On this Mother's Day, we return to a passage from a column that ran during Women's History Month.

Several women execs we spoke with said that even with a highly supportive structure and team at work, they are burning the candle at both ends. “The pandemic destroyed all boundaries” between work and downtime, one insider comments. “Even with childcare help, I need to be there for my kids when I get home and spend whatever hours I have at home with them. Sure, we can have it all— except sleep.”

What’s more, quite a few women in top positions who worked their way there while raising children now find themselves obliged to “nurture” above and beyond their job descriptions—hand-holding, pep talks and counseling are expected in a way they rarely, if ever, are from men in similar posts.

Something else that hasn’t changed, or hasn’t changed enough, several insiders emphasize: Women have been forced to choose between embracing an executive path and embracing motherhood—too much emphasis on being a mom and you’d be considered somehow weak and not be taken seriously. If we’re going to make progress, these biz players say, we need a culture in which women in charge are not only able to be committed moms but can give the women on their teams the freedom to carve out space for their families. “I was fortunate to work for years for a man who insisted that his team carve out time for their personal lives,” one prominent female exec notes. “But he was more the exception than the rule.”

It takes a change in company culture to make this the standard, and even many women at or near the top of the food chain are still wary about emphasizing their maternal roles too much.

The fact is, you can do the job and go to your kids’ soccer games and school plays. You can do the job and tuck your kids in at night (perhaps not every night, but you get the point). You can do the job and not have to downplay your role as a mom. It is not weakness that you excel in your work but are also able to put your work aside to attend to your children. It’s a mark of strength.

Will the pandemic, having obliterated so many boundaries, bring about a correction—forcing male execs to make work/life balance a priority and thus finally making that possible for working moms?

Photo by Irina Iriser