Being a single mother and working full-time as a Principal in consulting has never been an easy balancing act. “Agility” is a term we use in consulting traditionally related to pivoting to client needs and market demands. Now, agility means toggling what feels like never-ending work, cooking, cleaning, fixing, tech help, errands, activity-directing, and tutoring — all while maintaining sanity and physical health.
No parent is perfect. Now is a time to embrace uncertainty while being open with teams and family members about what you need to be successful.
For me, “mom guilt” used to be catching a Sunday flight to the east coast. Now, it’s me being hours late with lunch or dinner after losing track of time in work meetings.
The challenges of being a working mom have always been apparent, but as my daughter recently went “back to school” virtually, I, like many parents, have learned to navigate these interesting times. It’s maintaining composure on a presentation while my daughter jumps up and down to tell me her laptop isn’t working for class, the cat jumping on my laptop when I get up for coffee, listening to internal calls on mute while I grocery shop, taking a video meeting from my car while my daughter has a rare chance to distance-play in the park with a few friends, doing a client sales pitch on video when I see my daughter running to the bathroom with a bloody nose, and my daughter emailing me a question four times within a two hour period then scolding me for not checking personal email enough.
“Why do you talk so loud in your funny work voice?” “What does ‘PMO’ mean?” “What does ‘BS’” mean?” (Ooops!)
Then there’s me: “Can you please turn off your streaming show NOW - I need ALL the WiFi!”
Chaos is a regular reality, for now. Let’s welcome it, and not feel guilty if things don’t quite run as planned. It’s critically important to realize that we cannot go at it alone. As part of a firm that employs more than 55,000 people in the U.S., I have seen the impact that open conversations, empathy, and understanding can have on creating a culture that helps empower working parents.
Sometimes, this may mean leveraging flexibility to be creative with your schedule, such as blocking off times (even in the middle of the day) to tend to personal responsibilities and caregiving duties. Sometimes it means using the time to take a virtual pilates class, or join a call while running errands. It looks different for each of us, and leaders who understand this and who empower their people to ask for what they need are the ones who make us all more successful in the long run.
At a time that is truly historic — with social justice issues, education disparity and disruption, and an economic recession — these options are more important than ever for companies who want to retain working parents. Especially single parents like myself.
Are we flawless? No. Did I just spill sauce all over my laptop and myself while responding to work emails and cooking dinner? Yes. First world problems from a fortunate working mother.