Mothering the Workplace

I have spent a good deal of time thinking about how my job outside of the home makes me a better mother but lately, I’ve realized the reverse is just as true.  My job as a mother makes me a much stronger attorney, a much more approachable boss, and an overall better employee than I would be without a little boy perched on my shoulder.  I’ve found, lately, that I’ve been bringing a lot more of the “mother” me into the office and you know what? It’s actually making it a lot nicer place to work.  Maybe what’s been missing in the workforce isn’t more professional women… it’s more mommies.  The more I think about it, the more it makes sense… after all, good parenting really just amounts to good people… across the board.  So here’s my breakdown of how being a good mother equates to being a good boss, a good employee and dammit… a good person:

I hung this sign in my office... to remind me.

I hung this sign in my office… to remind me.

1. Moms Make Good Choices:  I can’t tell you the number of times each day that I look at J and say “Make good choices.” It’s infinity plus infinity. I stole it from my sister, who often says it with greater patience than I do, but it seems to work to remind him that whatever he’s doing isn’t exactly what he should be doing.  But I was leaving those words at home, leaving them to pick up at the end of the day instead of carrying them with me. So I made a conscious choice to carry the words with me, reminding myself to just… make good choices.  And you know what? I find that my interactions with opposing counsels are going a lot smoother, my interactions with my co-workers are less infuriating, and my feelings about myself and my job are a lot more satisfied.  When things get tough and the first instinct is to pull up Amazon and do some shopping,  mothers remind themselves to Make Good Choices… and more often than not, it gets us all right back on track.

2. Moms Clean Up Mess:  Probably the most important mothering lesson that I try to teach my son is to always clean up after himself. I remind him to clean up the toys he’s done playing with, the food he’s done eating, the dishes he’s done using. It’s a long and arduous process, but eventually I *hope* that he’ll become a semi-self-sufficient man who actually cleans up after himself.  It’s a lesson that most workplaces could sincerely use… not just for the coffee mugs that collect on the desks, but also for the literal and figurative messes that people get into.  Before I was a mom, I freely admit that there were situations I got in at work where it was easier to just ignore the mess than to dive in and fix it… it was easier to pass the buck, to hope that my boss took over or that a co-worker would get assigned the case or client or paperwork.  These days, I’ve learned that we’re all responsible for our own messes: the ones we make and the ones we inherit.  When something is in shambles at the office, whether it’s a file or a client or yes… the coffee mugs… I roll up my sleeves and get to work… because if there’s one thing a mother hates, it’s a mess.

3.  Moms Use Their Nice Words:  Oh nice words.  In my profession especially, using my nice words is a crucial thing to remember.  Since becoming a mom, I’ve been able to channel that inherent need to teach my child kindness into being a kinder attorney.  I talk to my clients like people; I talk to my opposition like people; I talk to my co-workers like people.  Before being a mom, work was a place to go and work and avoid drama or conflict… and while there’s still a lot to be said about that, it’s also become a place where a vibrant community of people are spending the majority of THEIR days, too. Moms realize that everyone is just doing the best they can and wants to be treated with respect… and moms, for the most part, are better at being respectful to the people around us.

On top of all of that, I think mothers are better at noticing when someone is upset, knowing when someone is overworked, and most especially knowing when someone is hiding something.  I’m a much more effective and empathetic boss than I would have been before children and I find that my co-workers who are moms are some of my favorite people to work with… because mothers just get it, right? We realize we’re all a part of something bigger and the 40 plus hours we spend in the office ought to be just as enjoyable as the rest of our lives.  So when I get to a point in my career where I’m responsible for hiring, I can assure you I will ALWAYS want mothers working in my office… if for no other reason than to remind the rest of the world to just make those good choices.




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