Motherhood changes you. But how? Is it possible motherhood makes you better at work?

How will motherhood change me? Will I be different? Will I end up on the “mommy track” and never want to work again?

These are questions that people ask themselves when they start thinking about getting pregnant and parenthood. Expectant parents and people considering having kids know that parenthood will change them, but they don’t how.

Today we are going to take a look at the story that gets shoved at pregnant women (and really, at all women). The story goes that when you’re just waiting to become a mom, and once you do become a mom, you won’t be interested in working outside the home anymore. The prevailing story is that motherhood will change you, and not in a good way. The ambitions and dreams you cherished pre-kids become uninteresting to you. Because you become uninteresting.

This post-motherhood story isn’t just a myth, sadly: it’s a belief that lots of people hold, and it affects how women are treated in the workplace, and it especially affects how mothers are treated in the workplace. A study from sociology researcher Shelley Correll found that mothers in the workforce are seen as less competent and less intelligent than women without children (here’s a link to the study). In fact, Correll found that “mothers in the workforce are rated as significantly less competent, less intelligent, and less committed than women without children; and a mother is 79% less likely to be hired, and half as likely to get promoted, when compared to an equally qualified woman without a child,” writes Amy Henderson, our guest on today’s episode.

What people aren’t saying: Motherhood makes you better at work

But there’s a great twist, here, and I’m excited to talk to Amy about it. While the prevailing beliefs and perceptions around mothers are terrible—they aren’t actually based in truth. That is, while we have terrible social and cultural attitudes around mothers and work, working mothers are actually discovering how much motherhood makes you better at work, and how motherhood can strengthen your resilience, ability, and leadership skills. We previously touched on this phenomenon in our episode with Sarah Lacy, and today we get to dig in even deeper.

Today I talk with Amy Henderson, CEO and Co-founder of Tendlab, all about this phenomenon and what leaders are sharing about the reality of working motherhood, and how it’s far different than the stories we scare people with. Tendlab’s mission is to help companies unlock the power and potential of parenthood in the workplace in a way that benefits every employee and maximizes productivity.

  • How parenthood has the potential to transform mothers and fathers for the better in all aspects of our lives, but particularly in our careers.
  • It’s not just mothers, but—yes, fathers!—that receive a positive impact on career performance IF, and only IF they actually spend a significant amount of time care-taking.
  • We are entering an era where the skills developed while parenting are not only relevant, but necessary, for success in the workplace.

We also talk about what working moms should know, and what she wishes she could go back and tell herself when she first became a working mom.

If you’re on your way into motherhood, or you’re a new parent, enjoy this episode. You are going to change, but it’s not the way that you might expect. And while it might take a beat to get back into work (or you may keep on keeping on), a lot of the things you do and experience when you become a parent make will actually improve your workplace performance.

The Startup Pregnant Podcast Episode #101

Some quotes from the episode

  • “I did the only thing I knew how to do to reclaim my identity—the thing our culture values—and I returned to my career.”
  • “In the middle of that misery with 3 kids under 4, I knew that there had to be another way to perceive the moment I was in.”
  • “In that panic and despair, with my sleeping newborn and my ear kinked to the phone, I said to my working mom friends, ‘How are you doing it? How are you not only surviving but thriving?’”
  • “Doing better in your career because you have kids is the exact opposite of everything I’ve heard is possible, and it keeps repeating itself again and again!”

Amy Henderson is the CEO and Co-founder of Tendlab, a consultancy that provides hands-on advice and workshops for Fortune 500 companies and their parents’ groups at places like Salesforce and Accenture and other companies like Plum Organics, Yelp, and Nationbuilder   Tend Lab’s mission is to help companies unlock the power and potential of parenthood in the workplace in a way that benefits every employee by maximizing productivity.


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