It was the sort of morning where everything that could go wrong was going wrong. The kid was sick. The husband unable to take off work to take her to the pediatrician. I had to take off from my still fairly new job to run her to the doctor. I had no choice. The kid was sick. She couldn’t wait.
But then another wrinkle. The pediatrician had shut down for the Jewish holidays. We’d have to go to urgent care, sit, and wait. I had no choice. The kid was sick. She couldn’t wait.
So I swallowed deeply and sent out an email to my bosses. Could I leave for a few hours, take my sick kid to the doctor?
The answer was swift. Of course. Do what you need. Let me know if you need any help.
I breathed a sigh of relief, and I left. I took my cellphone, my lifeline, and while we sat in urgent care awaiting a doctor who would ultimately waste our time not even examining my daughter and getting all the information he needed to treat her in a phone call with my pharmacist, I worked my thumbs furiously over emails and texts to keep things moving at work.
I did it not because I had to but because I knew I could. I know how lucky I am to have raised a child in the past 10 years with flexible work schedules and flexible bosses, to have worked for people who understand that working mothers are not a drag on their offices. In fact, working mothers are quite often better workers because of our ability to multi-task, whipping out office emails while sitting in a cold doctor’s office with one arm wrapped around their sick child cuddling a teddy bear or staying online late while our spouses make dinner so we can make up the hours lost driving to and from urgent care.
Don’t take my word for it. In one study carried out by Microsoft, nearly 60 percent of employers say the mothers on their staff are “better team players,” and one third said their employees’ “multitasking skills improved after they gave birth.” What’s more, when the research division at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis studied productivity in the workplace, they found mothers were more productive on average than their child-free peers. Then there’s this little fact: “two in five managers believe [mothers] work faster and can multi-task.”
All solid fact, so why is it that I feel so lucky? Because despite science backing up working moms for all that it is we do for the economy, bosses like mine are still in the minority.
Women with kids face a 14 percent wage gap between themselves and women without kids. And in a nation where 40 million workers don’t get sick days, one kid’s bout with the flu can (and often does) mean mom losing her job. And when a working mother enters the public eye — as a female politician or CEO of a major corporation — she still faces questions about her responsibility to kids, where working dads are asked questions about, well, their jobs or policy or something that directly relates to the task at hand.
Which only goes to further explain why it is working moms who are truly valued by their bosses are so much more valuable at their jobs: because we’re grateful. We know how lucky we have it, and we’re going to do everything we can to keep it that way.
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