Market Place Simplified: News & Views by Pooja
“Bad Moms,” a term popularized by a 2016 Hollywood comedy, where 3 overworked and under-appreciated moms persevere to be viewed as supermoms"
My mom was and is, a Bad Mom. She managed to balance her career as a doctor, wife and mother of three. Taking the 5:03 AM train into Manhattan, followed by three subway trains, then walking four blocks daily, to work a 14-hour shift at a hospital. Most days, arriving home after midnight, checking in on three sleeping children, preparing breakfast and lunches, and repeating. To society, my mom was a bad mom, she didn’t shuttle us around to playdates, and she missed more than one parent teacher conference. Time sacrificed to provide a better future for her family.
I came across a tweet from @MommaUnfiltered “Some days it feels a little bit more like hostage negotiating with a band of drunken bi-polar pirates than actual parenting”. With Mother’s Day around the corner, for this issue of Market Place Simplified we are providing a glimpse into the lives of some remarkable “Bad Moms” who were kind enough to share their stories with me.
Sourcing Manager, Verizon
Bad Mom, You Say?
“Good morning, Pookie! Uh-oh…I thought you were dressed. Please get up. We need to leave in 13 minutes.” He didn’t bat an eye, so I’m dressing him while he’s still asleep. Twenty minutes later and we’re in traffic with my little guy, 6 years old, finishing his breakfast yogurt. My son takes this moment to remind me that it’s picture day but he’s in his school uniform. There is no time to paddle back. “You’ll need to take the picture in your uniform. Your face and smile are all you need,” I say with encouragement. That day’s big accomplishment was my son arriving to school on time. I, on the other hand, dropped off my son then parked the car by grandma’s house, walked to the train station where I encountered further delays on the train that morning, and had to ask my boss to lead my 9 a.m. call. Not ideal, folks.
That moment in time cost me a promotion; I later had a difficult conversation with my supervisor about the sacrifices I would need to make in order to move ahead. Translation: I would have to choose between either my career or family. Something I recognized I just could not do. It was a tough pill to swallow. I was full of zest. Ready to take on the world. I wanted to do it all. Yet, I recognized that for me, my desire to give more to my family was greater. I opted to stay in the game by taking on big projects along the way. My goal was to show leadership that I was committed to giving it my all, irrespective of my title. That yours truly was willing and able to stay solution focused in order to drive the company forward no matter what.
Along with that decision came the occasional store-bought cupcakes that I hoped looked yummy enough for the school bake sale because I wanted to ensure I met my work deadlines and achieved the best outcome of a project. I’m a passionate and talented dessert baker – doing that broke my heart. Grandma represented family at a couple of spring and science presentations because I needed to lead a big meeting at work. My mom (aka grandma) would shame me, telling me my son would be scarred by his mother being replaced by his grandmother. There were school projects that my younger sister, a college student at the time, would help my son with because I was running late on the train after working late hours. She too would make me feel guilty for not leaving earlier. My choice had taken an emotional toll on me. There is no doubt that family is most important. Yet, we should make no apologies for striving to have successful careers. It is possible to do it all.
Fast forward 13 years. I now have two young men. They are compassionate and understanding of their mom, who is dedicated to their well-being and future, as well as to the success of her career. They are not scarred. Time has taught me that I can embrace all parts of who I am, mom and career alike. There is no textbook definition of balance – it’s about doing your best each day. The key is to be patient and forgive yourself when you must sacrifice a moment. For it is indeed just a moment in time. It’s about the choices we make each day. When something goes sideways, learn the lesson and shake it off. Then start anew tomorrow; each new day offers new opportunities. This is why years later, I’m still a mom, still driven, and still on the career path that is undoubtedly moving forward.
Founder & CEO of UMA
I have a crystal clear memory from 3 years ago, when my children were just 2 and 4 years old and I was exclusively raising them at home. I quit my job when my eldest was born and hadn’t been exposed to anything workforce like for a few years now, so I was simultaneously excited and nervous to explore the professional world again. I signed up to a local NYC networking event for women, donned the only professional outfit I could fit into, and wore my heels to feel more confident (or so I thought, forgetting how painful heels were even when I used to wear them often). At the event, each attendee had to pen her name and job title so I wrote SAHM for my job. A fellow attendee greeted me, we exchanged pleasantries, and then she asked what SAHM stood for. When I explained “Stay at Home Mother,” there and then she turned her back and walked away. It took a lot of courage to come to the event, and that single gesture was not only demoralizing as I was already low on self-esteem but solidified how so many of us as mothers feel. Like an ignored and forgotten part of society.
When the woman walked away, I could have done one of two things. As I was standing close to the entrance I could have gone home and cried. Believe me, I certainly was about to. But I was curious. So instead I looked for the woman, tapped her politely on the shoulder and asked her why she reacted that way. She was taken aback, and embarrassed. Truly. She had no idea that she actually reacted that way. We got chatting. It so turned out that she only planned on being at the event for a short while, and so wanted to meet as many people from the finance industry as possible. After we got talking, I mentioned my background – a successful career in finance at Goldman Sachs in London that spanned a decade, followed by heading up global business development in CNS clinical trials and I was now on the cusp of starting my own company. All of a sudden emerged my new bff. This is an example of unconscious bias and was one of the leading experiences that led me to helming Uma, which is dedicated to helping women and minorities find their voice and confidence in the workplace.
I thought working the intensity of the banking hours at Goldman Sachs was tough. I also thought crossing multiple time zones and being constantly jet-lagged was also tough. But oh, no, that is nothing compared to my career of being a fulltime mother. The most joyous yet toughest job I have ever undertaken to date. Not only are you constantly on call, you can never take a sick day, work 24/7 and are always sleep-deprived! Not just that, the amount of skills you pick up as a fulltime mother is beyond anything I could have imagined professionally. I had always thought of myself as being patient until I became a mother. This, made me patient. Motherhood quite literally stretches you in every direction possible. You not only become more efficient, organized and resilient, but you also become an insane negotiator. I tell everyone these days, that if you can negotiate with a toddler, there is no one on this planet you cannot take on! So, when you are thinking of your next interview or boardroom pitch, remember that and take that fire with you!
Neena Tankha Esq.
Matrimonial Lawyer, Warshaw Burstein, LLP
I’ve never heard this question posed to a father
After returning from maternity leave, colleagues and potential clients would ask me if I was planning on resuming full time work now that I had a child. In my entire professional career, I’ve never heard this question posed to a father after his return from paternity leave. The assumption is that as a woman, I would cut back on my workload. I would assure my colleagues and clients this was not the case and I did plan to resume my full work load, but there were still many people who were skeptical at best, or on the other hand, judging me for not scaling back my work load to stay home with my child.
In my experience, the best thing I could do is prove people wrong with my actions rather than with words. And that is exactly what I did, as I managed to resume my full workload, while balancing spending quality time with my husband and our new baby. In the long run, I feel that I gained the respect of my clients and colleagues by showing them that is it possible to juggle being a hands-on parent, while also being fully responsible as an attorney.
As a working mother, I am able to relate firsthand to many of my clients who are themselves juggling raising children while being professionals. My personal experiences have directly translated into helping me find creative solutions, especially in the context of custody disputes, for my clients.
Founder of Angi & Co., Executive Director, Zimele USA
Last Fall, it felt like the pressure of work obligations and the guilt of Mom Fails were reaching its peak. I was contracted to fulfill Angi & Co events every weekend for our private clients and was simultaneously planning two charity galas that would take place in October and December. In the midst of all this, I was co-leading a vision trip to South Africa for Zimele USA, a nonprofit organization that supports women entrepreneurship and financial literacy to combat poverty in KwaZulu-Natal. The school year had just started and my two daughters would now be attending two separate schools which meant that we would now need to coordinate double the morning drop-offs and afternoon pick-up locations with work schedules. The breaking point was probably when, for the first time ever, I realized I would miss my younger daughter’s Back To School night (BTS) while I was in South Africa and miss the older one’s BTS night due to a Board Meeting. It felt like mom fail after mom fail which often feels like the worst kind there is.
Since those events have passed, there are no regrets. But that season did give me the push I needed to reevaluate how and who I commit my time to and to set healthy boundaries to protect my schedule. Now I have limits in place for the number of Angi & Co. client events that I will personally take on per month and am working better to delegate projects to trusted colleagues, vendors and partners. On the mom/home front, I’ve been learning to just “drop the ball,” as author and CRU founder Tiffany Dufu so aptly describes it in her book “Drop the Ball.” If I can’t get to something on my to-do list, it’s ok and I’m not going to punish myself for it.
Find your trusted circle of friends and women who will be your encouragers, your network, the ones who will lift you up when you are feeling your lowest, and tell you the truth (good and bad) when you need it most. There will always be someone or something new in every industry. Never find your worth by competing with others. Rather, be true to your work and grow for yourself, not for the approval of others. Always support and empower other women.
Know that you have the ability to bring about change and positivity in this world, no matter what your title or status may be. Remember that the world is bigger than just you so let’s make it a better place by being examples of grace to inspire others. Do not be limited or feel limited based on your gender or because of societal roles and expectations that have been projected onto you.
There are times when things will feel like they are falling apart. Just know that it will pass and you’ll be able to grow from it. Be true to yourself...remember your identity lies not in your profession or status, but as a beloved child of God. You are loved, cherished and supported.
Associate General Counsel, Verizon
Someone else's definition of perfection
When I was expecting my first child due in January 2004, at seven months pregnant, I was approached by a highly respected attorney on my team with whom I was friendly about a role at the company he was going to be joining soon. He believed I was qualified and had faith in my communication and interpersonal skills. Off the record, his concern was how I would feel about working after the baby was born and if hired immediately, how would my change of heart about working impact his new organization. I assured him that I wasn't someone who thought I had to choose between motherhood and a career as I was determined to have it all and manage to stay on my career trajectory. Being the advanced thinker he was, and knowing me well, he decided to bring it up to the Executive Management Team ("EMT") at the new company. As it turns out, the EMT was not familiar with me and my strong views about continuing to work after the birth of my first daughter in order for me to feel fulfilled and productive. They did not want to take a chance with me in case I was hired and then worked less than two months followed by a reasonable medical leave of absence post-birth to not return to the workplace. After assuring my colleague that I would not make that decision and renege on my word, he understood but could not do anything further as he had not even started his employment at said new company.
I feel it is important to share that if one chooses, it is not an either/or decision between having a family and successful career simultaneously. In late 2003, I took it in stride thinking it was not the right time for me and if this company was not willing to extend this opportunity, it would be their loss and perhaps not the best fit for me anyway. I ended up recommending another colleague - a male - who did get the role and was extremely successful to go on to be a department head at one of the company's subsidiaries. To date, we are still connected. As for me, I returned to work after four months of leave and never looked back. I was exactly where I needed to be for all the right reasons. My career journey would have looked far different today had I been granted that opportunity. Maybe better, perhaps worse. I am not going to speculate nor dwell. I know that I now work at a phenomenal, industry leading company who consistently wins awards for being an excellent place for working mothers, truly values its customers, promotes work-life balance and gives to the community beyond expectations. Everything happens at the right moment for the right reason.
My advice for my daughters is do not ever doubt yourself or settle for less than what you deserve. Be confident, strong and well aligned as your network and support system will carry you when you start to have doubts about your own talent - that will happen but what you do with that fear, anxiety or challenge will determine your journey and its success. Assess any situation using your skills, rational thought process and consult with those who may have the expertise you seek to make the right decision.
Being both a mother and career professional has provided me with a well-rounded approach of how I conduct myself personally and professionally. Many times, my two worlds collide, and I love connecting people together for their reciprocal benefit. There is enough success and good fortune to be shared. I work very diligently at managing my personal life and domestic household while staying current and being a true leader in my professional life. It is not always a perfect balance, but I am not striving to attain someone else's definition of perfection, I am doing it on my own terms for my daughters and myself.
Lauren K. Beaver Esq.
Family Law Attorney, Ulrichsen Rosen & Freed
In my absence
There is no predetermined timeline or path that you should follow. This applies to both a career and becoming a mother. You should make choices based on what is best for you and your family. Everything else will fall into place. In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg used the metaphor of a jungle gym to describe today's career progressions and this really resonated with me. Maintaining or advancing a career means something very different to different people and does not only mean climbing the proverbial career ladder. Often times, no movement or lateral movement, is necessary for your personal and professional development (and sanity!).
If I could redo my maternity leaves, I would have shown myself a little more grace; the grace I often preached to others was necessary. I would have taken more time off and worried much less about what was going on at work in my absence rather than feeling like I had to stay “connected” in order to be perceived as caring about my career.
You should ask for whatever accommodation you may need to ensure you are the most productive both at home and at work. The worst your workplace can say is no and you will be in the exact same position. The only difference is now you will have a clear answer as to whether that employer truly values you and that might just be the push you need to seek a career change. On the flip side, if the accommodation is made, all you will regret is not having asked for it sooner.
Joy Bhatia, MD
Associate Director, Global Safety Lead, Agios Pharmaceuticals
They hired two men
I started both of my children in part-time daycare around the age of 6-months. Many of our friends said it was too young for babies to be exposed to germs and infection. There was no alternative given my circumstances, and fortunately both kids adapted well to the environment. I interviewed for a job that I knew I could handle. It was a permanent role with a company I was contracting with for two years. I would have transitioned easily into the assignment as I was trained on majority of the role. They hired two men with a limited background instead. They would be able to work longer hours and be available at any time as they did not have family to care for.
The first few days of the quarantine were a hot mess. I work from home like many others nowadays. A house with two toddlers and my husband, the schedule went out of the window. There were no boundaries, kids coming in while on conference calls or trying to play on my laptop while a document was open. I was not mentally prepared for this new norm. We have a schedule for the kids and set boundaries while I am working. Luckily, work has been very flexible and adapting to this new norm has become much easier.
Taking a short maternity leave with my first child, I feared my daughter would not bond with me later on. My daughter is now 3, and as clingy as any toddler would be. My children are my strength. I want to show them that you can achieve everything in life if you work hard. Take the help wherever you can get it. My family, my mother especially, have been a huge support and are the reason why I can go to work. Make sure you are happy in your work environment; I find this energy is reflected to my children after work.
I am designing a clinical trial for a pediatric disease, a disease my son and I are affected by. I get to use my clinical knowledge as well as motherly instinct while designing this trial. I have a lot of flexibility at work, if my kids need me, I can be available for them at any time. There is no doubt, being a mother is now helping my work, and in turn will likely help hundreds of thousands of other families around the world.
Jenan Agnihotri, DMD
Pediatric Dentist, The Smile Express
I cried in my car
As a relatively new mom, there was a lot of anxiety and fear associated with going back to work. As my maternity leave ended, we made the decision to have our daughter start daycare when she was only 4-months old. Dropping her off the first day was especially difficult. I cried in my car and thought how can I let a stranger take care of my baby. I returned back to my usual routine, working 5-6 days a week.
Being a working mom is tough, there are days I felt, exhausted, drained, and thought I’m not cut out for this! Especially, the fighting with the toddler part. After a few deep breaths, I stop and think, these times are worth it, we’re creating fond memories, as many other mothers have warned me the kids will be off to college before you know it.
Being a new mom and working with children has allowed me to better relate to their parents, it has given me immense respect and gratitude for the parent-child relationship, and other working mothers. My advice for other new mothers, enjoy every moment you can. Do not let the small things get to you. Trying to make everything perfect for your children gets exhausting and overwhelming.
"There will be so many times you feel like you failed. But in the eyes, heart and mind of your child, you are a super mom."
There is little doubt that society holds a certain perception over working career professions who are also mothers, however, it is important to note that some of the women I spoke with, mentioned they faced few hurdles and had much support. Furthermore, for every mother who is a career professional, there are numerous mothers working, living paycheck to paycheck attempting to create a better life for their family. To all the Moms out there, you are AMAZING, STRONG, BRILLIANT, BEAUTIFUL People. I salute each and every one of you, because keeping all of it together, is hard shit. And you do it every day, selflessly, unconditionally and out of love.
Now, to my mom. Thank you for doing everything possible to always make me proud of you. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful mother in my life. Your unconditional love and care mean everything to me. My heart just can't thank you enough for giving me such a solid foundation to grow and be the independent adult I am today. I am strong because a strong woman raised me to be. Thank you for sacrificing so much. "You are far more precious than jewels"
Happy Mother’s Day!