How Mandatory Return-to-Office is the Great Unequaliser for a Mother’s Career Future

How post-pandemic disparity is increasing the motherhood penalty

Sam Scribes
Published in
4 min readMay 24


Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Today, I want to talk about a topic close to my heart: the return to the office and how it may jeopardise working mothers' career futures. Buckle up because we’re diving into the wild ride of office dynamics, school pick-ups, and the eternal quest for work-life balance.

Let’s face it: the transition back to the office isn’t all rainbows and sunshine, especially for us multitasking mavens. Gone are the days of pyjama-clad meetings and lunchtime cuddles with our little ones. Now, we find ourselves caught in the whirlwind of rush hour traffic, back-to-back meetings, and the ever-elusive quest for the perfect work-life harmony.

As we bid farewell to the flexibility of remote work, we’re thrust back into a world that demands our physical presence, where face-to-face interactions rule the day. But fear not, fellow working mums, for we have faced tougher challenges than this! We are experts at multitasking, problem-solving, and finding humour in the chaos…

…I think this is where the narrative is distorted and toxic positivity permeates. As children of shoulder-padded power-suiting 80s and 90s mum in the global stock market heydays, we’re taught to “chase our dreams” and that women can “do it all”—glossy magazines clip career advice next to how to get your man to propose next to each other. Society’s definition of productivity is skewed towards output. Pour more into your work, home, husband, and children. Our system is geared towards excess and extracts everything from you until you’re a walking shell of your former self.

What if we flip the switch and think of productivity based on a well-being index? What if the commute is factored into working hours? Will returning to the office be mandatory, then?

As we brace ourselves for long weekday rush and weekends that will now seem to zoom past us, I don’t have any tips or strategies except to commiserate with you in my pile of week-old laundry.

But if you insist, here are a few “strategies” I came across:

Embrace the Power of Planning
Create schedules and routines for smooth transitions between work and family life. A well-organised calendar is your new best friend. Umm…have you met my husband who tells me his plans the day of… and often while he’s on the toilet…again?! Have you met my three-year-old who catches every virus?? A well-organised calendar is only as good as the lack of unexpected disruptions.

Advocate for Flexibility
Communicate with your employer about your unique needs as a working mother. Flexibility in office hours, remote work options, or adjusted schedules can go a long way in maintaining sanity. Oh, sure, because I haven’t tried? Sandra just got to lead that exciting new project because she was having a drink with the rest of the team while I was picking up Timmy from school.

Build a Support Network
Connect with other working mums who understand the joys and challenges of juggling career and family. Share experiences, swap advice, and offer a listening ear — it’s the ultimate power of sisterhood. I don’t even have time to myself between office commutes, school pick-ups and working after hours to make up for leaving early. I’m barely hanging on by a thread here; not sure how I can be of much help to others!

Practice Self-Care
Don’t forget to prioritise yourself amidst the hustle and bustle. Take those well-deserved breaks, indulge in a guilty pleasure, and remember to laugh at the absurdity of it all. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Oh, I did manage to do that last one—the absurdity of practising self-care with the mental load that working motherhood brings.

In all seriousness. All mothers, not only working mothers, are superheroes in disguise. But superheroes need a break too! Career advancement and motherhood should not be mutually exclusive. I don’t know what needs to happen to make that change; perhaps we should all stop turning up to work one day. Oh, right, that’s a strike. Except we don’t have a union for mothers? Someone should get on to that.

I’m a mum to a three-year-old, and I design and write at my own marketing business, Sincere Copy. Stay tuned for more tips, stories, and humour to brighten your journey through working motherhood. You’re not alone in this adventure!

P.S. When all else fails, coffee and a killer playlist are your secret weapons for conquering the mornings!



Sam Scribes
Writer for

Hello! I'm Sam, a creator, communicator and lifelong learner. Passionate about storytelling via various medium. This is my world of words.