As soon as it’s safe, moms should be first in line to go back to the office. As a parent working from home and a remote-work expert, it’s clear to me that remote work is almost always worse for the mother in a two-parent household. It makes the days longer, it allows for sloppiness around childcare, and it creates distractions. And the impact those aspects have on women’s careers might not be visible immediately, but that constant, low-level drain on being able to do your best work, takes a toll on mothers’ performance.
My kids know their parents are home, even if we aren’t visible. School vacations, after school, all the times where kids are home and parents are working are opportunities for distraction. While it’s easy to create boundaries in theory, it’s hard to hear a wailing child and just ignore it in favor of cleaning out your inbox.
I’ve also found working from home lets me get sloppier on the scheduling of childcare, like not paying for extra hours or not being strict about dropping off my child right on the dot at 8 am, because I can pick up the slack. And even though both parents could, it seems like it’s always mom. Going to the office every day or on a set schedule means I have my childcare squared away, allowing me the mental freedom to do my best work.
The longest days are the days I work from home, where the day starts with being a mommy at 6:30 am, becoming a VP of marketing at 9 am sharp, and alternating between the two as best I can until the kids go to bed. Even with full-time care, I can’t switch off being a mother. One of the best parts of work, aside from the obvious paycheck, is a chance to reclaim a little of my pre-children identity. At home, I am always mommy first.
While commutes can be soul-crushing, without one, I have no time for free-thinking, which we all know leads to some of the best ideas. On days where I commute into the office, I start with a clearer head, have more focused time, and more career-focused downtime, for chit-chatting with colleagues or having a networking coffee meet-up.
And those reasons are just the reasons to get out of the house! This return to the office has another upside. In the near term, unless a company is exclusively remote, it will be hard to mitigate the biases that favor in-person interaction. For networking, for bonding with senior management, for getting promoted, women need to be in the office more often than not. That glass ceiling isn’t going to shatter itself and these ambitious efforts are easier in person. Going into the office gets interpersonal work done better and faster.
This might not be the answer for every family or for every mother. But it’s clear to me that my success will only be possible if I can turn off my mommy duties, at least a few days a week.