June 1st is International Children’s Day, and while our colleagues’ kids will hopefully get an extra big scoop of ice cream today, it’s on us to thank and celebrate their parents.
At MVP Factory, every lifestyle has its place and is met with the utmost flexibility in working hours and collaboration styles. But we can probably all agree that raising children and balancing a career can be extra demanding sometimes, so we want to say thank you to our colleagues who share this adventure with us.
With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day only a short while ago, our Director of Talents & Organization shared some thoughts, looking back at her career and her decisions as a working mother, as well as asking the question: What can we as employers do to accommodate the needs of parents—especially mothers or single parents—and unleash their full potential?
Here’s what Luisa had to say:
I am a working mom, but what does that even mean?
10 years in and I mostly forget that this term of “working mom” is one of my labels. I’ve never been a not-working mother, nor a non-parenting worker in my adult life, as I decided to have kids early and kick off my career while they were young.
In my imagination, my decision meant that I’d never miss the feeling of being able to entirely focus on my career or plan my time with only my own needs in mind—which turned out to be half true. I do miss these things, but then again, I never knew them in the first place.
All of the above is true. And it miraculously worked out. Don’t ask me how. The only answer I would be able to truthfully give is: “because I was lucky and worked in supportive environments, while having the privilege of access to great daycare and all-day schools.”
Your surroundings, the world you grow up in, shape the boundaries and freedom you allow yourself to set.
When I was a child, my role models were so close to me that I didn’t even realize they served this function. All the women around me always worked. My mother raised me by herself while running a company, the founder of the first school I went to was a woman, all my doctors were women, all of my friends’ moms worked, and it was never a question to me that women and mothers are part of the workforce in any job or industry.
If you are a parent, or specifically a mother, and struggle with competing priorities or the feeling of letting your kids down, don’t forget that them seeing how you do what you love, sharing both work and family life equally with your partner(s), is one of the best reassurances they can have when following their own dreams.
All the times my mother told me “you’ll have to work twice as hard to get the same recognition as a man” started to make sense when I had to think about what job I wanted, and learned about glass ceilings, pay gaps, and mansplaining. It was only then that the career struggles facing female-identifying people who also happen to be parents became apparent to me.
When I became a recruiter, I met hiring managers who dared to ask a female candidate how she imagined taking care of her kids while being at work, but would never challenge a 29 year old man about what would happen if he would take paternity leave.
Yes, even fathers have a hard time when they want to show up for their families and take longer paternity leave. And still, we pat fathers on the back for knowing how to braid hair more often than we acknowledge the care work mothers do without judging them for not being good enough in ALL aspects of life.
Again, it was my privilege to be able to say “f*** that. I’ll prove them wrong and use their weapons against them right from the start.” Which brings me back to being a working parent and mother. Sorry for the rambling.
To celebrate Mothers’ and Father's Day and acknowledge the amazing work our parents do at MVP Factory, I was asked to share my insights and experience as a “working mom”, although the term working mom always irritates me because all mothers are working—care work is work.
Both mothers and fathers have that one day per year where we’re celebrated by society for being a caring person in the lives of our children, the ones who dry their tears, fix broken toys and pants and remember all of their friends’ birthdays. And while it’s a nice gesture, in my opinion it doesn’t quite do the trick. Every parent and every woman with kids is much more than a caretaker. We aren’t mothers first and other things second. We are people, with ambitions, dreams, struggles and expectations of ourselves and our surroundings. And yet, especially as mothers, we often find ourselves in the position of making compromises and having to fight for our boundaries to be upheld.
What is important to me when it comes to being a mom in a full-time career?
I have always worked full-time, (again: privilege and access to childcare), and I’ve worked side by side with people who knew I had kids and paid me compliments like “I wouldn’t be able to tell that you’re a mom” (how weird is that?). But another thing I did—and which I think served me better than trying to be the same as my non-parent colleagues—was to always take it for granted that my job will have to make room for my parenting duties.
We’ve mentioned “privilege” a couple of times now, and I can’t stress enough that I am aware that this is not how things go for the majority of working mothers.
Whenever I’ve taken a new job, full-time, I have never requested it, but simply stated that I will have “early” and “late” days. Days where I’m able and willing to start work at 7am, but will also drop everything at 3pm to pick up the kids from daycare and won’t be available for work (yes, except for emergencies). And it will be up to me to decide if I have the energy left to get back to my laptop once the kids are in bed. And also days where I’ll come in once the offspring are taken care of and enjoying their happy life at daycare and school, and once I’ve enjoyed some me-time on public transport, (yes, working parents know how absurd it is to consider grocery shopping and sitting on the train “me-time”), and on these days I’ll stay as late as I want to and until I feel I’ve achieved strong results, plus the networking and meetups and all the social stuff that goes along with working.
In the beginning of my career, work-life balance for me meant: “being able to create my own shifts and keep my private life separate”.
This model stopped working for me, personally, when I took over more responsibility. While I still had all the acceptance from my co-workers, and they wouldn’t ever schedule a meeting outside my “shifts” or try to call me, I didn’t feel at ease and spent a lot of time thinking about work while being with the kids.
That’s when I changed jobs and joined a company with little to no established culture or awareness for working parents: MVP Factory.
Parents & Work-Life Balance at MVP Factory
I joined a team of career-oriented, high-performing people in a really competitive industry that’s driven by external needs, deadlines and the ambition to be exceptional. And it was the best decision ever.
I could help to create frameworks and facilitate a culture that makes room for combining more than one life priority. Of course, I couldn’t and didn’t do it myself: I got lucky again and joined a team where people have strong passions outside of their work.
We defined “work-life balance” as something that enables everyone to create their day and week in a way that makes room for both their own needs and the needs of the company. You need 4 hours of life-admin time in the morning? Cool, go for it—just let your stakeholders know and choose a time of day that lets you focus better. Your family is in town and you want to show them around, and use the evening to get stuff done instead? Just make sure your peers aren’t blocked by that, and then off you go!
If you have a child that has doctors appointments, parents evenings, dance recitals, a birthday party, or a rough night (week, month, year, phase)—go be a parent. You have our full support and trust that you know how to manage your time, or will reach out when you need help to adjust to the situation.
Due to client meetings, we don’t expect to stick to specific working hours. Employees at MVP Factory can work whenever they want, from wherever they want, as long as they ensure active collaboration and strong results. And no, this hasn’t ever created a scenario where we’ve had trouble finding a time slot for yet another meeting. Instead, it has enabled us to question more often whether something really *needs* to be a meeting.
It also never means that we “slack off”, or that people with priorities outside of work spend less hours working. We’re aware that we expect a lot from our team, and we acknowledge that building valuable products and ventures for our clients and their customers is hard work that can come with long days in certain project phases.
Our roles work part-time if we want to, and we have an unlimited amount of vacation days and flexible hours. We have a Slack channel for parents at MVP Factory, where we vent about Paw Patrol, share ridiculous stories, and virtually patted each other on the shoulders during the long months of lockdown and homeschooling. And every one of us is certain that we’ve never had more freedom to flexibly combine parenting and working. But we’re also grateful for our workations, where we unfortunately *have* (kidding—it’s entirely voluntary) to join the team for 5 days in Lisbon and sadly miss another bedtime tantrum.
So, can I have it all?
And yet, I feel the pressure of myself and society about wanting it all and asking “Can I really have it all?”. Recently, I watched a TikTok where Shonda Rhimes answered how it is to be a person that works full-time and is a mother—how she does it—and I agree with her response:
Whenever we pretend that things are manageable and we are pushing through at work, it means that there is a playground we aren’t taking our kids to despite the sunny weather or some school work that we didn’t look over with them. Whenever we don’t work in the afternoon to attend a school play or prepare a birthday party, we are relying on our team to pick up the ball we are dropping “in the office”. It won’t get easier with time. But building a strong support system can be a relief. As long as I’m Director of Talents & Organization at MVP Factory, it will be one of our key pillars to be part of that support system for mothers and fathers who devote part of their career to growing MVP Factory into Europe’s leading product and venture builder, where we enable enterprises and entrepreneurs alike to build great products and ventures.
Tell us how it works for you to balance your career and equally important life priorities! How does parenting and working go together for you? Have you found the secret recipe to make it work?