Monday, March 9, 2015

Why the Debate - Working Moms vs Stay at Home Moms?

It's been nine weeks.  Nine weeks of being a stay at home mom after being in the workforce, working in finance for over 20 years.  In my job, I did a lot of analysis, understanding how things are similar or different and the impact.  I'm going to use those skills to assess the difference between working and stay at home moms, because quite honestly - I'm tired of the debate!

Based solely on my experience, there are not a lot of differences between working and stay at home moms.  The skills needed to excel at both roles are similar.  Here are my findings:

Politics:  You have to deal with politics in the workplace, as well as dealings with people involved in school activities.  Someone almost always has more power or influence.  How you navigate these situations can determine your success whether you work or not.  Having good EQ helps too!

Communication Skills - Setting Expectations:  It's important in roles at work and at home that communication is clear, concise and people (adults and children) understand what is expected of them.  Without this, chaos ensues.  When I managed a team, I would create calendars for known deliverables.  At home, I have daily discussions with my kids about their schedule for the day.  When you have these conversations, there are less surprises and people tend to be more calm.

Choosing Your Battles:  You have to chose your battles at home and at work.  Do I let my daughter go to school with her hair in disarray because she did it herself or wear clothes that don't exactly match?  Of course I do.  Do I push back on my manager when I don't agree with something?  Sometimes, but other times I need to nod and smile and execute the way I'm expected to.  It's okay to battle for something you believe in (no shorts in 30 degree weather or dealing with a poor performer), but at other times, you just have to let it slide.

Knowledge Sharing:  There are teachable moments both at work and at home.  I recently had a discussion with my older daughter about a class mate that was being made fun of.  We talked about how it made the girl feel and if my daughter wanted to stand up for her the next time it happened, then she would make her friend feel supported.  At work I would share my experiences with others on how to communicate with executives, deal with difficult people or how to approach a complicated request.  There really is no difference...

Mediate Conflict:  At work I would sometimes get caught in the middle of a disagreement (or perhaps kick one off).  I'd have to do my best to make both sides see the point the other was trying to make then help come up with a solution that everyone could live with.  It's no different at home.  My kids are 2 -1/2 years a part.  They fight.  I try to objectively understand what happened if I wasn't right there with them and then make sure they understand both sides.  Honestly, mediating conflict at home is so much easier.

Dealing with Sub Par Performance:  I've dealt with sub par performers at work, having tough conversations with them and spelling out performance improvement plans, etc..  It's no different at home.  I have to talk to my kids when they are not keeping their rooms clean, have trouble staying focused while getting ready in the morning or most any other task I request of them.  The emotions I encounter and the challenges are the same.

Time Management:  At work, there was always 80 hours of work to do each week.  At home it's no different.  I have taken over a lot of tasks that others were doing and added some new ones that were being neglected (purging closets, cleaning out the garage, doing more cooking, sending more time on homework, spend time in the classroom with my older daughter, etc).  Regardless of whether you work or not, there is never enough time in the day.

I have NEVER heard any working dad belittle or make snide remarks to a stay at home dad.  Perhaps I've been lucky enough to not be involved in those conversations, but I have known a considerable number of stay at home dads, or dads who take on a bigger role in child rearing in their families.

I would like to ask moms, regardless of their role/occupation/choices to stop being mean girls on this topic.  It defeats what really needs to happen (longer maternity leaves, more family friendly companies, better benefits - medical and sick leave, higher quality and more affordable childcare options, more flexible work schedules to accommodate people who want to be more involved in their children's lives, etc).  Let's redirect all of this energy and do something positive.  Stifle that judgmental/rude comment about the 'other' class of moms, appreciate people for their contributions whether at work or at home, be supportive and find ways to get involved in pushing the cause for all women forward.