In this episode I am having an awesome conversation with author Liz O'Donnell about the realities working moms face in the world today trying to balance home life and work.
Liz is is the general manager of Double Forte, a PR and digital marketing firm, as well as the author of Mogul, Mom & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman, a book that examines the impact women’s personal lives have on their careers and the ways business can support working women.
Tune in for some very candid discussion that will be eye-opening at the least, and more than likely have you cheering from your seat!
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Liz's Boss Mom Journey
Our conversation begins with Liz sharing a bit about her background, recounting that she always "wanted to want" to be a mother....but never actually wanted to. She felt like one day she may regret never having kids, but just didn't feel maternal.
Her husband was on board for not having any kids, and they went on their merry way as just a happily married couple.....until one day, he changed his mind! Liz got on board, got pregnant at age 35 and was shocked to discover she actually liked being a mom!
But, she also LOVED working (while her husband did not) so they came up with an arrangement they felt would work best for them: she would work full-time and he would be the stay-at-home dad.
As she developed and honed her skill set working in PR, social media and digital marketing, she was also doing the same in a few side ventures as well. In 2009 Liz started blogging, eventually wrote a book and recently shut down that original blog to start a new one called WorkingDaughter.com.
Now Liz's children are 12 and 14 and her husband is preparing to make his way back into the working world, but in the beginning when they were just figuring things out, everything looked a little different.
When she initially went back to work (after 10 weeks of maternity leave) her husband was still working so they had to juggle back and forth a little bit. She remembers finding a great daycare for her son, then getting laid off shortly after returning from maternity leave after having her daughter, which meant they would have to pull their son out of the daycare they loved and that he was thriving at.
It's experiences like these as a working mother that have fueled Liz's passion to examine and address the realities of working moms trying to balance it all in a culture that's not always been the easiest for working moms to navigate while having a real life.
The Path to Writing Her Book
Liz shares that she had always wanted to be a writer, so it was no surprise (especially after being a blogger) that she eventually ended up sitting down to pen her own book.
She knew that she had to write the book she did because of the things she had experienced as a working mom, and how widespread an issue the disparity between life for working moms and life for working dads had become.
She shares that there is countless data that shows women are still doing 40-60% more housework and childcare in the home, regardless of who's working.
“Nobody’s talking about this to the level that I want to talk about it.” (8:02)
We discuss how in our culture the public school system still operates under the assumption that there will be a parent at home during the day, and 9 times out of 10 if there is an emergency or need of some kind they default to reaching out to the mom first.
This is just one example, she says, of how women often get the short end of the stick when it comes to work/life balance and validation of their vocational status.
She also talks about the reality that, while women are often pulling more weight in terms of all the things they juggle between work and home life, it's painful and uncomfortable to feel upset or resentful at your spouse because most aren't bad people.....they've just grown up in a culture that has conditioned them to perceive and expect things to be a certain way.
Especially when there are often more variables at play than just one. Case in point: what Liz calls "maternal gatekeeping" which is where moms habitually jump in even when their partners are trying to be more involved and take ownership of responsibilities within the home, because they constantly feel like they could do a better job.
From Liz's perspective, we live in a society where most work cultures that expect you to check your "real life" at the door in the name of professionalism....which often hurts working moms in a different way than their working counterparts.
“I think what we really need is not just work/life policies, but we need work/life cultures, and they’re two different things.” (24:42)
Continuing the Journey
Since writing her book, she has shifted her focus a bit in starting her new blog and working on her new book that is about recognizing that there are 44 million people in this country giving unpaid elder care support (to parents, grandparents, etc).
Liz states that, as a culture, we need to solve the issue of work/life balance for everyone regardless of what their unique circumstances are (being parents, being elder caregivers, etc).
She proposes the introduction of a "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the workplace, which would enable you to excel at your job, while being able to take the time away from work to handle things in your personal life without being interrogated or made to feel like your job has to come before your personal obligations to your family.
“We’re not expected to be humans at work, we’re expected to be professional!” (31:09)
But the reality as moms and/or elder care givers is that we are all the things, all the time and shouldn't constantly be expected to take hats off in order to put other ones on.
What Women Can Do to Make Better Spaces for Themselves
In addition to advocating and championing policies like "don't ask, don't tell" in the workplace, Liz also suggests that women actively take care regarding their attitudes toward men.
She talks about how it can be easy to be resentful or angry at men across the board, but the reality is that if anything is going to change in our society, it will require the support and involvement of men.....and many men aren't trying to propagate these issues on purpose, so there should be a modicum of grace extended their way.
Liz also encourages women to constantly assess whether they are in a good space that is working for them, or if they're regularly having to give up too much of themselves and sacrifice their personal lives on the alter of their work lives.
“You don’t want to see women suffering and sacrificing themselves through the whole experience.” (37:33)
One of her favorite sayings is to "Put down the mop!" which she says means finding the things in your life that you can let go and move on from, because at the end of the day they don't actually matter that much!
Let go of the drive to prove to other people that you love your kids, or that your house is always neat and tidy, and so on. At the end of the day your only obligation is to stay true to yourself and figure out what works best for you and your family.....so let everything else go!
Referenced in the Show:
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