Reports and statistics abound to tell us of the value that working mothers can bring to an organisation. We may be tarred with the brush of routinely legging it out of the office at 4.59 pm, and dialling into the office with spurious childcare issues, but we do have something to offer the office environment beyond the outside art that our children have created & that we pin to our cubicle walls. We're more efficient, more decisive and better negotiators than the pre-child versions of ourselves. And I believe that there are other more tangible ways that a "mama in the workplace" can contribute to her 9-4.59 environment. We may not set the world on fire with our stylish dressing, or enlightening conversation about recent yoga retreats, or even be able to recommend a decent restaurant (i.e. one without placemats that you can draw on), but we do offer something. Actually, three things:
We Have a Sense of Perspective
This sounds preachy I know, but parenthood entirely regrounds your perspective of what and what isn't important. And in the nicest way possible, important isn't about sales performance, the way a powerpoint presentation looks, or even whether your stock list is too high or too low. There have been occasions upon returning to the office when I've momentarily thought that I've accidentally stumbled into an immersive theatre that's showing a stage version of The Office. These are of course momentary; the good outweighs the bad, cringemaking moments, otherwise I'd have left.
But a true sense of perspective - the type that only comes from appreciating what actually is important; is important in an organisation. Especially when you work with young, ambitious people who will do anything for the company, and who get so upset when things don't go to plan, and who work so hard they make themselves ill. We know, we were once there too. Setting a positive, balanced example, and reminding the team, that yes, this is important - it pays our mortgage after all, but let's get it in perspective. It's only bloody cheese/shoes/animal food (delete or amend as appropriate).*
We are Super-Organised
|We're like SUPER-organised|
Image courtesy of snapcreativity.com
We are Almost Medically Qualified
This is used the most loose sense of course, but having spent inordinate amounts of times in hospitals, pharmacies, health centres and doctors surgeries, we have essentially absorbed 7 years of medical training by a strange form of mummy-osmosis. And in our spare time we read up on childhood illnesses and first aid so that we are super-prepared (see point above).
So, should you feel unwell in the office, come & see a mama. She'll tell you straight whether you need to pull yourself together (we've given birth you know, so don't weep about having a sore throat to us), or whether you need to go straight to hospital. As a young & frankly inept twenty-something, I was myself driven to the local A&E by our team mummy - I had glass in my foot, and thought it would sort itself out. She said not, and she was right. It took an x-ray and 2 doctors to remove the shard of glass. Lesson learnt.
We carry plasters, paracetamol, bandages, wet-wipes, calpol, teething powder and antihistamine cream in our bulging handbags whereever we go. You will be OK when there is a mama around. And even if she can't help you, she'll make you a cup of tea, and pass you a nice soft tissue for you to blow your bunged up nose onto.
I couldn't be sure how Belbin would classify this position within a team. It isn't about managing or facilitating. Sure, there's a lot of doing, but that's not unique to parenthood. It's a proof that a working mother has a true niche within the workplace - and that these hardworking, caring and on occasion chaotic workplace figures truly are an asset to any organisation. I'm sure that there are more examples of how having a mama in the workplace can enrich an organisation - share them with me, I'd love to hear your views!
*ok, this is more relevant to industry and consumer goods vs public service & healthcare roles, but a real world sense of perspective is important in every workplace.