From telling weeping interns to pull themselves together, to issuing plasters and medical knowledge on demand, Senior Product Manager Laura Sands explains why she believes every workplace needs a mum.
I’ve returned to work twice since having children, and it’s become clear that my role in the teams I work in has changed. While my job description is identical (it’s a legal requirement after all), my team role is different (in a quasi-Belbin sense).
You don’t have to look far to find reports and statistics telling us about the value that working mothers can bring to an organisation. We may be tarred with the brush of routinely legging it out of the office at 4.59 pm, and calling in with spurious childcare issues, but we do have something to offer the office environment beyond the the pieces of ‘art’ (lovingly produced by our children) we proudly pin to our cubicle walls.
As a rule, most mums are more efficient, more decisive and better negotiators than the pre-child versions of ourselves. And I believe that there are other more tangible ways that a ‘mama in the workplace’ can contribute to her 9-4.59 environment.
Three reasons why every workplace needs a mum
We may not set the world on fire with our stylish dressing, or enlightening conversation about recent yoga retreats. And we may not even be able to recommend a decent restaurant (one without placemats that you can draw on), but I believe that mums do offer something.
In fact, in my experience, we offer three key benefits to the workplace.
1) We have a sense of perspective
This may sound a bit preachy, but parenthood entirely re-grounds your perspective of what and what isn’t important. And in the nicest possible way, important isn’t about sales performance, the way a powerpoint presentation looks, or even whether your stock list is too high or too low.
There have been occasions after returning to work when I’ve momentarily thought that I’d accidentally stumbled into an immersive theatre that’s showing a stage version of The Office. of course these are just fleeting monents – the good outweighs the bad, cringemaking moments, otherwise I’d have left.
But a true sense of perspective – the type that only comes from appreciating what actually is important – is vital in an organisation. Especially when you work with young, ambitious people who will do anything for the company, who get so upset when things don’t go to plan, and who work so hard they sometimes make themselves ill.
We know what that’s like, because we were once there too. Setting a positive, balanced example, and reminding the team that yes, this is important – it pays our mortgage after all, but let’s get it in perspective. It’s only bloody cheese/shoes/animal food (delete or amend as appropriate).*
2) We are super-organised
If you want a job done well, do it yourself. If you want a job done really well, give it to a mother. We do honestly come to work for a rest sometimes. A day out at the beach involves more organisation and planning than a two week holiday used to… and don’t even think about the unpacking afterwards!
So, give a project to a mum, and we’ll lick it into shape in a flash. You WILL have to do what you are told, otherwise you may risk getting the scary stare, but this is a small price to pay for having something basically look after itself.
You will consider this a miracle, given the woman who is managing this project looks on occasion as if she can barely manage to dress herself, but multi-tasking and prioritisation is what this lady does. Watch and learn.
3) We are almost medically qualified
This is used in the most loose sense of course, but having spent an incalculable amount of times in hospitals, pharmacies, health centres and doctors surgeries, mums have essentially absorbed seven years of medical training by a strange form of osmosis.
And in our spare time we read up on childhood illnesses and first aid so that we are super-prepared (see point above). So, should you feel unwell in the office, come and see a mum. She’ll tell you straight whether you need to pull yourself together (we’ve given birth you know, so don’t weep about having a sore throat to us), or whether you need to go straight to hospital.
As a young and frankly inept twenty-something, I was myself driven to the local A&E by our team mum – I had glass in my foot, and thought it would sort itself out. She said not, and she was right. It took an x-ray and two doctors to remove the shard of glass. Lesson learnt.
Mums carry plasters, paracetamol, bandages, wet-wipes, Calpol, teething powder and antihistamine cream in our bulging handbags wherever we go, so you will be fine if we’re around. And even if we can’t help you, we’ll make you a cup of tea, and pass you a nice soft tissue for you to blow your bunged-up nose onto.
What qualities do you think mums add to the workplace?
I couldn’t be sure how Belbin would classify this position within a team. It isn’t about managing or facilitating. Sure, there’s a lot of doing, but that’s not unique to parenthood. It’s proof that a working mother has a true niche within the workplace – and that these hardworking, caring and on occasion chaotic workplace figures truly are an asset to any organisation.
I’m sure that there are more examples of how having a mum in the workplace can enrich an organisation – if you have some thoughts, please share them in the comments. I’d love to hear your views!
* Okay, this is more relevant to industry and consumer goods vs public service and healthcare roles, but a real world sense of perspective is important in every workplace.
You can find out more about Laura’s experiences as a working mum on her blog.