Millions of women left the workforce during the pandemic, throwing many moms into a world devoid of rules and structure. As this cohort navigated raising kids, life on Zoom, and spending time trying to find new revenue streams, entrepreneur Bethany Braun-Silva says adopting a figure-it-out-on-the-fly lifestyle became crucial overnight. “I’ve always done everything out of order, so I live by the idea that things don’t always go to plan,” she says. “I became a mom before I became a wife. I pursued a career in journalism without a degree or any contacts. I just had a desire to tell stories and I became successful, figuring it out as I went. I had a newborn and a new career at the same time and no compass for either one.”
While it was scary at times to not have a path, she says being open-minded led to many opportunities, including her current day job. As an editor at Wild Sky Media, which is best known for its signature brands CafeMom, Mom.com, MamásLatinas, and Little Things, Braun-Silva is in charge of special projects. She also hosts a podcast called The Breakdown with Bethany. It was during an episode with Aimee Kestenberg that Braun-Silva realized she was learning invaluable insights from today’s leading entrepreneurs and she wanted to share that information with more people. So she put pen to paper and started writing a book.
“Like a Mother is about betting on yourself, wherever you’re at in life. It’s for moms who have given their all to their families and others, and who are ready to give to themselves. We’ve all heard the expression, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup,’ so this book invites women to focus and take action on their passions, their ambitions, and do so without guilt. Like Beyoncé says, ‘I don’t like to gamble, but if there’s one thing I’m willing to bet on, it’s myself,’ and that’s the sentiment I hope this book inspires in other women.”
Braun-Silva says as we step further away from the Great Resignation and deeper into the Great Re-Emergence, she hopes women keep three things in mind.
- You’re not alone. Motherhood is isolating, and working motherhood can be even more so. Remember there are networks and communities of women designed to support you on your career or entrepreneurial journey. My advice to women is to seek those out as they are invaluable.
- Times are changing. Just like there’s not one “right” way to have a family, there is not one right way to have a career. The traditional job market is not appealing to most women because it is not set up to support us. That’s why we are seeing more women taking their career and motherhood into their own hands and bending the ‘rules’ to make life work for them.
- Mothers are in a mental health crisis. The pandemic may be slowly disappearing in our rear view mirror, but the mental toll it took on moms is still ever-present. So if you’re feeling like you’re doing too much, you probably are. Remind yourself that it’s okay to slow down.
Putting Moms First
One of the people Braun-Silva included in her book is Reshma Saujani, the CEO and founder of Moms First who made headlines with her first company, Girls Who Code. While Braun-Silva hopes to change people’s mindsets about what’s possible, Saujani is on a mission to change the way the country operates at the policy level.
“Moms First is a national non-profit transforming our workplaces, our government and our culture so that moms in America can thrive. We started during the COVID-19 pandemic when women were being pushed out of the workforce in droves, and today we have evolved into a bipartisan grassroots movement of 1 million+ moms across the country equipped to advocate for ourselves and each other,” Saujani says. “We’re focused on three things: affordable child care, paid leave and pay equity. The reality is that women don’t need more leadership trainings and mentorship programs; we need real structural support that enables us to work and have kids without penalty. We also need cultural change: whether it’s our homes where we are still doing an outsize share of unpaid labor, or our workplaces that were designed for the Mad Men era, to truly unlock the power of women in the workforce we need to radically transform our institutions to put moms first.”
Understanding The Gender Pay Gap
Saujani says when it comes to money, the real gender pay gap isn’t between men and women, it’s between mothers and fathers. “In other words, it’s a Motherhood Penalty,” she explains. “And what accounts for it is the fact that women, even when they earn more than their husbands, are still doing significantly more caregiving work. They’re more likely to miss work, to take leaves, to downshift — and then on top of that they deal with anti-mom bias, they’re passed over, they’re paid less. Which of course in turn pushes them out. It’s a cycle.”
Saujani believes if employers want to support women they need to start by rethinking their playbook for women’s leadership. “DE&I can’t mean Women’s History Month brunches,” she says. “It has to be about changing the policies and the cultures that are actually holding women back. It means embracing flexible work; it means providing child care benefits; it means not just offering paid leave but ensuring that men also take it. It’s about building cultures that put moms first. When you build for your most vulnerable, everyone stands to benefit,” she adds.
“For so long women have been hiding our motherhood to get ahead at work. It’s time for us to organize as moms to fight for what we need and deserve to thrive.”