“It felt like you had to be the duck at work before the pandemic. It had to appear like you had everything under control. And it didn’t matter how much you were paddling beneath the surface, to keep everything together. You sort of had to check your family at the door. I think the pandemic has helped us be seen as whole people at work, which includes our family responsibilities,” said Gabby Slome, Serial Entrepreneur and Parent Advocate.
Creating space for career growth and parenting, in a way that honors our values in both domains, is hard. And the amount of emotional, financial, and familial support you have, to pull it off matters. But for decades, time spent with other adults including our friends, has been trending down. And few people live near family anymore.
So, when you don’t have that village, where do you turn? Finding a community, that serves you, is part of the answer. Whether it’s in person or online, it can be a powerful source of support, healing, camaraderie, and development.
We Rarely Anticipate the Work/Life Struggle
Like many of us, Gabby found the lack of resources to help integrate work and parenting, jarring. “I was a founder in the thick of working non-stop and trying to make the business successful when I had my first child.” She explained when she went into labor, she was still in denial and preparing for a trade show.
“When I got there, it was like, ‘I can’t walk I need to go to the hospital now.’ At first, I thought, ‘life’s not going to skip a beat. It’s just a baby, I can handle this.’ But I walked out of the hospital feeling like a total deer in the headlights. And when I looked for resources, I was really shocked by how little there were.”
Or How Isolating it Feels
Unfortunately, many of the biases and pressures that plague women in corporate, impact entrepreneurs. “Even though I was a cofounder, I remember sitting in a boardroom ten days after giving birth, feeling like I like needed to be there. Yet, I was embarrassed about the fact that I had to take a break for pumping. And when we started to raise for our series B and I was pregnant with my second, I wore blousy shirts. No matter how far we had come as a business, I felt like I had to hide the fact that I was growing a family at the same time.” Ultimately, this experience led her to start a business, that provides community support for parents.
Especially as Our Kids Need More
Managing health, for ourselves and our kids, became complicated post-pandemic. And each year, it changes as they grow and need more emotional and character support. Gabby said, “The biggest indication of a healthy and thriving baby is a thriving, happy and healthy Mom. It’s also true later in life. If you have a teen that’s struggling, and you’re having mental health issues of your own, you can’t show up for your child.”
We discussed how this increased complexity is rarely supported in the workplace. Because most parental benefits, end while our kids are still in diapers. She added, “It’s as if they believe when children can feed and dress themselves, there’s no longer parent involvement. Which as you know, is just not the case.”
So, Find Your Communities
Gabby’s company runs parent groups in workplaces. “It’s very hard to feel like everyone else has it under control when you’re in a certain state of mind. So, community helps when it’s curated to create judgment free zones. Even within a company, people who may have worked closely for years, see each other in a new light when they join a parent group together. Because there’s a little bit more vulnerability and rawness being shown, they gain deeper appreciation and empathy for each other.”
If you’re not in an organization with an employee resource group (ERG) for parents, consider starting one, even if it’s informal. Other parents within your organization can help you. To self-advocate, learn or correct the culture, and find growth. And if you’re not already connected with other parents where you live, there are often multiple ways to plug in.
To Dial Down the Complexity
Many of us develop bonds within our local communities through our kids. And whether you’re on the playground, navigating daycare or middle school, local support is essential. Gabby said, “A community can really help with logistics. So, if all the kids are going somewhere, take turns getting them there. I think the concept of a kibbutz has something going for it, in terms of how we can pool together to support each other. So, we see people doing this, whether it’s a nanny share or setting up group activities afterschool as a cohort.”
If you’re feeling exhausted or disconnected right now, it’s okay. You have many options to reset with more support. Consider reaching out through your parent teacher organization if your kids are school-aged. Or find a local meetup focused on parenting topics, adult education classes for parents, neighborhood groups on social media or even a local book club that’s parent focused.
Reduce Mental Load
Childcare consumes a lot of mental energy. But if you’re sharing responsibilities, not just with your partner but other parents, it can transform how you feel about it. Gabby said, “To know your child is in good hands is helpful to reduce that mental load.” Activity bingo begins to take hold when our kids are in school. And orchestrating the myriad of pickups, vacation days and drop offs, still falls to Moms in most families. But what if you could coordinate among your neighbors or colleagues? She added, “When you know where they are, and have a group that everyone is comfortable traveling in, instead of worrying about afterschool 5 days a week, it can become only one or two days.
And Set Realistic Parenting Goals
You know what I mean. Many of us goal-setting optimists are navigating back-to-school right now. And it’s difficult to fight the ever-present-yet-unhelpful Mom-guilt when we’re busier than ever, yet want to do ‘more’ of everything for everyone. But your community can help validate you, because sometimes we all need that. Gabby said, “That’s where having a village comes in. From the literal, like chipping in and the more figurative, like having that shoulder or Zoom screen to cry on.”
Look for Psychologically Safe Space
Although parenting advice is abundant on social media, it can be tricky to navigate. Because the information may not be evidence based. Or it’s just plain provocative. And not everybody plays nicely online. But you can find safe spaces, where there are guidelines that reinforce trust and connection.
Gabby explained, “Codes of conduct work surprisingly well. My kids sign up for community norms within their classrooms every single year. And it’s important to sign off on norms inside a community, especially in professional settings. We have that sort of sign off within Cooper, but I also think Chief is another great example with strong community standards. So, look for a combination of those norms, as well as ongoing moderation.”
You may have been feeling overwhelmed and crispy about the end of summer and return to chaos. But, we’ve got you. Find your people. They’re in your local community, organization or safe spaces online, designed to support you
Many thanks to the talented Gabby Sl0me!
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Gabby is the Co-founder and CEO of Cooper, a parenting mecca offering parents (and parents to be) with the tools and resources to build their parenting muscle and become the parents they want to be. Cooper offers on demand access to leading experts in child development and likeminded parents, 24/7. Group sessions, live events/workshops and “always on” one-on-one support are spearheaded by top tier experts including PhD’s, educators and licensed clinical social workers with decades of experience. Cooper’s mission is to equip parents with more effective ways of seeing and solving parenting challenges at home.
Prior to founding Cooper, Gabby spent her early career working with founding teams at multiple e-commerce startups . From there, she founded her first company out of Columbia Business School – Ollie, a DTC subscription dog food company.Tags: Career development, Manage Stress For Moms, Moms Self care, work life integration for Moms