4 Things Motherhood Can Teach Us About Working Sustainably

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThis past weekend in the United States, we celebrated Mother's Day - a corporatized, but nevertheless important, day in which we honor mothers everywhere. Motherhood means different things to everyone, and I can't begin to summarize such an ancient, primal archetype in one blog post, but I want to share some thoughts about how motherhood can help us learn how to work sustainably.

Motherhood and Boundaries

In order to meet the demands of little people who need her in order to survive, a mother has to have boundaries. She has to put her oxygen mask on first. She has to get the help she needs in order to love and serve her children like she wants to.

I remember as a little girl, my parents would go away on trips from time to time, and as they were preparing to leave us (for good, I was sure), they'd always say that they needed time away "in order to be better parents."

"Better parents?" It sounded like a cop-out to me at the time, but now I understand. If I were a mother to five young kids like my mom was, I'm not sure I'd be able to find such a graceful way to say "I need to GTFO of this house for a little while."

In order to thrive in the midst of what can feel like an all-consuming role, whether it's as a mom, a manager, or an employee, we have to leave sometimes. We have to say "no." We have to take space and ensure that our soul has what it needs in order for us to be better - to ourselves and to the people who depend on us.

Motherhood and Open-heartedness

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantBased on what I've heard from friends and loved ones who are mothers, you can't really be a parent without having your heart broken open. I experienced a glimpse of this feeling when my nephew was born. Even though I'm "only" his aunt, when he was born, I felt a rush of love that I thought might split me in two.

Becoming a mother requires that we have boundaries, yes, but paradoxically, it pushes us into total open-heartedness. The lines between where we end and where our beloved begins get blurry, and we can't help but pour our hearts into the ones who need us.

I often wonder how our organizations would change if they operated from a place of love instead of fear. I wonder how they'd change if our executive teams were trained in loving-kindness and were rewarded for being vulnerable and open-hearted.

I wonder how our world would change if we opened our hearts a little bit more - if we each shared one more kind word, offered to help one more time, or sat for one more minute in silence with someone who is hurting.

Motherhood and Creativity

If you're into energy stuff, then you know that our second chakra is our creative center. The second chakra is located where the womb is in women but is always present, in womb-less women as well as men.

Things are created out of the void, whether it's a seemingly empty womb, your second chakra, or the space between two thoughts. Each of us, whether we're mothers or not, has the potential to conceive and birth newness into our lives. Sometimes we're at the beginning stages of change, where we can barely feel it within us. Then the change will quicken - it will kick and stir within us until we can feel its presence. In time, it will grow and strengthen until it's ready to be born, and we'll have to choose: will we allow this change to be birthed, or will we fight the process and cling to the way things were?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThis cycle of conception, quickening, and birth has shown up in many of my clients' careers - they come in with a notion that something in their worklife needs to change, together we uncover and nurture that change, and then they have to choose whether or not they'll go through the labor pains and give birth to what's inside of them. It's a powerful metaphor that can show us how to gracefully and courageously undergo transformation in our worklives.

Motherhood and Power

Mothers are powerful. In fact, their connection to, protection over, and love for their children is one of the most powerful forces in existence.

If you're a mother in the American workforce, then you've probably experienced the pain of becoming a new parent, attaching to your newborn, and having to go back to work before either of you is ready to be apart for 8+ hours a day.

All across the United States, mothers are using their power to demand access to paid family leave and laws that actually support healthy families. When they're united, empowered, and courageous, mothers transform our world into one that is safe and beautiful for children everywhere. If this issue speaks to you, I encourage you to learn more and take action by visiting one of my favorite organizations, MomsRising.org.

Motherhood has a lot to teach us about how to work in a way that is sustainable and beneficial to the world around us.

When we tap into the maternal wisdom that's available to all of us - mothers or not - we can muster the strength to live boundaried, open-hearted, creative, and powerful lives.


Know someone who could use some maternal wisdom today? Pass this along!