Motherhood at JM: The personal, the professional, and the overlap between the two

Part 1: Domestic negligence, cognitive load and letting go

Jess: I finally shared that Jessica Valenti article with our #parenthood channel on Slack.

It’s not just about dividing those clearer physical activities in the home (taking your even share of pickups and dropoffs, whatever it is), but it’s the additional cognitive load you’re taking on by thinking about the myriad of other things that actually go into taking care of a little human being.

Coll: My husband is super hands-on with the day-to-day stuff, but I find myself taking on all of the thinking behind those more straightforward physical activities — checking if we have the right clothes washed for certain activities, making sure the right things are packed at the start of the day, and actually deciding what meals we’re going to have. You come back to being like… ‘What if I didn’t think about these things? What would happen?’

Part 2: Capacity, value and the logistics of workplace parenthood

Jess: Since becoming a mother myself — and having worked with other mothers with an open-minded approach about what their needs are and how flexible we can be to accommodate them — the notion has really dawned on me of the talent being lost to motherhood.

This is definitely not a criticism of stay-at-home parents or the choice to focus on motherhood at certain times of your life rather than your career, but the fact is that there’s less talent showing up in this demographic.

Coll: There’s less talent across the board which results in fewer people applying. But also for those mums who are in roles already, or are returning back to an existing job after maternity leave, there’s a gap too. I’ve found that I’ve met the challenge of [asking myself] ‘How do I continue to be valuable, and grow myself in my career?’ whilst I’m in this stage of having young kids. Maybe I should mention, I’ve got a 22-month-old and a 4-year-old.

I need to understand that I’m pretty experienced at what I do, and at times I can actually offer the most value in an advisory capacity which means that I’m able to give interesting and useful high-level critique, feedback and input.

I can do that quickly, and the more I do it, the more value I can deliver to everyone.

I don’t think that this reduction in capacity is a reduction in capability.

Coll: No, it isn’t.

Part 3: Vulnerability and equal parenting

Jess: I believe that that reduction in capacity does have an impact over what you can deliver on. That doesn’t mean that you’re contributing less value, but you do have to acknowledge (for yourself) that you don’t have the time to dedicate to the same tasks that you used to. Something’s going to give in that equation. For me, I realised in working an advisory role through most of my maternity leave that I couldn’t be CEO of JM at that time — my capacity prevented me from doing that role justice — but I could contribute in other valuable ways, and my experience absolutely still counts for something. I’ll work back up to that role again in the future — or something like it. For me, that’s really freeing.

If you were a man and the CEO of JM and had just had a baby, you might be out for three weeks — but you’d continue in that CEO role.

Jess: Well, my husband is case in point, right?

Now we’re both working part-time — my husband works three days and I work four. But the economics of that becomes the other conundrum in your life, and you forego some things because you’ve made the decision to work and be at home with your kids.

Not everyone has that. I’m forever whinging that we haven’t bought a house — but if we had, we’d probably be more hamstrung right now. We’d have to be meeting mortgage repayments and probably couldn’t be living the way we are, which starts to stray into the territory of housing affordability — a totally different topic! It’s curious: how can society allow more of these flexible working arrangements for mums and dads when affordability is a challenge?

At a surface level, vulnerability is seen as weak, even though it’s actually an extremely courageous thing to possess and exhibit.

Coll: The other angle is interesting too: foregoing full-time work and looking weak because you’re not progressing your career. We [as women] have felt that incredibly strongly in our process of coming to terms with our careers and achievements not progressing as far as they would have if we didn’t have kids. Men succumbing to that, when weakness is such a huge vulnerability for them, might even feel it in a much stronger capacity than we do. It would be incredibly intimidating. Perhaps it makes it even harder.

For some reason I think that because I’m the mum, I should have all of the answers, which is ridiculous.

Coll: It is.

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