I have lived in Burbank, CA for almost 13 years. I'll admit, it wasn't my first choice when I decided to move from Orange County to the L.A. area. I imagined myself in West Hollywood, Los Feliz, anywhere but true Suburbia, but good schools beckoned for my youngest daughter and I found myself on a tree lined street in a traditional California bungalow.
I slowly fell in love with my new town. Great vintage stores, super cool restaurants, and fantastic neighbors. I was involved with my daughter's school events and concerts and certainly felt like I was part of the community but didn't become deeply entrenched, until today.
The 2016 election was extremely important to me. I voted for Hillary Clinton for several reasons, yes – because she was a woman and I believe we were long past due for a female perspective on life in our country. But also, because I felt she was completely qualified and ready to tackle this all-important position as leader of the free world. I was confident and excited.
I sent in a write-in ballot because I would be on vacation in Israel the day of the election. I wasn't worried, I figured I'd be celebrating with friends when Hillary won. Sadly, there was no celebrating, only shock and utter silence. As we somberly and quietly attended our scheduled tours the next day, numerous people would come up to us and ask, “Are you American, have you heard, what do you think…?" It was overwhelming and incredible at the same time.
"If you think I was a Nasty Woman Before, Buckle Up Buttercup"
Once home a week later, and still in shock, I knew I had to do something but didn't know what. I felt paralyzed and completely powerless. When the Women's March was announced there was no question I'd be there, I couldn't wait. Outfitted in my “If you think I was a Nasty Woman Before, Buckle Up Buttercup" tee, I joined a few friends to march with 700k+ other men and women in downtown Los Angeles. It was an experience I'll never forget, we were together, and were on fire. I felt a kinship with women I would have never met, had it not been for the march. I had hope that as a movement we could make a difference.
I trudged along and looked forward to marching again and getting some of that united spirit back.
Over this past year, I must admit, I've lost a lot of that hope. That sadness I felt so far away from my country on November 9, 2016 had returned. I trudged along and looked forward to marching again and getting some of that united spirit back. I had planned to go to downtown L.A. again and then discovered a march was planned for Burbank, my little town that I've grown to love so much, was marching. I was elated!
I arrived early so I could meet the founder of this year's march, Joanna Peresie. When I asked her why she rallied everyone to march this year, she said, very simply, and very powerfully, “I did it for my daughter, Ella."
Joanna was quick to ask that I mention the three women who started last year's march in Burbank, Ashley Gogerty, Rhiannon Clark, and Sylvia Hendershot.
I listened to Joanna speak to the crowd about why she was here and why she took charge this year. Listened as her voice cracked but stood proud and strong. This is a humble woman, a loving mother, and I am honored to have met her today.
I also had the pleasure of meeting our state Senator, Anthony Portantino. He was dressed in a pink shirt and attending with his lovely daughter, Bella. He told me about his wife and both daughters, about his dedication to public service, and his belief in this march; “…it was too important not to be here." When he spoke to the crowd, he opened with “Are you listening downtown Los Angeles, because it's rockin' in Burbank!" The crowd roared! He then told us all that “this was a moment in history, meet the person next to you, say hello, share the sisterhood of this moment…" AND WE DID! It was a powerful experience! As he marched with us, I was filled with civic pride to walk alongside someone I had actually voted for. I thought to myself, 'my super power is voting!'
One of our John Burroughs High School teachers who teaches science, Jill Tobin, spoke and delighted the crowd. Once again, I swelled with pride as she told the kids in the crowd “YOUR VOICE MATTERS, YOU MATTER!" This fantastic past Burbank Teacher of the Year AND LA County Teacher of the Year award-winner is working with our future leaders! Aren't they lucky?!
Even though I knew the answer, I asked about our congressman, Adam Schiff. He was working tirelessly last night trying to stop the shut down of our government. Joanna shared that his office did call her yesterday and our hard-working congressman had wished he could be here. I absolutely believe that. One of the many things I've learned since last year's march is how hard Congressman Schiff works for his district, his people, our people. Community is deep in this man's soul, of that I am sure.
Our Vice-Mayor, Emily Gabel-Luddy spoke, and Burbank City Attorney, Amy Albano who also marched in DTLA last year, really got the crowd inspired! I was positively filled with hope as I stood and listened. More so than last year because these people work for my town every day. “Local" isn't just a buzz word for them, they live it. And I'm so glad they do. As I walked with men, women, children, families, and friends, we chatted, we remarked on so many clever signs, and for two hours on a very chilly Saturday morning we literally came together. We stood together, we chanted together, and we marched together. THIS is community. This is why we march, this is hope.
New parents re-entering the workforce are often juggling the tangible realities of daycare logistics, sleep deprivation, and a cascade of overwhelming work. No matter how parents build their family, they often struggle with the guilt of being split between home and work and not feeling exceptionally successful in either place.
Women building their families often face a set of challenges different from men. Those who have had children biologically may be navigating the world of pumping at work. Others might feel pulled in multiple directions when bringing a child into their home after adoption. Some women are trying to learn how to care for a newborn for the first time. New parents need all the help they can get with their transition.
Women returning to work after kids sometimes have to address comments such as:
"I didn't think you'd come back."
"You must feel so guilty."
"You missed a lot while you were out."
To counteract this difficult situation, women are finding mentors and making targeting connections. Parent mentors can help new moms address integrating their new life realities with work, finding resources within the organization and local community, and create connections with peers.
There's also an important role for parent mentors to play in discussing career trajectory. Traditionally, men who have families see more promotions compared to women with children. Knowing that having kids may represent a career setback for women, they may work with their mentors to create an action plan to "back on track" or to get recognized for their contributions as quickly as possible after returning to work.
Previously, in a bid to accommodate mothers transitioning back to work, corporate managers would make a show at lessoning the workload for newly returned mothers. This approach actually did more harm than good, as the mother's skills and ambitions were marginalized by these alleged "family friendly" policies, ultimately defining her for the workplace as a mother, rather than a person focused on career.
Today, this is changing. Some larger organizations, such as JP Morgan Chase, have structured mentorship programs that specifically target these issues and provide mentors for new parents. These programs match new parents navigating a transition back to work with volunteer mentors who are interested in helping and sponsoring moms. Mentors in the programs do not need to be moms, or even parents, themselves, but are passionate about making sure the opportunities are available.
It's just one other valuable way corporations are evolving when it comes to building quality relationships with their employees – and successfully retaining them, empowering women who face their own set of special barriers to career growth and leadership success.
Mentoring will always be a two way street. In ideal situations, both parties will benefit from the relationship. It's no different when women mentor working mothers getting back on track on the job. But there a few factors to consider when embracing this new form of mentorship
How to be a good Momtor?
Listen: For those mentoring a new parent, one of the best strategies to take is active listening. Be present and aware while the mentee shares their thoughts, repeat back what you hear in your own words, and acknowledge emotions. The returning mother is facing a range of emotions and potentially complicated situations, and the last thing she wants to hear is advice about how she should be feeling about the transition. Instead, be a sounding board for her feelings and issues with returning to work. Validate her concerns and provide a space where she can express herself without fear of retribution or bull-pen politics. This will allow the mentee a safe space to sort through her feelings and focus on her real challenges as a mother returning to work.
Share: Assure the mentee that they aren't alone, that other parents just like them are navigating the transition back to work. Provide a list of ways you've coped with the transition yourself, as well as your best parenting tips. Don't be afraid to discuss mothering skills as well as career skills. Work on creative solutions to the particular issues your mentee is facing in striking her new work/life balance.
Update Work Goals: A career-minded woman often faces a new reality once a new child enters the picture. Previous career goals may appear out of reach now that she has family responsibilities at home. Each mentee is affected by this differently, but good momtors help parents update her work goals and strategies for realizing them, explaining, where applicable, where the company is in a position to help them with their dreams either through continuing education support or specific training initiatives.
Being a role model for a working mother provides a support system, at work, that they can rely on just like the one they rely on at home with family and friends. Knowing they have someone in the office, who has knowledge about both being a mom and a career woman, will go a long way towards helping them make the transition successfully themselves.