An Open Letter to Managers All over the place
You just don’t get it. Please, I beg you – hear the despair in these words. The last year has completely exhausted me and you are not helping. I get it. You have a business to run and I have a job to do. Hell, I enjoy doing this job, but there has to be some recognition and a little understanding that this job isn’t the only thing that happens in my life.
What is still going on, you ask? Well, let me share it because you never get over the polite “How was your weekend?” investigate out. “Good. How was yours?” at the beginning of our meetings. My toddler got out of bed three times last night. He didn’t need anything and fell asleep immediately between waking up, but I couldn’t. However, he made sure that I didn’t cover up the faces of his loved ones when I put it back in – stuffed animals have to breathe too! My 9 month old baby is teething and learning to crawl, so his sleep wasn’t good either. This mom is tired!
But I did a lot of work last night! This one to two hours after the children fall asleep is the high point of productivity for me. I know you might think that I’m not obliged to do my job because I’m going to pick up the day care center at 5 p.m. sharp, but that’s just the beginning of Part II of my day. Next comes the collection, dinner, bath time, bedtime, tidying up the house, doing the day’s work and – if I’m lucky – finally sleeping.
Surprised by all of this? It’s partly my fault. You only see “Work Me” because that is all you are supposed to see. “Work Me” tries my best to hold it all together, do my shit, focus and be the ultimate co-worker. “Work Me” doesn’t want to be followed by the mother. “Work Me” likes adult time and likes having non-potty and paw patrol conversations.
It’s partly your fault, too. Empathy and inclusion are seriously lacking in our work culture. I understand that you may not be a working mother of young children, and you will never fully understand unless you are a working mother of young children. I don’t expect you to understand, I expect you to care enough about me as a person to try to put yourself in my shoes and consider what I’ve been through pandemic, work, family and young children. I expect you to acknowledge that if I ignore this other part of my life, I will feel left out, burned out, and ready to throw in the towel.
So let’s agree that we can improve this. First, let’s lay down some basic rules:
- You will trust me to do the job. Point. If I’m not in the office, there is probably a very good reason. If I go at 4:30 p.m. it’s because daycare centers charge a dollar a minute if you’re late. If this pandemic taught us anything, it is that you don’t have to be in the office to be a good employee. If I don’t do the job, we can talk. Until then, allow me to do the job if it is convenient for me.
- I also have to show empathy. You have a manager and goals and deadlines that you also need to meet. I make a commitment to asking what is important so that I can make sure I am setting the right priorities. I want to be a team player.
- You respect the boundaries of the working day. Work commitments before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. are generally terrible. They force me to choose between my commitment to my job and my commitment to my family. Don’t make me choose We all lose.
- I’ll keep my limits because if I don’t respect my limits then how can I expect you to? I won’t be replying to emails over the weekend so you’ll stop expecting me. I will stop reorganizing my life to prioritize work so you will stop expecting me. And while we’re at it – stop expecting this from yourself or others! Whether working mothers of young children or not, everyone has a life and responsibility outside of work and this needs to be normalized.
And here, dear manager, I finish this letter. We have the opportunity to create a great workplace full of empathy and inclusion. I know that I am not the only one who will benefit from it. We all benefit when we feel that we can bring our whole selves to work and that we are seen for who we are. They see me; I see you.
Your local, friendly, exhausted working mom
Jess Feldt is a life and leadership coach for strong, ambitious working mothers. She says: “Fuck your shoulders!” It is possible to feel fulfilled as both a professional and a parent without sacrificing your identity or your sanity. You can read more at jessfeldtcoaching.com and follow Jess on Instagram and LinkedIn.