Motherhood is Tough AF, You Need A Mentor

I wanted to know how these successful women managed their career and personal lives. Did they have time for hobbies? If they were mothers, did they see their children as often as they wanted? Were their employers supportive? What was the best career path to ensure long-term happiness and flexibility?

I’ve always believed in the importance of strong female mentors. Back when I was a law student, I often sought advice from experienced female attorneys. Sometimes they were women I met at networking events or through the law school’s mentorship program. Other times they were a supervising attorney in an internship or professor with whom I had established a rapport.

In addition to asking basic questions about career and practice, I inevitably also asked about work/life balance. I wanted to know how these successful women managed their career and personal lives. Did they have time for hobbies? If they were mothers, did they see their children as often as they wanted? Were their employers supportive? What was the best career path to ensure long-term happiness and flexibility?

Over time I realized that every single one of these incredible women who had served as a mentor to me was also a mother. Every single one of them. They were tenured professors, law firm founders, members of the judiciary, successful trial attorneys, government officials, and, also: mothers.

This realization brought me a lot of comfort, and, over time, their advice and influence became even more prominent in my life. It encouraged me to see working mothers living lives like the one I wanted.

We know that women can have careers and raise families. That should be the rule and not the exception. However, for as much as it should go without saying that women can do anything, there is no denying this: representation matters.

Women continue to face barriers in the workplace.  

Historically, women have faced barriers in the workplace that men have not. In fact, women continue to face workplace bias and marginalization at rates much higher than men. Women account for nearly half of the U.S. workforce.  In the legal field, more than one in three lawyers are women. However, across the board women still earn less than men.

Sure, some will argue this is due in part to the career paths some women choose, and to an extent that is true. However, those arguments ignore the reasons women choose certain career paths over others, and that women are often forced out of their careers early as a direct result of the untenable, archaic structure of many modern workplaces.

Workplace discrimination is real.

Though dual-income households are more prevalent than ever, the structure of the contemporary workforce reflects a society from a time gone by. Beyond structural issues, many employers continue to nurture unlawful gender stereotypes that penalize all women regardless of whether they are or plan to become mothers.

Moreover, when women do become mothers, they continue to face workplace discrimination. They are terminated for their pregnancies and pregnancy-related medical conditions.

In many workplaces, top-performing women are stripped of opportunities when employers learn of their family plans. When they return to work, they continue to face inequity and are treated as liabilities rather than assets. Their commitment to their careers is doubted. They are told outright that their dedication to their families will come at the price of their jobs.

Our entire workforce needs an overhaul. There’s no denying that—and it shouldn’t be the burden of the worker to fix things. However, in the meantime, having strong female mentorship matters.

Every working mother needs a working mom mentor.

With the barriers women continue to face at work, it’s important to have strong female mentors. When you’re a working mother, it’s even more important. Having a working mother mentor means having someone who understands exactly what you are going through as a working mother. She understands the demands of the workplace. She understands the demands of motherhood—and she knows exactly what happens when you combine the two.

For the last five years, I have had the benefit of working for my own working mother mentor—my boss, Lindy. She is the founder of the firm where we protect workers’ rights against unlawful discrimination. I became a mother barely a year after I was admitted as an attorney, and though I have had incredible support both at home and at work during that time, I have still greatly benefitted from Lindy’s mentorship and guidance.

You are not alone.

More than anything, a working mother mentor will help you understand you are not alone. You’re not the only woman who has had to navigate the minefield that is modern working motherhood.

The experienced working moms in my life have always been there to remind me of many things, namely:

  • Our lives and careers are made of many seasons. They may not all look alike.

  • Motherhood and career can complement one another. They do not have to be at odds.

  • Every working mother struggles sometimes. You can overcome.

  • Learn to compartmentalize. Looking inside every box at once is too overwhelming.  

  • Your success is not measured by someone else’s success. Keep your eyes on your own page.

  • It is possible to be a great mom and a great professional. Truly.

No matter how far she is in her career, your working mother mentor is someone who has been there done that. She knows what you’re going through because she went through the same things. She lived to tell the tale, and now she’s here to guide you—without judgment or the weight of her own expectations.

You need that. We all do. If you haven’t found your working mother mentor yet, don’t fret. Be open to the idea of learning from others since you never know where you may find yours.

Finally, most importantly, know that you can one day become that person for someone else. Your experiences matter—and they can help the next generation of women thrive.

Candace Alnaji is a workplace civil rights attorney, working parents advocate, freelance writer, and proud mom. You can find her writing about law, motherhood, and more on her blog as The Mom at Law. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.