Working Mothers: How to Find a Family-First Company that Will Support Your Career as You Grow Your Family!

Career Advice
Working Mother
Working Mother
minute read

If you’re a working mother, realize that there are companies out there that will allow you to have the best of both worlds—a growing career you love, as well as plenty of time to be there for your growing family.

Women make up half the workforce—and many of them are or will become mothers during the course of their career. While motherhood has traditionally created tension between a woman’s role at home and in the office, it does not have to be that way. Modern companies with an eye toward retaining top talent are offering fresh and helpful resources that make it easier for parents and caregivers to be successful and effective in the workplace. So, if you’re a mom or play a caregiving role in your family, it’s helpful to seek an employer who will meet you where you’re at.

How do you identify a company that will support your role as a parent—so you can raise your child and continue your career path at the same time? Here are some ways working mothers can think about this situation, especially when changing jobs to find a family-first employer.

Motherhood and Career Growth: The Ongoing Challenge

Traditionally, women have faced many dilemmas as they seek to balance their work life once they have children. Leaving the workforce for a few years is common, yet that can set women back significantly in their career trajectory. Then there’s the loss of income that occurs, both during their time off as well as cumulatively over their careers—the pay gap hasn’t gone away, and motherhood can make it worse. Women who desire to work can face guilt over wanting to continue to add value through their career, as well as judgment over their desire to experience all that life has to offer—both in the office as well as at home. The stress that results can impede women’s physical and mental well-being.

There are real costs to failing to address this issue, and not just for individual women. The cost happens at the employer level too. Mothers bring valuable skills to the workforce—including the ability to juggle multiple responsibilities, negotiate conflicts, manage time effectively, and more. That's in addition to the hard skills that they already bring based on their expertise in their field. They also provide a unique perspective that can help companies be more innovative, diverse, and inclusive.

All the knowledge and experience working mothers have shouldn't go to waste. And smart employers understand this. Companies that make space for working mothers to grow their career as well as their families are out there—you just need to know how to find them.

Practical Tips for Finding a Supportive Employer if You’re a Working Mom

If you’re currently looking at roles that allow you to further your career while also take care of your family, keep an eye out for these parent-supporting traits in the companies you apply to:

Genuine emphasis on work-life balance

Many companies these days talk about offering work-life balance, but in practice, they may not do a good job of providing what they’re promising. True work-life balance requires more than lip service—and it comes down to policies and culture. There need to be good boundaries that encourage people to enjoy their lives outside of the office, along with clear HR policies to promote them.

To evaluate this area, see what people who are already employed there have to say about it. Ask questions like these:

  • Does the employee handbook spell out clear and practical policies around time-off and leave?
  • How generous are those policies?
  • How often are people expected to work overtime or during off-hours?
  • Do bosses respect off-time by saving work for when the employee is back at their desk?
  • How open is the company to letting employees set their own hours as long as they get their work done?

Open communication that normalizes caregiving

Company culture is found not only in written policies but also in the everyday ways that employees interact with each other, especially with their managers and direct reports. If an organization is family-first, you’ll see and hear that in how they communicate. Look for a place where you are welcome to talk about your children and make plans for family needs.

To evaluate this area, ask questions such as:

  • Do people—including managers—openly take time off for events such as school plays, baseball tournaments, and other milestone activities that matter to their children?
  • How easy is it to discuss work-arounds when job needs and family needs conflict?
  • How often do managers check in to see how their working moms are feeling?
  • Do those in charge genuinely care and empathize with parents’ needs?

Generous maternity/parental leave

On a practical note, any organization that is truly considerate toward the needs of caregivers and parents will have a policy in place that encourages time-off. This includes maternity and paternity leave. Many employers offer the minimum required under the law, but those that value the needs of families are often more generous in this arena. It can take a few months for new mothers to feel rested and healthy after birth, as well as establishing a routine of sleep, eating, and childcare that allows them to be confident in returning their attention to the office. Many companies now offer three to four months of paid time off, so that parents can find their footing.

To consider this area, delve into questions such as:

  • What are the specifics of the company’s parental leave policy?
  • Does the policy allow both mothers and fathers to take time off?
  • What accommodations, if any, are offered in the period leading up to childbirth?
  • If you needed to, could you take several weeks off after your child is born?
  • How is parental leave paid?
  • Is an employee’s position held open for their return, and if so, for how long?

Flexible work arrangements that embrace the modern landscape

More than ever, the modern workplace can allow for creative approaches to scheduling employees. Not all companies are as open to options, though, so it pays to find an employer that is not only able to, but willing to be flexible. After all, as any parent knows, a child’s needs can change on a dime. And it’s important to be there for field trips and concerts and sports games.

To find out how flexible a company is willing to be, investigate these types of questions:

  • Does the company encourage employees to work flexible hours and schedules?
  • How easy is it to work remotely if the need arises?
  • How well is it received when parents ask for flexible accommodations?
  • Do current employees feel empowered (or penalized) if they want to work around their child’s school schedule?

Practical on-site accommodations for working mothers

While not every organization may offer everything you need under one roof, companies that appreciate their working parents often find ways to offer on-site accommodations. And if a company is family-centric, they may be willing to create accommodations that don’t yet exist—but probably should. Ideally, working moms will find a place where career and motherhood don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

To assess this area, find out:

  • What accommodations already exist to support parents in the office?
  • Does the employer offer, or are they willing to offer, a private area for breastfeeding and breast milk pumping?
  • Are there bathrooms designed for parents to change a baby should a baby be brought into the office? (This is a good idea for clients and guests, not just employees.)
  • Does the company offer an on-site daycare? (Many do!)

Added benefits and perks that make parenting and working easier

In addition to the obvious need for sufficient maternity/parental leave, employers can vary greatly in the benefits package they offer. Some of these pluses may have a financial value (such as healthcare), while others may be convenient perks that draw working mothers to apply because they offer a good sense of support. Plus, some organizations are willing to embrace new perks, especially if they are easy to incorporate and affordable.

Evaluate this area by asking:

  • Does the existing Employee Assistance Program incorporate resources that benefit working mothers?
  • Is there a dependent care flexible savings account that you can contribute to, in order to pay for your child’s healthcare?
  • Is the paid time-off policy flexible enough that you can take ample time off for sick children as well as yourself?
  • Are there perks such as stipends to help pay for childcare?
  • Does the employer encourage meetup groups, digital chats, and other resources for working moms on their staff?

Summing It Up

If you’re a working mother, realize that there are companies out there that will allow you to have the best of both worlds—a growing career you love, as well as plenty of time to be there for your growing family. Know your worth, appreciate what you bring to the table for employers, and ask good questions to spot companies that truly embrace a supportive work-life balance for families.