Have You Taken Time Out of The Workforce?

The surprising little statistic about working motherhood

“No one in my local community had kids yet. My Mom, and Mother-in-Law, were Stay-At-Home-Moms. I worked for an investment bank. The childcare options in my area would have added an hour to my commute and taken a huge percentage of my take home pay. We weren’t necessarily in the financial position to do it, but I said (to my husband,) I can’t leave this baby,” explained Claudia Reuter, my former colleague and Founder of The 43% Podcast. “I stepped out,” she said. Claudia didn’t return to work until nearly 3 years later. Did you know, nearly half of Mothers make this decision?

Build Your Own Flexibility

Claudia said, “After my second child, 23 months later, I realized I’d have to go back into the workforce to have the lifestyle we wanted. I couldn’t find a company offering balance, so I started my own company.” Our society wants to put Moms into neat little boxes, labeled ‘working’ or ‘stay-at-home’, but it’s more complicated than that.  With the cost of childcare exceeding that of housing in most cities and short (or nonexistent) maternity leaves, it’s not surprising when Moms step off the merry-go-round. Claudia, who now runs an accelerator to help start-up companies succeed, was curious about how common it was for Moms to pause, versus stop, their careers to raise kids. Very common. About 43% common to be exact! Claudia knew she wanted to share the stories behind this statistic.

Is Entrepreneurship the Answer?

Claudia said starting her own business, after that second maternity leave, allowed her to work remotely while her children were still in diapers. “I was able to create the life I wanted with my kids,” she said. Still drawn to innovation, she recently joined Techstars to advance early-stage companies. Claudia explained, “I have the dual focus of wanting to help entrepreneurs more and wanting to be the person I wish I had access to when I started a business.” Bravo! Work culture is so entrenched, most women move on, rather than try to change a dysfunctional system. Do we hold ourselves back by staying silent?

The Juggle is Universal

Although more companies are embracing outcomes over face-time, we’re also working more hours than ever. Women are starting businesses in record numbers. In part, because few traditional workplaces are family-friendly. Claudia said, “It’s not just women working in Tech! Or Doctors or Admins. That conflict we feel between the two worlds (motherhood and work) is the same.” So true. She added, “…Half the battle is that we all compartmentalize and don’t hear the stories from other women.” Claudia said, “I hope more people wake up to the possibilities of what’s out there.” How has she created the space to engage in this cause and pursue big projects?

Make Room for Creativity

Claudia has been intentional about creating the infrastructure needed, at work and in life, to do what she’s doing. She said, “At Techstars (her full-time job,) it’s important to know I have a lot of people helping me.” She added, the busiest season is predictable. “…It’s structured in quarters. July through October, during accelerators, that’s all I can do. However, October through December, is quieter. I do research and it gives me more time to reflect and talk to people I want to talk to.” She also values having a seasoned partner for the podcast. “I have a producer, Amy Westervelt, she’s mixing and putting it together.” Great! But what about self-care?

Tune into Self-Care

As we enjoyed lunch, Claudia burst out laughing when I asked the question and admitted, “I’m not very good at self-care and I’m consciously aware of it. I’m just waking up to putting on my oxygen mask first.” Amen! She said, “I have a vision, in my head, that I go to the gym all the time but I actually don’t go at all.” I had to laugh. “(The gym) is not natural (for me,)” Claudia sighed. Then her eyes lit up, “What works for me for self-care is learning!” Yes! Why are we told self-care is one-size-fits all?

Self-Care Isn’t at the Salon

“I find personal care a chore. I’d rather be taking a class.” We commiserated about how joyless it feels to be captive at a salon. Although some Moms love it, ‘relaxing’ does not equal getting a mani-pedi for everyone. Claudia nodded in agreement. “That’s the misconception. The salon … it’s not for the inside of you,” She said. Exactly! Self-care begins by feeding what we need inside. “My friend says, ‘we forget that we’re biological creatures and part of an ecosystem. We think we’re fixed and don’t realize we’re always changing.” Claudia said. Yes, this! The priorities and needs from our careers and families are incredibly dynamic.

Uncover More Choices

We started talking about how our culture creates rather small boxes around what Mothers should do or not do. Claudia nodded and said, “Things become kind of binary (for women.) We thought we could just enter the same structures men created. But I’m a whole person. I wanted to have kids.” Right! It’s a glorious experience many women choose. She added, “We need to get away from ‘either or.’ Either ‘lean in’ and outsource your life or lean out. There are more options!” Well said.

Many thanks to Claudia Reuters, my talented former colleague, friend and neighbor for a great conversation. Listen to the 43% Podcast and join the mailing list on the Website.

About Claudia

Claudia Reuter is the Managing Director for the Stanley+Techstars Additive Manufacturing Accelerator and Founder of The 43% Podcast. Recognized by the Boston Business Journal as a 2016 Woman to Watch in Science and Technology, and as a Changemaker by HUBWeek, she is an experienced entrepreneur and executive. Prior to joining Techstars, she served as the SVP of Digital Services & Labs for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and was the co-founder and CEO of SchoolChapters, Inc. She also currently serves on the Board of Directors at Lessonly, and as a member of the Advisory Board at Greenfig. You can follow her on Twitter.

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