Stop Apologizing, Own Your Mom Status at Work

In an evolving workplace, moms have the skills needed for speed, innovation, and leadership. Why we should stop apologizing for what you bring to the table.

By Rachel Cooke

Let me preface this by saying I’m really good at what I do; personally and professionally.

And yet I realize that—on both fronts—I’ve spent the past nine years apologizing nearly every day to all those in my orbit I believed I was failing (i.e., everyone).

One year ago, I left my full-time job in corporate Human Resources largely out of guilt (and yes – I’m indeed a working Jewish mom). My inability to commit either to doing “library duty” at school (i.e., suburban slave labor) or to “really going above and beyond” at work (i.e., unpaid evening hours) left me constantly believing I was failing someone. And also, asking too much of everyone: Patience from my family, flexibility from the office, and lest we forget – those school library books aren’t going to shelve themselves!

Nearly every day, I was sorry.

But now we fast-forward: A year later and smarter, and now a proud and successful independent leadership consultant, I’m ready to stop apologizing. But first, there’s one final apology I need to make.

And this one is to me. Because I now recognize just how many of those “I’m sorry’s” should have been “you’re welcomes.” I wasn’t failing. I was pushing the envelope, and adding a value that was unique.

Top 4 reasons to stop apologizing already

The workplace is ever-evolving (think faster pace, greater need for prototyping and innovation, war for top talent, etc). And working moms are—in many ways—better equipped than most with precisely those skills that drive speed and innovation, and grow leadership pipelines.

Skills such as what, you may ask? Well, allow me to list but a few:

You don't need to apologize for being a mom at work. In many ways, being a mom makes you better equipped than most with precisely those skills that drive speed and innovation, and grow leadership pipelines.

  • Team-building: It really does take a village. Childcare, homework helpers, activity directors… there are so many hands and legs involved in balancing kids and work. No one knows that better than we do. We have the humility to ask for help, and the grace to say thank you. We build great teams that get it done.
  • Efficiency: Said otherwisely, doing the right stuff fast and smart. And simply not doing the rest. We prioritize because we have to. We’ll pick up a birthday gift while on a conference call, carrying a Starbucks, but we’ll decide that load of laundry can simply wait. And so can that TPS report – until tomorrow. We’ve got all the shortcuts.
  • Ingenuity: How do you get bubble gum off the peanut butter that’s stuck in your kid’s hair? Don’t know. But when the moment strikes—oh, and it will—I’ll figure it out. I’m a problem solver. Because I have no choice but to be. Same applies for managing that sticky client situation. In the moment, I’ll listen carefully and identify the quickest, simplest solution to the problem.
  • Agility: We pivot constantly. Kids get sick, soccer practice moves, and little Joe or Jane forgets they have a book report due. Tomorrow. We need to drop what we’re doing and make essentials happen. And we bring that gumption to work too.

I could go on, but remember—I’m efficient. I believe I’ve made my point. So, to me, and to all the other “me’s” out there, truly, I’m sorry. For all of the other apologies you’ve felt compelled to make. For failing to recognize all the value you were bringing all along. For not questioning the old-school assumption that great “real” work only happens between the hours of 9 and 5… and sometimes beyond.

For asking you so many times to lean in. When all you really needed to do was sit back and own it.

rachel-cookeRachel Cooke is the founder of Lead Above Noise, a leadership and organization development consultancy. Rachel believes to her core that great organizations are grounded in great leadership. And her personal mission is to partner with leaders and their teams who believe the same, and are looking for simple (but not easy!) tools and strategies for evolving their work, and in turn, their ability to deliver delight.

3 thoughts on “Stop Apologizing, Own Your Mom Status at Work

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. What a beautiful, important, and well put piece. I once heard a lecture given by a pediatrician about her decision to work part-time to balance her career and family to the effect of: “You will never meet a person with more guilt than a working Mom.” So true. But why? Becoming a mother has a made me a better pediatrician , and the perspective I gain from caring for sick children makes me a better mother. Thanks for putting this all in words, Rachel Cooke! And to so many others: You’re welcome. 🙂

  2. Rachel – so eloquently put! At this time of year when everyone seems to be running mad and everyone demanding some part of you to get something done – there seems to be not enough of you to go around and satisfying everyone’s needs. So you feel guilty and then the apologizing starts. Since reading your piece – I have stopped apologizing and become more realistic on what can get done. And yes – those books will get shelved sooner or later 🙂

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