How Young Working Women Really Feel About Working Moms


What Not to Do

Her experiences with less tactful working moms notwithstanding, M. said that she has met "amazing women" in medicine who have shown her that it's possible to have a medical career and a family. She was one of several women I spoke to who said she hoped to emulate some of her working-mom peers.

But others say their experiences with working moms have taught them what not to do.

Gallagher, the Connecticut lawyer, is also considering having children someday, but she wants to avoid falling into a model that she said doesn't work: raising kids when both parents work full-time at demanding jobs.

"I think the biggest lesson is to have a spouse who is really flexible. You need one parent who has a certain amount of flexibility, and if you're both tied up with crazy jobs, it does become really difficult."

Liz, the Cleveland headhunter, has another solution: She plans to devote her childless years to making partner at her firm, a move, she said, that will bring with it a heftier paycheck and a more flexible schedule.

"The idea is to bust my butt for my next couple of years," she said, "and that will enable me from a financial standpoint and work-life balance standpoint to have kids and not have to go through what some of these working moms go through, because it looks really hard."

Lorenz, the young ad agency employee, isn't quite sure how she'll handle the work-life balance, but she concedes it might someday mean leaving her industry of choice.

"I don't know I would want to stay in advertising and be a working mom. The hours are really long, and when you want to get home to your family, I can imagine it's tough," she said. "I can see why people take time off work and don't do the exact job they might want to do because they have these kids."

Helpful Solutions

Carol Evans, the president of Working Mother Media, said there are steps employees and companies can take to help both working parents and nonparents alike while easing tension between the two groups.

At a company level, organizations should embrace flexible schedules for all employees, she said. For instance, those seeking to rearrange their schedules to train for a marathon, take a college class or care for sick parents should be able to do so.

"If it is just for moms, the company is doing it wrong," Evans said. When "the stigma is lifted from everybody for flexible work, everybody benefits."

Evans said that more companies are moving toward a more flexible workplace culture, not because of working moms but because of the influx of millennial generation workers.

"The youngest generation -- they really want flexibility. They don't want to be tied down," she said. "They're used to working from anywhere with all the tech tools they need. They know they don't have to do work the same way it's always been done."

Forming employee resource groups, or ERGs, including those targeting women, could also go a long way toward improving relations between parents and childless co-workers.

"When women's ERGs are present, it really helps to lower the level of resentment, because of a lot senior women are helping younger women," Evans said. "How can a young woman resent a woman who has kids but who is also trying to help further women in our company. It's a systematic way to help reduce the level of sniping. ... When advancement of women is part of our conversation and our mind-set, it filters down to the young childless women, who realize, 'Oh yeah, this will be for me some day.'"

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