Last week, I shared my thoughts on the importance of speaking up when things have gone horribly wrong in society. I also shared that I would be hosting my “Black Out Show” as my first Ask Czarina Live after vacation. What I didn’t realize was how much extra courage and strength I had to muster up to get through my show.
It’s one thing to tell yourself you are going to do something monumental. It is quite another thing to recognize your accountability to deliver a message and story that resonates in spite of the difficulty of the topic.
Prior to the show, I watched the videos of the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile killings again. I watched the breaking news stories for the slain police officers and I immediately became emotional. I attempted to put on makeup to make myself appear as if I had it together, but the reality was I was a milli-second away from falling apart for everyone to see.
At the stroke of 10 pm, I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I knew that I was speaking for more than just myself which pushed me beyond my very palpable fear. I remembered those two little girls pictured above and recognized the duty I have as their mother and as a woman to show them that nothing should prevent them from being fully seen, appreciated and heard in this world.
I want my daughters to know that raising your voice when others find it easier to be quiet takes courage. I am showing them through my own actions that speaking the truth in a time when it is preferential to lie takes strength. In the end, I hope they will see that business should not only be profitable, but socially responsible.
An hour and nine minutes later, I felt lighter and proud that I delivered on my promise. My viewers kept up their end of the bargain as they listened without starting any arguments, fights etc. All of this proving that we can have civil discussions around race issues and politics, if we first are willing to listen more than we speak. It also illustrated that we all can speak up without it being disastrous for our reputations and businesses.
As a friend of mine shared, you can’t go wrong when your words are from your heart and they are delivered with poise and professionalism.
In case you missed the show live, I am making sure to share it with my readers here. Thank you to those of you who have reached out to share your feedback on the show. It really makes me feel good to know, I made a difference by using my voice and platform.
This week, I am finding it hard not to reflect on being a mother with Mother’s Day coming this Sunday.
I sincerely believe that all of the blessings and transformative instances I have experienced over the past seven years can be attributed to me being a mother.
The act of having to put someone or in my case – three little someones before my own needs has taught me selflessness in a way I don’t think would have been possible without becoming a mom.
When it comes to my business, I believe I owe it all to my children. If I hadn’t had my two daughters whose ever-rising daycare costs took a healthy chunk of my salary, I may not have explored my former employer’s option for teleworking – which then lead me to thinking about building my own business.
All of the hustling, juggling, and lack of boundaries between work and motherhood were a few of the reasons why I took an extremely preliminary idea of starting my own business from concept to reality in less than one year.
Now, as a work-from-home mama, my days can be pretty crazy. Running a bustling business, wrangling a 4 year old, an almost two year old, and a seven year old – while supporting each developmentally, emotionally and academically can be exhausting.
Couple that with my business which is scaling nicely and imagine the angst and euphoria of figuring out who gets to stand-in for me while I pursue business opportunities- many of which are out-of-state. Like I said, both exhilarating and exhausting.
Thankfully, each of them are growing nicely in their own ways. They have gotten use to some of how my schedule and business impacts our home dynamic.
Every once and again, one of them will say to me: “You’re the best Mommy I ever had.” I usually say “thank you” and chuckle thinking: “I am the only Mommy you have ever had”; but I digress.
That “thank you” means so much more than they know.
I want my kids to know that I am thankful to them for forcing me to be a better person. They need to know that I was probably operating at a quarter of my greatness prior to having them.
I need them to know that when they pardon me for being imperfect – I am in return learning to be kinder and more forgiving of my own shortcomings.
The ability to see something both old and new through the eyes of a child is a gift.
Life has an unfortunate way of suppressing the aspects of the human experience that are innate to us all. Creativity, fun, laughter without abandon are just a few things I have invariably lost and regained as a result of wanting to live in the moment with my children.
I don’t say all of this to suggest that you will be a selfish, boring, non-creative person for not becoming a mother. From my perspective, I see my children as my divine counsel pushing me to be a better version of me in a very imperfect and non-linear manner.
They will never truly understand how they are doing that nor will their precious little brains understand now how much it means to me.
To all of the mothers (biological and non-biological), our one day per year is coming, but be sure to take time everyday to recognize the magnitude of all that you do. Know that even when you think you are screwing up, you are just fine.
Happy Mother’s Day to you all! Be sure, to put those little people to work on Sunday and enjoy the day!
In case you missed it, I have a show on Thursdays called: Ask Czarina Live ™ .
In the episode below, I talk about being a working mom and the struggles many of us face in juggling home and professional pursuits. I hope it is helpful!
As we continue to explore all of the segments of diversity that deserve our attention, let me add another one to the ever-growing list. If you couldn’t tell by the title – the segment I am speaking about is: Moms. Some of women are fortunate enough to be employed by an employer who understands that there is much more that can be done for women returning to work than what FMLA provides. Those women are in the minority. The larger chunk of this segment is betrothed to companies who either don’t care or aren’t creative enough to create opportunities and pathways for mothers returning to work after starting their families.
Did you know?
The U.S. is one of three countries along with Oman and Papua New Guinea that does not offer paid maternity leave. This is a clear indication that we are not only lackluster in support of women before they become mothers, but that we neglect them on the other side of motherhood as well. As such, “off-ramping” or leaving career tracks for women is not just an option but a decision made under the duress of the stigma placed upon women who decide to have a family.
According to the Center For Talent Innovation’s 2005 study, 37% percent of professional women in the U.S. left their career track at some point. 66% opted for flex-time, temp and part-time work instead of completely off-ramping. According to a 2015 Huffington Post Women article by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the numbers had not changed much when they revisited the 2005 study in 2010. Shocking!
Let’s be honest… let’s be real.
Women should be able to start a family whenever they choose. It isn’t a decision that requires the ever-popular buy-in of line managers and the C-Suite. That said, when a woman makes that decision- it shouldn’t be the case that she has to bid adieu to her career aspirations, upward mobility and financial security.
Unfortunately, women are hindered. There’s a stigma around pregnancy and being a parent in many companies. While I choose to focus in on women for the sake of this piece, the stigma extends to any person – who has to put familial obligations before their work at some point.
I can remember so many days working for previous employers – where my need to leave at 5pm was met with grimaces and rolling eyes. I recall many days that one of my children were sick and I had to hear the long sighs and pauses directly after letting my immediate supervisor know I would be taking the day to care for them.
From where I sat, starting a family was seen as an affront to what the company needed to accomplish. How dare you set them back like this? You want to take longer than FMLA will allow, we can’t guarantee your job because you need more time. “Good luck and best wishes” is how they say: “You were great until you decided to have this family, good luck being hired again, but we are moving on.”
Leaning-in for the win or not.
There isn’t enough leaning-in in the world that can change an archaic mindset. If companies believe a woman who has family obligations is worth less than one who can sit behind a desk for 12 hours a day and then again from home neglecting their personal wants and needs – I would say they are insane. One isn’t better than the other – it’s just different. We need to stop alienating women because they choose to have a family. More importantly, we need to welcome them back whether it is after a short or long hiatus- offering different options for either scenario.
Here are three reasons why companies need to provide a pathway for women back to work after starting a family:
1)A 2013 Pew Research Center Survey indicated that 40% of households with children under the age of 18 have mothers who are either the primary or sole providers of income for the household. By eliminating the pathway for women to return to work, you are very likely creating economic disparities for not only women, but for families on the whole. Washington Post reported last year that 47% of Americans cannot afford an unexpected $400 expense. Already strained household budgets, plus unpaid maternity leaves, coupled with women out of work due to lack of opportunity is very likely a financial burden/nightmare for many families in the U.S.
2) Can you afford to lose another segment of the workforce? KPMG published their 2016 Top Global Market Trends last month. One of the five takeaways from this report was that: “Talent shortages are still top-of-mind for many leaders and they see it as the new norm.” I’ve mentioned in other articles that I think the talent shortage is more perceived than actual. How can we claim talent shortages when we are willfully turning away women from the workforce? Realistically, no organization can afford to lose this segment; which is why it makes sense to create circumstances that favor them staying.
3) It’s the right thing to do. How much more volume do women’s issues need for the parity and double-standards to stop? Every person deserves to be able to sustain themselves and their families by way of gainful employment. Women owned-businesses are on the rise and they are likely to rival establishment businesses and their archaic thinking. The true talent shortage is when women push out the big guys and focus on all of the items that were off the table like: paid maternity leave, flex-work arrangements, backup daycare, eldercare options, paternity leave, phase-back programs etc.
I covered this topic in further detail on my show: Ask Czarina Live ™ Unbothered: Moms Returning To Work. Check out the episode below.
Three years ago, I was a part of a small social media team that was covering the NY Business Expo Summit in New York City. After several hours of busily typing soundbites of some of the brightest minds in Social Media, I sauntered to the nearest lavatory where I was approached by Dr. Hilary S. Berger, Ed.D of Work Like a Mother®. She was fascinated with the speed at which I was typing and covering the event and asked me if I could help her hone her skills.
Not too long after the event we met in a Panera Bread in New York City to discuss the possibility of working with one another. As we were sharing our backgrounds and journeys as mothers, we realized we both had a passion for seeing women thrive. We spent most of our time talking about what we might be able to accomplish together someday. These lofty wishes were wrapped up in us being able to provide programs, events, and workshops that could assist women who have lost their way with a way to become relevant again through unique learning opportunities- an academy of sorts.
Some three years later, I am happy to say that academy was launched in 2015 as the Work Like a Mother® Career Academy for Social Media and Job Search Training. I came aboard as a social media and personal branding instructor. In 2016, we are collaborating in a more formal fashion to create new programming and provide the next iteration of the Work Like a Mother® Career Academy for Social Media and Job Search Training.
Our first collaboration is a program that was one of my proudest achievements for 2015- my Talent Think Social Circle Virtual Mentorship Teleclass ™. I launched this program with an idea, shoestring budget and blind faith from October through December of 2015 following the conclusion of the academy and it was a success.
Class “Usie” after my Art of Personal Branding and Social Media Workshop.
With the interest and support of Work Like a Mother®, my program has an extended lifeline and has grown into a multi-level program serving two separate needs for the women we serve:
1) Some women just want to re-enter the workforce. As such, their primary interest is in enhancing their skills and building the confidence needed to become a marketable candidate in an ever-difficult and selective job market.
2) In complete contrast to the previous example, there are women who have ideas for businesses they want to launch and need a place where they can incubate and grow those ideas into businesses. They too require some up-skilling and coaching to get there and we want to serve that need as well.
Who better to nurture women who have either of these needs than two mothers/business women that understand and empathize with their journeys. Corporate America isn’t checking for them and certainly hasn’t made much progress in ensuring the career mobility and flexibility of women, so we are tackling it in the only way we know- through education and coaching.
Work Like a Mother Open House (1.15.16)
You may be thinking what does this have to do with Human Resources?
On the surface, probably not anything. Let’s dive a little deeper though. When I worked in HR, I recognized that people could skip along all day creating policies and procedures without any care or concern for how it impacts the workforce. We were keeping the organization compliant and that is necessary. However, I often wondered if things would be different if Human Resources could function in a truly altruistic manner. My HR buddy, Dave Ryan shared something rather profound in a recent blog post. The post titled: “A Utopian Workplace”drove home an important consideration which is: “it is hard for HR to create a utopian society in the way everyone expects when society has yet to right certain human wrongs. I have to agree and I believe one of the things we have screwed up left and right is how women are regarded and treated in the workplace. More disturbingly is how women who choose to become mothers are often displaced and forgotten. While my collaboration has really nothing to do with HR directly, indirectly Hilary and I are attempting to triage the ills of society from the outside-in-with the hope that these women can thrive and succeed in the way that is most meaningful for them.
If you are interested in learning more about our programs, go to: http://worklikeamother.com/Mentorship.html. In addition, if you are interested in featuring us on your blog, publication, podcast etc. to discuss our work we would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with you.
Here’s a little more insight on Dr. Hilary S. Berger, Ed.d and Work Like a Mother® worth knowing:
Dr. Hilary S. Berger, Ed.D. is the founder of Work Like a Mother® and is a Career Counselor and Board Certified Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor who earned her Doctoral Degree from Columbia University’s Teachers College. With office locations in Fairfield County Connecticut, Dr. Berger has pioneered a solution oriented career counseling system designed exclusively for educated mothers at home raising their families. She has counseled women in transition both in university settings and in private practice for over twenty years. Work Like a Mother®, a thriving and dynamic community for mothers, is a one stop shop for mothers rebuilding their professional relevance and marketability during and after their parenting years.
Unless you are fortunate enough to have women in your family who will share with you the impact of the inevitable decisions you will make both as a mother and a professional; you would have no clue about the difficult choices that lie ahead – when and if you take that leap. Amidst lackluster maternity leave, pay equity issues, real and perceived concerns of upward mobility among other factors, many women can find themselves feeling inadequate, overwhelmed and discouraged. Not to mention, that we can still see glimmers of the ongoing feud of who does it better: stay-at-home-moms or working moms – which presents another unnecessary layer of guilt. I would wager that we all are doing our best. We shoulder much more responsibility than we are given credit and the policies and practices of bigger business have not caught up with the reality of the average woman.
When I wrote about #EqualPayDay back in April, I asked a single question and sort of pointed the finger at employers by asking: what will they do differently now that “equal pay” is a prominent discussion? It was an important question to ask, because we are so easily moved to superficial action in the name of the latest salacious headline or social catastrophe of the day. As such, I wanted to remind employers that when #EqualPayDay, National Women’s Suffrage Day, Mother’s Day and any other consumerist holiday is over and the hashtags have stopped trending that there is a human that must continue on in obscurity trying to make sense of finances, life, family, identity and career in a society that simply has no place for them.
Sounds grim, but this is the reality of many women who have made a very natural decision to have children. In this process, many of us moms have loss a sense of self while performing one of the most benevolent jobs known to humanity. I had aspirations of climbing the ladder, grappling for a title and reaping the rewards of a decent salary. I chose motherhood and suddenly climbing that ladder had extra rungs that I never saw before childbirth and that decent salary seemed further and further in the distance. I bowed out, but not completely.
There have been glimmers of hope, like the announcement by IBM last week that they will ship breast milk home for traveling mothers free of charge. Still, so many other companies don’t understand or get the magnitude of the reality I have just illustrated and so women have to consider other career options.
You see we are in a time where you don’t have to live in obscurity. Becoming a mom doesn’t have to limit your personal and career growth. In fact, if your career has been at a standstill the problem isn’t your employer -it is you. Social Media and this new reality of global connectedness allows you to create your career reality. If you need to work for someone else, you can do it. If you want to start a business, you can do that. If you have always had a knack for writing, you can pursue that and be recognized. All of these options are possible because we are our own brand ready to be cultivated and marketed in the right setting for a specific purpose.
We all have a purpose. Women deserve to continue with their careers or shift gears if need be. Becoming a mother shouldn’t have to be an all or nothing endeavor. This is why I am so happy to be working with Dr. Hilary Berger, Founder of Work Like a Mother. She was one of my initial clients when I decided to launch my business a few years ago and now two years later I am partnering with her through her Work Like a Mother Career Academy to help some very deserving women get their career mojo back.
Through this academy, our participants will have everything updated from their resumes to their knowledge of how to use social media for personal branding and jobseeking purposes. I am so excited and honored to be in a position to help brilliant women discover their passions and further their careers. If this academy puts a small dent in the number of women who have lost their way in motherhood, I will feel like I have made a difference.
I will be teaching three courses over the next three months that will hopefully open the minds of my fellow mommies and help them get their career mojo back. Follow our workshops via the #wlmacademy hashtag.
If you feel compelled, send a kind word or words of encouragement to our academy participants to let them know they are already headed in the right direction.
Every year, I like to find a different way of celebrating my favorite day: my birthday. Since I am turning 32 next month (I know…awww…), I’ve decided to share 32 revelations I have had during the course of my life about everything from life in general to business. Think of it as daily inspiration for you and therapy for me. It is a challenge for me, because I don’t think I have ever published a post everyday in the entire existence of The Aristocracy of HR. Plus, I recognize that while I am fairly generous in sharing on social media and here, I have only just scraped the surface on sharing who I am when I’m not pontificating how HR and Business can do better. Let’s use the month of March to get to know one another better. I hope at the end of the month, you walk away with something you can use in your own life or business.
Day 19 of 31- Finding My Place In The Universe
Feminists everywhere are about to cringe, but I have to honestly say my favorite and most rewarding jobs are being a mother and a wife. There is something really magical and sacred about finding someone who gets you, loves you, supports you and shares your goals and aspirations. As if that isn’t monumental enough, your blessings are exponentially amplified when you start a family.
At a certain point in my twenties I realized I wanted to be a mom and wife, but I never imagined the ways it would change me, bless me, and challenge me. All of my life, I encountered settings, groups, and places where I didn’t quite fit. When I got married and had kids, that all changed. I found my place in the universe. Each of my kids are a part of me at different stages of my life and it is a real joy to watch them grow and explore. My husband and I have been extremely intentional about creating a fun, loving and meaningful environment for our kids. Working head and head with him to figure those things out is the most fun workforce planning I have ever done.
I’m not one of those rose-colored glasses mothers that lives and dies by her children and husband. Some days they all make me want to scream; but even on those days-I am in awe of them and so grateful that I we get to walk this journey together. I meet people that are constantly complaining about their husband and children and find me weird when I don’t have the same sentiments about my home life. Just like I don’t question why they are so unhappy, I think people should have the same respect to not to question my happiness.
My formula to a happy home life is pretty simple: I keep my affairs in my home, I mind my own business, and we forge through tough times with love, faith and understanding. There are a few other tips, but I don’t want to fog up your screen- I am an HR practitioner you know.
Having a place you can fail, succeed, be goofy, and be vulnerable is priceless. Everything I have been through in my life has been worth it- if it was all meant to prepare me to create and nurture my little family.
What do you cherish the most about your family?
Czarina’s lesson: We all have a place in this universe. Find yours and be happy.