Opting In and Out: How to Create the Best of Both Worlds for Working Moms

There’s a generation of middle-aged women returning to the workforce – some bitterly. Why? Years ago, they “opted out” to stay home with their children.

Now, they are looking to return – only to be offered fractions of their former salaries and little to no prestige.

Mayanne Downs, city attorney for the City of Orlando and shareholder at GrayRobinson law firm, knows why these women opted out and is doing her best to make sure the women at her firm aren’t pressured to do the same.

“My children are 23 and 21,” Downs tells PINK, “but I remember years of going to the doctor with tension headaches and the constant feeling of being pulled too many directions.”

According to a LinkedIn survey, the single, most determinant factor in measuring success at work for women is Life/Work balance.

“My goal for young mothers on my team is to create an environment they look forward to coming to – full of comfort, good feelings and accommodations that allow them to walk with their heads held high,” says Downs.

“I don’t want them to feel like they’re compromising professional growth.”

She’s made her firm a haven for mothers looking to lean into their careers without leaning out of their families.

“I don’t believe in lockstep hiring or paying,” Downs says, “they have a voice in how much work they want to do and how much revenue they want to help generate.”

And, she doesn’t penalize mothers who choose to work part-time and move back into traditional roles later. She insists, “I don’t want them to feel like they’re compromising professional growth,” for motherhood.

Downs also encourages time shifting, where moms can leave early and work after kids are in bed, and takes an active approach to boosting team morale. They recently took a painting class and she plans to take them to a chocolate making class soon – all on her own dime.

But, most graciously, she offers a concierge service two days a week to run personal errands for her team. The only catch? They absolutely have to use the service.

“My daughter works part time as our concierge, and I don’t want her coming in with nothing to do.”

Comment: Did you “opt out” after having children? Share your experience.

BONUS PINK Link: Blurry boundaries, it is OK for VCs to ask female founders about plans for children?

By L. Nicole Williams
Nicole is the Editor at Little PINK Book. Follow her on Twitter @iamnicwill.

“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.” Sheryl Sandberg

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Allensima

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