the age of 15, I always had a job. Internships, part-time work and a quick transition to a full-time job the week after college graduation. But it was not just work to me—I found sincere satisfaction in giving it my all. 

Working hard was the only way I knew, and I was driven to succeed. This earned me respect amongst my peers and praise from my leadership. It eventually became a large part of my self-identity and I was proud of my work ethic and success. I also made lasting relationships in each of my jobs, so I felt like I was at the top of my game, confident that I could knock down any challenge that I faced.

Growing up I was told I could do anything I wanted. I could be whatever I wanted. I could have it all. 

I would have opportunities my mother didn’t have. Being a woman was no longer what would stand in my way and I needed to make the best of it, make my own money and not rely on any man to provide for me. Sounds great right? I had one focus and I was locked in. Nothing could stop my ambition, my dreams. Unless part of that dream was to also have a family. 

Enter: Motherhood 

Before kids, I thought going back to work would be easy. I was a boss before, so handling children and a family was going to be a breeze. I was already handling and wearing so many hats and tasks at work I thought having a child would just be an easy thing to add in. (Obviously I had no clue.)

I had visions of my son or daughter being in my office playing happily in a crib while I worked and answered emails. They would be in a carrier with me as I walked the stadium pregame and I’d put them down for a nap just before the game started so I could get back to my work and my sense of self. I had proved my worth time and time again. I got things done, I managed teams of people and large-scale events and I reached my dream job in record time. I wasn’t in the same generation as my mom who had to find a job to fit in with her home life—I was going to get to do both, and do each well. 

I quickly realized this was not reality. 

First of all, getting pregnant did not come easily. For years I was terrified I could potentially become pregnant because I missed a day of my birth control, or the condom broke so when it came time to actually try to get pregnant, I had delusional thoughts about how easy it would be. The planner in me was very upset and anxious when, for a whole year, we did everything the doctor said and I was not pregnant. 

We listened to schedules and tried when we needed to—even when we did not want to —because we were tired and I felt like a failure. We got the diagnosis: unexplained fertility. We tried intrauterine insemination (IUI), which turned out to be incredibly painful due to the fact that my cervix is tilted. When we got the news that it was not successful we started the IVF process. 

Because I was 36 at the time, I was categorized as “geriatric” so they advised us to implant two embryos to increase my chances. I was very happy when I went to the first ultrasound and saw two babies, my twins, thriving. 

I worked until I was unable to drive myself to work due to the size of my belly. I was relieved to finally have a break, and I gave birth soon afterward. Like my pregnancy, my birthing story was pretty run of the mill. 

I had a C-section at 38 weeks and five days as planned, because, of course, my type-A personality had to stick to the schedule. Both boys were healthy with no NICU time and a combined 12+ pounds between them. 

Becoming a “working mom”

After we had our twins, it became apparent that I would be unable to continue working. My job was not a work-from-home-type role. I worked in an events arena which required many hours on the ground. The thought of trying to find a space to breastfeed in between events while managing a large workforce just didn’t feel like something I wanted or could take on. With tears in my eyes, I sent my resignation letter. 

There were schedules to follow and I had to prioritize my health to continue making enough milk for two babies. Luckily my husband made enough to provide for the family while I navigated this new role. We ultimately decided that being home full-time with my boys was the right decision for our family—the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. 

The workforce was a large part of who I was and how I identified. Deciding to leave my job felt like I was losing a large part of my identity. 

As time went on, I yearned for adult interaction and to be more than just a “mother.” I felt guilty that so many mothers wanted to be home with their kids and not working—and here I was dying to go back to work, where I thrived and my peers respected me. I felt bad about spending money on myself because now I wasn’t contributing to that joint account, even though my husband never made me feel this way. 

I used to feel like an equal to my husband since we were both working full-time and contributing to the bills. Now I felt like a lesser partner and honestly, a lesser human being, as I wasn’t doing much other than being a mother. 

My husband and I decided I would start looking for a job after a year, but I was unsure of what that would even look like. In nine months a lot of what made me stand out as a stellar employee and boss, the long hours, the after-hour fun, was gone. How would I succeed now? 

Interviewing with “mom” on my resume

I interviewed for my first job and I thought I had done really well. My one “downfall” was that I was a mom. They didn’t say that out loud of course, but the subject of me having kids came up. Obviously, in a nice way, they said, “Oh twins! That’s great! And who is with them now? And would you be able to work at the last minute if we needed you?” 

I’ve hit this hurdle many times in the five years since the boys have been born. Luckily, I’ve been able to keep my work chops active as I took on projects and freelance work, but trying to find full-time work has been challenging. “My clients prefer to see more continuity in a candidate’s resume,” was some of the feedback from the recruiters. I guess continuing to manage the household, care for two five-year old’s, sustain a marriage, remain a constant in my friends’ lives and be a good daughter was not enough continuity for them.

Claudia Goldin recently won the Nobel Memorial Prize in economics for her study on women in the workplace and the “motherhood penalty.” (It’s worth mentioning, she is the only female to accomplish this on her own!) Her research has several findings that we, as mothers, can relate to. One is that, until there is couple equity at home, there will never be pay equity. That’s because when women are tasked with taking care of the children, managing the household and elder care, “they have less time to dedicate to their careers and, in doing so, they earn less,” Goldin explains. They also found that the pay gap begins to widen a year or two after the first child is born. What a coincidence! 

Recently I was able to participate in an online discussion about mothers in the workplace and when I asked how to navigate being upfront about having a family and the stigma mothers get versus fathers the moms replied, “You should never feel bad about being a mom.” But I didn’t feel bad about being a mom, I felt bad about having that take away from my ambition in my career. Could I still do the 14-hour workdays? Unlikely. But do I even want to do those 14-hour workdays anymore? No. Do I still want to give my best at work, thrive for the good of the company, and always present a professional front? Absolutely. The good news is I can do that level of work now in 8-9 hours instead of 14. After all, I am still me, just better than before because I have a new appreciation for the important things, a renewed purpose in life, and two small humans who are looking to me to set the example. 

I’ve come to realize that, if we can continue to fight to prove we belong here then it should get easier for the next generation because more mothers will be in a place of leadership and able to initiate change. We can champion the work-life balance, we can champion a work leave or career pause. We can lift other women and mothers who are struggling and see them in the workplace. My mother didn’t have that role model or that societal acceptance of being a working mom, so she didn’t have a support system at work, and I saw her struggle when she had to leave early because my brother and I were sick. It caused strain on her but also my brother and me because we had to decide when we were sick enough to get mom “in trouble” at work. We can change this for future generations and maybe my niece will have more role models to look up to and maybe my sons will champion the working mother.

So where do we go from here? The only path forward is to keep going. We, as mothers, need to keep working hard and show off those newly honed mother skills in the workplace. Organization, multitasking and patience make sense but also empathy and compassion are things the workplace needs more of. (And potentially more snacks or the occasional band-aid). If we want to work and provide for our families, we should be able to do so and we shouldn’t be penalized for it. The workforce is at a crossroads and employers need to join the current climate and realize that mothers can manage the household and be successful at work. 

I am still a beast because I can be a mother and a daughter and a wife and a friend and a human and do all the things and still be a provider and an amazing employee/co-worker. My new vision board has a new phrase on it: ALL THE THINGS.

Make sure you check out The Mother Chapter for more relatable stories on motherhood.


  • Sofia Parkes

    Sofia Parkes is a wife, friend, sister, daughter, and working mom from Long Island, New York. She is a sports aficionado, loves 90s hip hop and traveling. This is her first-ever writing piece.

Share the Post:

Related Posts