Making Space for Motherhood: Why is it So Hard?

In a day and age when women are now expected to contribute as much of themselves to their work life as we once did our families and homes, it is baffling to find so many challenges when navigating the workspace comfortably and effectively as a mother. A 2021 McKinsey study shows that businesses led by women tend to outperform those with little to no women in senior positions. This statistic highlights that women and mothers are not only valuable at home but also to our economic wellness and growth. 

There have been some hopeful strides in bridging the gender gap in the workforce, making things appear equal on the surface. For example, in the U.S., women make up about half of the total scientists across STEM fields. While this is a positive fact,  Tara Barrow’s experience at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference can serve as a teachable moment. Barrow’s experience and others like it help pave the way for us to understand the importance of equity and creating solutions that are fair for everyone. 

A common issue women and mothers face is having safe, sanitary, and accommodating spaces to tend to their needs. As a new mom, breastfeeding and pumping become a regular part of a woman’s daily routine. Oftentimes, moms have to prepare to feed or pump at all hours of the day to provide nourishment for their children and maintain their own health. It requires a lot of energy to nurture someone. As mothers, there are rapid, permanent, and constant changes that occur on a cellular level, ultimately priming the mom to be a nurturer. Increased mental, emotional, and physical sensitivity affects the mother for years after the initial stages of postpartum. 

Women, particularly those who have chosen to become moms, live in a completely different world than the rest of us. To avoid the pitfalls that come with playing superwoman, such as mood disorders, decreased performance, insomnia, postpartum mood disorders, and substance abuse, it would be beneficial to consider and provide the accommodations necessary for mothers to rest in our power. 

How Can We Support Moms in the Workplace? 

Fellow mom and researcher Anna Kent shares a few pivotal ideas on how to actively support moms in the workforce, including better benefits and flexibility in the workplace, improved access to quality, affordable child care, and encouraging a deeper respect and understanding for all that women and mothers do at home, at work, and anywhere else we are needed. 

Include the women and mothers in your workplace in a meaningful and mindful dialogue on how to meet their needs more effectively. Regular check-ins and a little more help from our human nature can help us advance toward a more harmonious experience for mothers, their families, and our society as a whole. 

Understanding the biological implications of motherhood and the life-altering changes that come with it, women have been primed with a loving sense of duty that can be channeled into anything we are passionate about and empowered by. If women are driving much of our economic success as it is, imagine how much further we will be when women and mothers truly feel supported and empowered in all that we do.