10 Reasons Working Mothers Make The Most Valuable Employees

There’s something quite terrifying about going back to work after maternity leave. Despite your hardest efforts, you change a lot as a person during your time off. I tried to keep my brain busy with online courses and adult stimulation, but the change goes deeper than that. It’s an internal shift that happens with or without your permission.

When I was pregnant, I would often carpool with my bestie, Amy, to work. Coming from Fourways, and traveling into Hyde Park, means traffic, always. A stresser by nature, I hated the fact that I was spending more than 3 hours a day sitting on a congested Jan Smuts, when I could be doing something productive with my time. Amy, mom to Ben (nearly 2) would always tell me that my anxiety for things that were out of my hands (read: traffic) would diminish, if not disappear entirely when I had the baby.

She was right. Something in me has shifted, and I’ve found a backbone and will that I never knew existed. My life is no longer just mine, and going back to work means adjusting to a new kind of normal. Do I strive to succeed in the work place any less? Absolutely not, but my priorities in terms of my timings have changed. I no longer have the luxury of dawdling over a task until 6 pm. 6pm is my child’s bedtime. I now steamroll through my work in order to leave at a decent hour and make the painful commute back home, to fetch my baby from crèche.

The past two weeks, of re-learning how to adjust to a full time job, being a mom, and not losing my sanity has taught me some very important lessons. And this is why I believe that working moms make the most valuable employees**. Here’s why:

  1. We are efficient. We keep humans alive, so running a team, managing a client and getting things done comes as second nature to us. Trust me, work is a hell of a lot easier than being a stay at home mom. For any mom who raises their baby on a routine, implementing a similar routine at the office becomes second nature. Timing is everything (just ask the parent who’s been shat on when they took too long to replace the nappy.)
  2. We have empathy. I used to have sympathy for moms when their sick child meant they worked from home, or when they left early to go attend little Johnny’s underwater basket weaving tournament, but now, I totally get it. Sadly, the world does not stop spinning after you have a child (the fucking thing doesn’t even slow down) so getting anything done is twice as time consuming. Just this morning, millions of parents woke up, bathed, changed, fed, burped and played with their kids, before packing their school bags, making their lunches, wiping their nose for the 18th time and shuttling them off to school. They did this all before bathing, feeding and getting themselves to work. I’m not asking for a medal, I’m asking humans to have some compassion towards other humans.
  3. We don’t fuck around. Yesterday a colleague mentioned to me that she’s hardly seen me since I’ve been back at work. That’s probably because I get in, sit down, work harder than hard, and make sure my shit is done before I have to leave for the day. I know that I get 45 minutes with my baby every day, and I need to be able to do that with a clear conscience, knowing that I have achieved my work goals for that day.
  4. We have a zero bullshit tolerance. I no longer have the energy, nor the time, to tolerate bad behaviour. Be it in a personal relationship or a working environment. I will never be rude, but you can bet your ass that your behaviour will no longer go down with me rolling onto my back.
  5. We are patient. Sure, we have a low tolerance for rudeness, but we are possibly the most patience specimens on earth. Any mom of a toddler will tell you that, compared with her child’s “but why” questions 1000 times a day, helping someone with a work related, laborious task, just ‘aint no thang.
  6. We will deliver. Listen up, I have sucked snot out of an infants nose, using little more than a plastic tube and a prayer. That means I am resourceful as hell, and can probably go the extra mile to ensure you get what you need.
  7. We are trustworthy. I’ve kept my child alive this long, right?
  8. We can work under pressure. Having a baby is like giving birth to a ticking time bomb. In the early days, one never knows how long the nap will last, how long the nappy will stay clean, and how long your bebe can go between hunger screams. We live our lives like brave explorers, fitting in hundreds of chores and activities between naps and poos. That means, the more you pile on us in a working environment, the more we can do, You’ve all heard the saying – if you want something done, give it to a busy person.
  9. We are resilient. I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in almost half a year. If that’s not resilience, then I don’t know what is.
  10. When we are there, we are there 100%. Having a family means spontaneity disappears faster than your figure. So, when we do commit to something, it means we have lined up a plan in our absence in order to be there. That also means, we are going to take full advantage of the situation, and be present in the moment. Unless it’s a finance meeting, because I mean, snore.

** I’m not saying every single working mother is a win though. I have worked with a mother of 2 who proved more useless than Eskoms delivery promise. I’ve also worked with childless people who couldn’t arrange a piss up in a brewery. So, basically, some people are great, some people are dicks. You can’t win them all.

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The Fight For Flexi Time

6.4 kms in 2 hours and 15 minutes. That was my commute to work today. I know I’m not alone. Social media platforms this morning were pulsing with angry, frustrated and irritable drivers. Everyone in Joburg seemed to be stuck on one of our main roads trying desperately to get to the office and do.some.work.

Traffic in J Town is never good – unless it’s December – when for 1 month of the year our prettier sister Cape Town gets to experience what we do for the other 11. Today was made even worse by the torrential downpour which lambasted the whole of GP. Both roads and souls made damper by the grey, wet sky and the inching of wheels, lights on lights.

The irony hit me like burst cloud, when 30 minutes and 500 metres into my drive I laughed at the absurdity of it all. Here I was – trying my damndest to not while away my time on Facebook – while surrounded by my work laptop, personal laptop, smartphone, iPad and 3G dongle. Devices, which I could boot up in seconds (OK, not my Acer, that’s just a piece of crap) and start working on, productively, within minutes. I can bet you I wasn’t the only one experiencing that sweaty tingly feeling under my arms, neck getting clammier knowing there was work to be done, emails to be read and sent and to-do lists to be actioned and crossed off. Anxiety made worse by the never ending line of cars not moving in front of me and the transition from breakfast radio DJ to mid-morning DJ. All of this in 6.4 kilometres.

Why as a society are we so stuck on the idea of an ‘8 to 5’? My never ending drive into work gave me time to reflect on why this approach has never really been adopted in South Africa:

 

  1. People assume you are busy, productive, grafting hard if you are at your desk, in your high rental Sandton office block. There’s a false illusion that if you are at the office you must.be.working. Trust  me – I’ve  sat  next to enough people who study Facebook like they’re going to write an exam on it later that day, to know that this isn’t necessarily true.
  2. People love to feel like they have been served an injustice. It starts as kids – “Moooom, Jimmy got a bigger piece of cake/food/chocolate than I did’. We are no different as grownups. Whispered conversations in office walkways – “Did you see that so-and-so waltzed in here at 9 am?!” Tsk tsks and collective anger will a mob make. I bet these haters never stopped to think about so-and-so’s reason for ‘waltzing;’ in at 9am. Kids, school drop, carpooling, late nanny, they were working until 1 am from home?
  3. Trust. I get this one. I’m a bit of a martyr when it comes to getting things done. I hate people who take their time doing things – especially when someone else is waiting on them. Perhaps it’s my desire to please, driven by guilt that makes me a bright shiny candidate for flexi time. (Pick me, pick me! I will be so paranoid that you think I’m slacking off that I will work double as hard, no, no, make that triple!). If I cock it up, miss a deadline or turn into a 9 am drinker, then by all means, haul me back to my lumber support chair in my cubicle and never give me a leash again. But until then, let me prove to you that I am grown up adult, one capable of working. from. home. (When I need to)

Flexi time is just that – it’s flexible. On mornings when you wake up to a Mother Nature shit storm, wouldn’t it be nice to know that you can grab a cup of coffee, boot up your laptop and be productive for a few hours while waiting for traffic to subside?

If it took me 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to work today and will take me possible the same time to get home. If I generously slice off an hour or so from that and call it 3 hours commuting, then multiply that by the millions of worker bees trying to get to the office in time then we, my friends, are looking at millions of hours wasted on a daily basis. Millions of Rands lost and an economy with an upside down smile.

Let’s look at trying to change our mind-set and applaud those using this time more effectively. I applaud my friend who worked in bed from 5:30am waiting for the roads to look less congealed than a Mac n Cheese dish after a family meal. I applaud that guy who pulled into the Mugg and Bean to work instead of rising to road rage. I applaud that mom who ensured her child got to school on time and safe and will more than likely work from home tonight, when her family is tucked in bed. I applaud the iPhone hot spots, the Wifi zones and the 3G dongles –because of them we are less bound to our desks, and therefore more productive.

Remember – Busy doesn’t make you productive. Productive makes you productive. Being Busy used to be ‘cool’. You know those people who are always SO BUSY. They just don’t have time for anything. Life for them is exhausting. Busy Busy Busy, Miserable miserable miserable.

Life is too short to be busy and sad. Let’s make life easier, more productive and more happy. 

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