The last year has been one rife with challenges for working mothers, from both a social and an economic perspective. Now more than ever, women need strength from a community of peers, and spaces where we can come together to share ideas, guidance and support as we navigate remote life.
In the past, one of our most energizing in-person events was our monthly dinner with an accomplished group of women leaders in Boston. Last August, we finally faced the fact that we wouldn’t be convening in person anytime soon, and repurposed this bi-monthly event for the virtual world.
We now periodically bring together over 100 women leaders in Boston for a series of small group conversations around important topics related to work, life, and leadership. The event always leaves our cups full – with great advice, new relationships, and a fresh perspective.
Here are a few of our favorite nuggets of advice from the last event:
Striking a Balance Between “On” and “Off” Time
Remote work makes separating your work and home life quite a challenge. In the absence of a physical divide, it may feel like you’re always on the clock, responding to emails or Slack messages even on “off hours.” Many women noted that they’ve been experimenting with ways to create or simulate a physical divide between work and home life:
In the absence of a physical divide, it may feel like you’re always on the clock
- Get dressed for work each morning (even if it’s only from the waist up!)
- Set up a designated work space separate from your personal space
- Conversely, switch up work locations throughout the day
- Create a daily “commute” to work by taking a walk around the neighborhood at the beginning and end of each day (if you’re feeling brave, try leaving your phone at home)
- Use iOs shortcuts to maintain a semblance of a routine – e.g. a shortcut that plays a podcast as soon as you stop your alarm
At Pillar, we start
off each week with
At Pillar, we start off each week with a 30-minute social chat to catch up about the weekend (no work talk allowed). This helps to get us in the right mindset for the week ahead, and mimics the casual social interaction we miss from office life.
Create Space to Recharge
It’s also important to set boundaries and consciously plan “down time” to ensure you’re getting the high quality rest time you deserve. While this may look different for everyone, rest is essential for maintaining productivity — try to escape the mindset of viewing it as wasted time. We recommend listening to Steve Conine’s clip in our Founder Playlist if you need more convincing.
Women in the group shared creative ways to unwind from planning virtual pizza nights to baking dates with family and friends over Zoom. Others silence their phone and laptop to practice meditation, or simply take a walk around the block for a change of scenery.
As days blur into weeks and months, it is important to curate these daily or weekly rituals so you stay motivated and remind yourself there is something to look forward to.
As days blur into weeks and months,
it is important to curate these daily or
weekly rituals so you stay motivated
and remind yourself there
is something to look forward to.
Navigating Life as a Working Mom During a Pandemic
We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the incredible burden of working moms during this time. If you haven’t read it yet, the New York Times article, America’s Mother’s Are in Crisis is a staggering read. Remote work means that working moms are expected to successfully perform two full-time jobs simultaneously; their career and motherhood, neither of which is an easy task.
Working moms are expected to perform 2 full-time jobs: career and motherhood
To manage their time, many women began flexing their schedules to block off dedicated family time. Some women start the work day early before their children wake up, while others set strict working hours to prioritize family time in the evenings.
To stay sane, some working moms have been much more flexible about screen time for their children, while others have loaded up on childcare (having the babysitter stay an extra hour) when possible.
Working moms emphasized the importance of enjoying those extra moments with their
kids above all else.
kids above all else.
Supporting Your Mental Health and Wellbeing
We know we’re better at showing up for our teams when we invest in our health. Just as it is important to focus on physical wellbeing, it is equally, if not more important to focus on mental wellbeing during this time. The women in our community shared some great recommendations for ways they are focusing on their mental health and wellbeing during quarantine, three of which were cited by multiple women:
Journaling. We don’t need to cite all of the benefits of journaling, but if you’re looking for them check here. If you want to create a lasting habit that is not overwhelming, start small by listing 1-3 things you’re grateful for each morning.
Spending time in nature. Weather-permitting, taking short walks throughout the day was one of our most-shared tips.
Learn a new skill. Use this time to try out a new skill or hobby that you have always wanted. Maybe that’s finally learning how to cook a new dish, teaching yourself to knit, or hosting a virtual bake-off with a friend.
Investing in your mental health is one of the best investments you can make — for you and for your team. In our Founder Playlist, Sarah Hodges, Partner at Pillar VC, shares, “When you are building a company, it is easy to put taking care of yourself as your last priority, but over time this will lead to burnout — which is completely inefficient. You can only be a strong leader for your team when you are showing up as the best version of yourself.”