A Little Thought Experiment (2 Million Moms Were Pushed Out Of Work), So What?
Collectively, moms are expert uncertainty navigators. Some of us have attempted to give birth with a plan and had to make adjustments. Others thought they were going to adopt a particular child and then the legal system changed her plans. Yet, 2020 felt a little differently. It was the year that according to one Reuters article about 2 million moms were pushed out of the workforce. The article that I am referencing is entitled: Pushed out by pandemic, women struggle to regain footing in U.S. job market, by Jonnelle Marte and Aleksandra Michalska.
In that article, you can witness how two moms were thinking through their career options, childcare constraints, and whether they would return to the workplace anytime soon. What the article does not consider are the potential ramifications that we will all feel from the void of moms in the workplace so that’s where I intend to creatively shed some light for you (moms and non-moms). Welcome to my thought experiment…
Hypothesis: We will all feel the impact of such a void in the workplace. Unlike an academic piece, this is my creative thought experiment based on my ten-year anniversary of being a mom so let’s call this my first-hand primary research. Then there were those years being raised by a single mom. Add to mix my ten recent years of career coaching working moms alongside people without children. My wisdom comes from several interactions and candid conversations that ended with laughs, tears, worries, or WTF (what-the-f*ck was that) sentiments.
So here are my three big ideas! The three lasting effects that could arise due to the 2 million deep void of moms in the workforce are that 1) a mother’s touch will no longer play a role in some of the products/services that we adore, 2) a mom’s ability to simultaneously toggle between what’s best today and tomorrow will no longer save us from disastrous innovations, and 3) the “best” solutions will not make their ways into your shopping cart.
1. So, who needs a mother’s touch, anyways?
You have to admit there is something unique about a mother’s touch: be it her care, conviction, or deep-seated loyalty. If it’s easier for you to get what I am referring to.
Do this: Think about whatever you may have felt from a maternal figure in your life. It’s that tenderness, warmth, or concern.
That is exactly what will be missing in the products and services that will no longer have the benefit of being ideated, sold, or enhanced by a mom. Consider for a minute what a baby blanket would feel like if the entire production process were void of moms working besides the conveyor belts in factories? What do you think is the difference between a baby blanket that barely meets safety standards (flame retardant enough, soft enough, sensitive skin enough) to capture its maximum profit margins vs. a baby blanket that a wild zealot group of moms will purchase and tell her mom friends about? Cynics may say that the difference is a lawyer who will want to mitigate the risk of lawsuits. However, I surmise the difference is that a mom’s opinion was taken into account and a mom’s touch ascertained the blanket’s worthiness of touching any child’s cheek. It’s hard to fathom that a mom, be it via a focus group or boardroom, was not behind our mutual love of some of the most cuddly and safe blankies out there. Think of the moms who quality check those baby blankets? Yep, those moms may no longer be around to double-check what AI can’t yet replicate: a mom’s touch.
2. Moms vs. Link from The Legend of Zelda: Who do you think would win?
Know this: Moms are the ones who not only care about the here-and-now but moms are all also already tied into and invested in what will bear fruit tomorrow. My sons will outlast me. This is my working hypothesis. When self-doubt crops up when I contemplate whether to ask a big name to be a guest on my podcast or not I remind myself that my podcast is not about me. A non-mom may be able to get some energy from saying it’s about her listeners but my energy comes from my sons. I will conduct a podcast interview at 2 am if I know that it will serve my three sons. I love my listeners but 5 am is as early as I’ll wake up for them. #realtalk
Here’s how I see things: my podcast is my treasure trove for my three sons and their offspring. This perspective helps me decide whether to interview a sleazy guest or a person with a message wholesome enough for my kids (when they grow up). When I make decisions like these I can quickly think about my intent in that moment and for the future. Both.
Moms have the same ability to toggle between the present and the future when they make decisions. If you are a mom then go ahead and claim this superpower. It’s better than any power anyone can use whilst playing Link from the Legend of Zelda. I do believe us moms could take on Link hands tied behind our backs exactly as we’ve done other hard things before.
Some can effectively brainstorm all of the possible intended and unintended consequences that we’d have to live with and that our offspring would have to live with too. There’s a misnomer out there calling this our ability to worry so I rather not use that word. It’s a superpower in my humble opinion as a fellow “warrior,” I mean mom.
Either way, I would rather have someone with this invested interest at the helm of decisions in corporations. She has a face she can see in her mind’s eye and feel in her heart when she innovates in her field. Things change when you have a face to consider when you make tough choices. Put it this way: a mom sees a face that was once inside of her body (or heart if she adopted a child). Try recreating that bond? Lock yourself in a lab for as long as you’d like, you won’t be able to replicate this sense of devotion in a petri-dish.
3. Moms want the best for their children and we are constantly reminded when we can’t do more.
Is this the best that I can do? I’ve noticed that a lot of times moms tend to open up their laptops once their kids are sleeping to put in another workday. Some do this because they are scared that if they don’t they won’t keep their jobs. Others do this because they have an extraordinary sense for appreciation for their clients or bosses who work with their schedules and let them be a mom. Do you want to know what’s more loyal than a man’s best friend? A working mom who can rely on her boss to quickly run to her kid’s doctor appointments. This mom will always aim to deliver her best. She will be loyal to sincere and kind bosses who are flexible.
So what will ultimately be missing or what is at stake if those two million moms never come back into the workforce? We will no longer enjoy the best self-care tools to reclaim our sanity after this pandemic. We won’t have access to the best answers to meaningful questions we must address across generations. Offerings making good on the promise to deliver the best experiences will fall short. Something is going to break if we are missing half of the population’s best efforts?
Of course, you can say that dads want the best for their children too. But what’s the difference when you lack a mom’s definition of what is “best?” The difference is we feel it in our cells and this feeling comes up for us more often every single day. Exhibit a: supermarket check-outs.
When we underdeliver our best we freaking feel it. Take a typical supermarket run. Our kid does a great job that day. We are waiting in line at a supermarket. They ask for a toy or kid’s magazine and we can’t buy it. We don’t have it in our budget. We would if we could. Damn it, our kid did GOOD! As a mom, I feel like typically we have more times in the day to be reminded by our own children when we can’t deliver. I’ve witnessed this from single moms especially. I was the little girl who wanted that Polly Pocket, a slice of pizza on-the-go, bus money, my own room, etc. I didn’t get any of that. My mom couldn’t afford those things most days. So when a mom thinks about putting something out there in the market I know she is putting a little extra pixie dust into that item. A mom’s standards on what is the “best” are high. She will see that widget for what it means rather than for what it is. She gets how a mom will stretch herself to get a huge smile from even her overgrown cherub.
On that note, in my personal opinion don’t you think this two million mom void is worth filling? This Tuesday, I’ll be publishing a podcast episode that is dedicated to the 2 million moms who paused their careers to help them navigate their career journey. I encourage you to have a listen and share it with moms who may feel shut out from the workforce. Tell them we need them and show them you care by picking up the phone when they call. They can use some nurturing too and clearly be sure to acknowledge your mom this Mother’s Day if you are lucky enough to have her in your life.
Here are some podcast episodes of An Interview With Melissa Llarena with moms, check them out:
Caitlyn Elf, Registered Dietitian and Mom, Shares How to Make Eating a Learning Experience Even Snacking in Isolation, Discusses Changing Careers From Marketing Into Nutrition, and How To Keep The Peace During Family Dinners, Episode 19