8 things to expect as a working mom of an infant 

Mews tech community management team proud member & working mom. In love with skiing, mountains & geeks!

I’m completely aware this isn’t a regular topic you would expect to see on a technical blog. Being part of the Mews tech team, I wanted to use the opportunity to share what it really takes not only to be a woman in tech, but a mom in tech. I realize that covering a topic like this is like walking a tightrope, but I believe we as a society should speak about it way more than we do now. I can also imagine it’s all way easier said than done in the fast-paced and innovative environment of the technical field. 

A little bit of background

Let me start by explaining what my role is and what it means. As a tech community manager or coordinator, you’re a liaison between the internal community (which is the tech team members when it comes to myself and my team) and the outside world. In other words, your work is to connect and engage people, make them feel good, help them grow and shine, communicate a lot, and last but not least, organize everything and everyone.

You can get a better idea of my responsibilities on our Github. It’s important to mention that these responsibilities correspond to a full-time job, meaning I now cover it all in a much more limited amount of time.

It’s a well-known fact that mothers in the Czech Republic enjoy one of the longest parental leaves in the world due to both its generous maternity leave policies and lack of day nurseries at the same time. According to the Eurostat report on member states’ childcare infrastructure, the Czech Republic has the second lowest number of available nursery schools in Europe. OECD noticed this shortage of day nurseries and crèches in the country and has criticized it in the past. Simply put, the system isn’t fully set up for working moms. 

I’ve always known I wouldn’t aim to stay at home for the usual three years, but once there’s a baby on the way, you’re told everything changes and the future is pretty unpredictable. What I knew was I would want to join the team as soon as possible while still being a full-time mom and be there for all the baby milestones. So here I am, doing my best to juggle it all somehow. It’s been a year since I rejoined the community management team, when my firstborn was seven months old. Being a two-career family with little to no help from our families and no nursery, I signed on to a 10 hours per week part-time contract. Below you’ll find out what I learned along the way.

1. Expanding your skill set 

Though working parents with little kids are often viewed as troublemakers, the undeniable fact is that working moms are willy-nilly expanding their skills – all while sharpening their communication, time management, working under pressure, concentration, prioritization, decision making, and much more. Let me give a simple example. As a working mom, your work time is limited. There’s no space for hesitation or loitering. You lull your little one to sleep, which means that during your deep work time, you go and get things done because you don’t know how much time you’ll have left. 

Besides all the benefits, there’s this multitasking issue of being a good servant but a bad master, which is totally relatable to balancing motherhood with work.  

2. Communication is key

If you’ve been thinking about returning to work, you’ve probably spoken to your team. To communicate is to live (and work); and especially with a kid, you learn that communication is the key to successful cooperation. There’s nothing like overcommunication. If possible, share your daily schedule, expected times for meeting slots, deep work time, and times off with your team and closest coworkers. Don’t forget to set up the right communication channels and procedures, and try to anticipate and come up with "crisis scenarios", too. 

As I mentioned earlier, I returned to work when my little one was seven months old, which seemed like perfect timing. My 28-week-long maternity leave was over and the baby slept three times a day, allowing me to work during that time. I soon learned the only constant in life with a kid is change. Don’t fight it and just go with the flow. Often, you’ll be late for calls or you’ll need to sign off suddenly. Life with (or without) a kid simply happens. And it’s not just that; with all the developmental milestones kids meet during the first 18 months, their daily schedule develops and changes quite frequently. After all, you’re not the absolute master of your time anymore. You’ve got a new boss, your baby. 

3. Learning to prioritize

With limited time and all the things on your work to-do list, you’ll need to make the very best use of your effort and time. Here’s what might help you from the beginning:

In general: 

  • put yourself and your family first;
  • maintain a work-life balance; 
  • get enough sleep and eat well; 
  • take your “me time.” 

In practice: 

  • skip the calls and meetings you can watch recorded later (ideally at your own pace); 
  • find your deep focus work time and use scheduled messages if that’s out of other people’s working times.

4. The tough first days and weeks 

The first days and weeks of a new job are always hard, but returning to the same position as before maternity leave might be tricky. Even though I felt prepared, something changed while I was away and I wasn’t ready for the new workload. In the past, I was used to getting everything done right on schedule, but now I realize there are things I’ll need to either prioritize or postpone. One simply can’t cover a full-time job in a quarter of the time.  

Moving from a full-time to a part-time job should go hand in hand with a reduction in the amount of work and adapting to the new regime. For many managers, it’s the first time in their careers that they have to “deal” with working moms, and therefore it may not be their intention to overload their charges during the first days and weeks. Do you know what works best here? Yes, to communicate and discuss the responsibilities! 

5. Setting achievable goals  

Let’s face it, being a working mom means working both inside and outside the home and leaving your comfort zone daily, and the reality is it can’t be perfect all the time. Cut down your ambitions a bit and set achievable goals in terms of deadlines and volume of work. It’s almost necessary to embrace the idea of not chasing perfection and allowing room for failure. 

Moms face it daily with their kids – it’s impossible to prevent every fall and misstep. In the tech community, the culture of learning from failure being an inevitable part of innovation and progress is well embedded – and it’s an approach other fields should adopt as well. 

6. Putting your ego aside 

There will be days when everything runs smoothly, then there will be days when you’ll count on the standard routine to keep everything and everyone on track but it will have the opposite effect. During these off days, put your pride and ego aside, ask for help, and learn to delegate. They say it takes a village to raise a child, so ask for a little support when needed and when there’s no village around. To tell you the truth, this is what I’m still struggling with the most – to let some tasks go and hand them over. 

7. Your company, your team 

Becoming a parent is a significant milestone in people’s lives and it’s the company they work for that helps new parents give their children the best start in life. Not necessarily by sending all those maternity leave gifts but by their approach and support during the last weeks at work, providing help with all the necessary paperwork, etc. When I left my community management position to take care of the baby, together with my manager Jan we agreed to stay in touch with the prospects of coming back partially after my maternity leave. Not only did we keep in touch to discuss my return, but I got regular updates on what the team was working on and what was new and planned, which I greatly appreciated once back in the process. All the more so, I realize this isn’t a common practice.  

I’m really grateful for the approach at Mews and the tech team leadership. Despite my part-time job and working more than 90% remotely, over the last year I’ve felt fully part of the team, supported in every aspect, and acknowledged for the work that I do. It wouldn’t be possible without the true community spirit and core values at Mews being a driving force behind our behavior and culture. It may be too bold to say but I believe both becoming a working mom and welcoming working moms back to work reflects all our company values: being ambitious, resilient, curious, open, and ultimately, human. 

Have you already been living the Mews values?

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Now I can’t imagine my life without flexible working hours and I’m super happy Mews not only advertises it, but lives it. That’s something you appreciate once having kids. My working hours have changed a lot over the last year until they stabilized to 1-3 PM and after 10 PM. I usually plan all my calls and meetings after lunch when my little one enjoys her nap, then I’m a full-time mom again, and I typically have my deep work time once she falls back asleep. I’m somehow accessible the whole day on Slack, but only engage when I’m needed. My lifesavers are all the message scheduling features on Outlook, Slack, etc., as I don’t have to bother people outside their working hours. 

 8. Being labeled

Lastly, being at the age of people having kids, I noticed family and working mom topics are "the new CSR” for many in the HR field. Unfortunately, from my experience many of these shiny phrases and statements are for Linkedin only. With nearly no chance for babysitting, I often must review the situation and choose if I simply stay at home or pack all our stuff and join one of the community or professional events with my little one to keep in the loop. I make sure we don’t disturb or bother anyone but I can’t miss all those judgemental looks every time.   

What I love about being back to work (and especially at Mews) is that I can be "just" Gabriela, the Community Coordinator, at least for two hours a day. I know there are all the "women in tech" initiatives all around but I dare to say the Mews tech team doesn’t really need it. We treat every team member the same, whether they’re a plant lady, ice-hockey player, mom of two who spends three hours in the morning on the playground, or a bird photographer. To all of us, they’re colleagues, buddies, managers, QA engineers, engineering directors, or IT specialists. Each person may have an extra label, and that’s ok because that allows recognition that different people have different qualities and hobbies. 

The takeaway

Before having a kid, I never realized that working moms could be such superheroes. If you’re one of them, pause and celebrate yourself. If you have some around you, stop and honor them. If you have a new working mom on your team, support her along the way.  

Being a full-time mom while working isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes it’s absolute chaos and working late nights. But if you really love what you do, if you really want it and have the right people around you, it’s so fulfilling.

Mews tech community management team proud member & working mom. In love with skiing, mountains & geeks!

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