Balancing career + motherhood: Tap into the power of community

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The numbers are clear: The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately cost women their jobs and could set back women’s workforce progress by a generation. For women balancing climbing the corporate ladder or launching companies with effective parenting, things have only gotten tougher. How can you be a successful working mom in this environment?

How to be a successful working mom when the odds are against you

Today’s norm is managing one or more children doing remote schoolwork while simultaneously conducting a full day of meetings over Zoom — and that’s on a good day, with no surprises or hiccups. But let’s be honest. The situation for working parents was precarious even before COVID-19.

Prior to the pandemic, half or more of working mothers said in a survey that they couldn’t give 100% at work; needed to reduce their working hours; or that working and parenting at the same time meant their careers hadn’t progressed as much as they would have otherwise. In other words, career-driven parents needed a strong support network during normal times, never mind extended periods of upheaval.

Success as a working mom: 5 signs its time to plug into a support network

Of course, it sounds hard to add yet another commitment or consumer of time and attention in an attempt to balance all others. Yet an online community or support network could be just what you need to bring more sanity to your personal and professional lives.

A support network can bring clarity, organization, and comfort to what often feels like chaos. Finding a supportive and experienced tribe can help succeed as a working mom by growing your career and your family at the same time. Here are five reasons you should consider an online community:

  1. You need fresh perspective
  2. COVID challenges in the workplace
  3. Brainstorm business ideas
  4. Mental and emotional health

Let’s look closer at these signs that it’s time to turn to an online community for help.

You’re stuck in a rut

It’s easy to get stuck in a pattern, such as disconnecting from work or parenting for a few moments and retreating to Slack or a text chain to talk about the challenges you’re facing. Suddenly, that search for a quick release can drag on for several minutes or even an hour — and your regular circle is giving you the same responses as always.

Not that there isn’t value in connecting with trusted friends or colleagues, but sometimes you need a different perspective. An online support community can be integrated into your life as seamlessly as your text chains and Slack channels. Best of all, online communities come in all different shapes and sizes. It’s easy to find the one that fits your stage of life and schedule and can be worked into your day, week, or month.

The usual disparities feel exacerbated

The ongoing pandemic is a perfect example of the disparities that continue to exist both within the home and in the workplace. Women are being pushed out of the workplace at disproportionate rates, especially Black and Latina women, while men are three times more likely to be promoted while working from home than their female counterparts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If you see these kinds of things taking place in your company or you feel at risk, look to an online community for support. You’d be surprised at the speed and thoughtfulness of the perspectives and experiences that can shape how you respond to challenging or unfair conditions.

A difficult experience spawns an idea

Almost every great business idea or innovation started with a common challenge that needed solving. Not knowing what to cook for dinner led to meal-kit companies. The inability to find a taxi led to ride-hailing services. A challenge you’re facing could lead to the next brilliant business idea — if you run it by people other than your usual circle, who might not give you the honest advice and opinions you need to be successful.

It’s not uncommon in an online community for members to share their entrepreneurial frustrations (especially in the era of COVID-19) only to bounce ideas off one another and find ways to pivot and ways to secure funding. Some members have met co-founders for their businesses after bonding over a discussion about breastfeeding.

Your business needs a shot in the arm

To be clear, an online support network isn’t the place to promote your business aggressively. It’s a place to develop and exchange ideas — this can, in turn, unlock opportunity. In other words, your business focus could be reimagined for the better if you seek support from the right people in the right places.

At a time of historic job losses, a looming recession, and immense economic uncertainty (to say nothing of what is now being asked of working moms, including at-home e-learning, cooking, cleaning, and parenting in total isolation),  true community, solidarity, support, and shared knowledge can do wonders for working and entrepreneurial moms.

Uncertainty is becoming a bigger obstacle all the time

They say it takes a village, and that couldn’t be more true when it comes to adaptation. Online communities and support networks are especially quick to adapt to fluid situations. The bigger and more diverse a village you’re part of, the easier it is to find answers or unearth helpful ideas in the face of an ever-changing situation.

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We can reinvent how we work and where we work; we can obtain workplace accommodations; we can adjust accordingly to best meet the needs of all, especially those who are caretakers. What’s harder to find in the traditional workplace is the power of true authenticity and honesty — of being transparent about our mental, physical, and emotional health. Online, however, we can transform our village any way we need to. We can find solidarity, support, mentorship, and opportunity in a carefully curated community of like-minded people.

How to be a successful working mom using the power of community

It’s important to remember that no support network is one-size-fits-all. It might take a little time to find the right community for you if some or any of the above situations or sentiments sound familiar.

Bear in mind that most — if not nearly all — online communities are monolithic in nature. You can find a community that speaks to the mom part of you, or you can find a community that speaks to the career-oriented part of you. Rarely are those two identities, let alone the other facets of any mom’s identity, acknowledged and nurtured in one singular space.

It’s worth thinking about, especially ahead of March 8, International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge — that is, address biases and misconceptions head-on. A good first step toward this goal, as well as becoming a more dynamic parent and person, is to surround yourself with people from diverse backgrounds.

Whether you do that in an online community or in your existing personal and professional circles, don’t forget that creating a more supportive world requires a more inclusive one.

Discover offers and resources to help parents balance work and life during the tough times of COVID-19 HERE

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Katya Libin

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