Working Like a Mother
Written by Lindsay Bowyer // Edited by Chelsea DuDeVoire
It’s no secret that being a working parent in America is tough.
Between more households becoming dependent on two breadwinners, astronomical childcare costs, and maternity leave policy on par with Swaziland and Papua New Guinea, it’s no wonder American parents poll as less happy than their European counterparts. The pressure to balance work and childrearing is arguably felt most acutely by mothers - who despite being more present than ever in the workforce - are still, of course, largely responsible for maintaining the home.
What often seems to be overlooked in these discussions, though, is what motherhood does for us in our working lives. I can’t speak for everyone, but in a lot of ways I feel like becoming a mom made me a better employee. For starters, knowing a little person that I made is dependent on me for literally everything has motivated me on every level. I don’t just work harder, I worker smarter. Yes, a lot of it is about money - plain and simple - and I do not shy away from picking up extra shifts when I can, as one of my greatest fears is having to reject my daughter an opportunity because I can’t afford to fund it. This is among the reasons I’ve stayed with a restaurant job for so long; I’ve become naturally risk-averse. This may not make for a lot of excitement or advancement, but it does make for stability and some really solid work references. It forces me to focus on the long game: I may be here now, but what can I do to be somewhere different in five years? Being a working mom has taught me to bide my time and be patient.
Beyond money, there are what I think of as less tangible benefits. For one, I feel completely detached from workplace drama. So many of us in the service industry are night owls, but with a family at home, I’m simply not present for a lot of after-hours socializing. As someone who’s already up early to get my daughter to school, I don’t shy away from early morning shifts, and in a pool of employees that largely prefers night shifts, this makes me an asset. At night, I feel more comfortable setting boundaries and saying no, in part to care for my daughter and also to care for myself, as I couldn’t do one without the other.
Whether it’s because it helps other moms at work feel less alone, or because I’m known as someone who can always offer Advil, an extra tube of chapstick or just a gentle hug, being a natural around-the-clock nurturer makes for largely positive working relationships - and some of the benefits come directly from my daughter herself.
I work two jobs and recently received a small raise at my side job. My daughter overheard me talking about it, and while I was downplaying it because it still wasn’t enough to quit the restaurant, her face lit up with pride. “That’s so great, Mommy! I’m so happy for you,” she said. Maybe if all of us heard encouragement like that, we wouldn’t be so quick to brush off small gains and accomplishments. Maybe we wouldn’t be so tempted to sell ourselves short.
My mother worked most of my life; some of my earliest memories are of her kissing me goodnight, smelling of perfume and fresh makeup before she went to work as a bartender until the wee hours of the morning. What I've realized as I've gotten older, and especially once I had my own child, is how much of my mother’s drive came from us - her children. This wasn’t just from necessity (although that was a major factor), it was also from a desire to give my brother and I a good life and perhaps more importantly, to teach us how to work hard, too.
I see echoes of my mother not just in how I work, but how I think about work and what I want to model to my daughter. I can hear her speaking through me all the time: work isn’t always fun, but it is necessary. Sometimes you have to play by rules you don’t like. Work hard, and you can do things like Mommy did someday. All money adds up, and it all spends the same. Spend and save your money wisely, but don’t be afraid of a little fun here and there. Work is important, but not as important as your well-being.
I hope we’ll all live to see a day where working moms have it a little easier here in America. God knows they deserve it. But as Our Lady Beyonce says,
"We’re smart enough to make these millions
Strong enough to bear the children
Then get back to business."
Lindsay is originally from Dallas, TX, but has been a Jacksonville, FL native for 17 years. She's a proud graduate of the University of North Florida where she received her Bachelor's degree in art history and psychology. She loves to read, take walks by herself, hang out with her daughter and boyfriend, and daydream about their next adventure. She works at a locally owned restaurant to pay the bills, but is an artist and writer to survive.