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Laya Karthik
August 24, 2023

My parents didn’t get divorced until I was 11, but I have been the child of a single mother for far longer. Both my parents worked through my adolescence, but it was my mom who planned my birthdays, who volunteered at school, who took care of me. She was the one who always felt the pressure of my childhood needs, and the guilt that came from her inability to balance all of my requests and a full time job. The divorce was a long time coming, but that didn’t stop it from being one of the hardest years of my life. Not for the reasons that most would assume, but because it made me realize how lonely the prior years before the divorce had been.

Divorce guilt is increasingly common in mothers, especially as divorce becomes more accessible to households with cultures that don’t condone it. My mom spent years raising me alongside my dad because of her fear about how a divorce would affect me. The truth is that my parents’ divorce was the beginning of so much happiness in my life. And since that time, my relationships with my family, friends, and myself have been filled with so much personal fulfillment. I know how to set boundaries, how to put myself first, and how to recognize a draining connection. The divorce taught me the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. If my parents had continued to be together, I would have grown up thinking that marriage and love are synonymous with arguments and isolation. 

The stigma behind divorce comes from a place of misogyny. Society generally assumes that depriving a child of a father and a united home is a burden that the mother must bear. That her wish for divorce is selfish. In reality, divorce is putting your children first. It’s taking them out of a toxic household. It’s teaching them that they can leave bad relationships and be happy. It’s showing them how to take charge of their own lives, and never put someone else’s happiness above their own.

If there is one thing that a parent must do in the face of a divorce, it is to disassociate the marital problems from the children on any and every level. The only time my parents’ divorce felt like a negative aspect of my life was when relatives in India — culturally unaccustomed to divorce — looked down on my family because of the separation. The whispers are still going strong seven years later, but I know that they have nothing to do with me or my relationship with either of my parents. This is because my mom explained my extended family’s likely disapproval the second the divorce happened. Giving your children the knowledge they need to adjust to this new dynamic is crucial to their achieving and maintaining happiness. 

Overarchingly, communication is the key factor in every stage of the divorce. From the second it has been brought up between partners, the children should be involved to some extent. You may think that it can remain a secret, but children will pick up on any shift within the household. It is critical to explain or educate them about the situation, rather than allow them to speculate and come to the common conclusion that they caused the problems. Furthermore, when the divorce happens, children need to be part of the decisions that come along with it. The first few weeks after the divorce, I felt lost because so many things were left unclear to me. Vacations, my extracurriculars, Christmas, and my birthday all felt like my responsibility because neither parent had told me what the schedule was. I began to spiral because choosing the house where I’d spend Christmas morning felt like choosing which of my parents I liked best. It is never the child’s responsibility to be in charge of schedules. However, a communicative environment where they have the choice to make requests is just as important. 

Divorces and their aftermath are messy and complicated. That doesn’t mean that we as a society should shy away from them or view them as anything other than improving an unhappy situation. Making the choice to become a single parent is one of the hardest and bravest things a person can do. Your children will be okay in a divorced environment (probably far better off than in an acrimonious household), as long as you provide them with the tools they need to be happy. 

Laya Karthik, Liftery intern, is a senior at Mountain View High School, president of the Mountain View High School chapter of March for Our Lives, and the child of a single mom. You can find her on Instagram at @laya.karthik. 

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A Teen’s Perspective on Parenting Through Divorce

Laya Karthik
August 24, 2023
Scherezade Siobhan
July 25, 2023

A therapy client of mine is a mother of two pre-teens and works a demanding job in a high-pressure legal operations team. Her partner lives in a different city for work reasons and as a result, she ends up with the bulk of the day-to-day parenting responsibilities. Often, she jokes about things like going grocery shopping after picking up her daughter from soccer, putting the chicken they’d bought for dinner on the roof of the car while unloading the rest of the shopping, and forgetting all about it. Or working on an important client presentation, going into the kitchen to get some water, seeing a few dirty plates, and then starting to clean them while completely forgetting the fact that she had a deadline for the presentation. These aren’t one-off situations. There seems to be a trail of distraction and forgetfulness, as she herself refers to these occurrences.

She attributes these “detours” to a lack of attentiveness. She sounds apologetic when discussing how she didn’t mean to “mess up.” But she feels like she does, every day.

“Been like this since I was a teen. Always forgetting things. Always lost in class at school. Thought I’d do better as an adult but here we are!”

She is not alone. I engage with quite a few mothers working in corporate jobs who bring up their struggles with memory recall, managing daily tasks and wavering attention spans. Another therapy client of mine puts it succinctly – “the stillness [of being away from my workplace], the lack of contact and chatter… gave me the pause against which I finally felt the depth of my struggle with being able to concentrate.”

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses among adults are growing four times faster than are ADHD diagnoses among children in the United States. ADHD is reported to occur in about 4.4% of the adult population in the US. Still, most scientists as well as mental health practitioners believe adult ADHD remains underdiagnosed.

Adult ADHD is an anomaly in how it is often a trending topic online and yet, a misunderstood subject, particularly in the workplace. This is largely due to the lack of awareness and clarity about what it really is. The biomedical model for psychiatric diagnosis categorizes it as a neurodevelopmental disorder that poses changes and challenges to what are considered standard aspects of cognitive functioning — especially attention and emotional regulation. It alters the executive functioning of the human brain, affects the developmental journey of children, and extends into adulthood. However, in recent years, a growing movement in support of neurodivergence – the inclusion and representation of how our brains can function in different ways as opposed to conforming to a rigid universal standard – has made room for understanding ADHD under a psychosocial lens. This second view contends that ADHD is not necessarily a disorder, but a different type of cognitive functioning based on divergent responses to environmental stimuli.

Our interpersonal and social interaction frameworks are largely based on certain widely accepted social standards. We assume everyone can pay attention if only they try harder, or that occupational tasks should be defined by neurotypical traits such as linear thinking, readiness for socialization and understanding social cues. When everyone is forced to comply with these arbitrary norms, they might not always do well or live up to expectations. This also allows us to question if we should really stop labeling ADHD as a dysfunction or disorder and instead include it in our understanding of how different human brains process information very differently. While these debates remain up in the air, they’re relevant in helping us comprehend the ADHD experience for ourselves and for others around us.

ADHD in children is usually noticed and addressed based on displays of hyperactivity. As a result, other forms of ADHD which don’t include hyperactivity as a very prominent component are largely ignored or misattributed to individual lack of capabilities or “weaknesses.” For example, a subtype of ADHD is rooted in inattentiveness. In this case, there may not be any hyperactivity, but the person could zone in and out of conversations, tasks, and activities without awareness. Or they might procrastinate or have trouble being on time. 

Individualization of a neurodevelopmental condition like ADHD creates isolation and perpetuates biases about laziness, poor IQ, lack of impulse control, and the like. This is even more evident when we look at the treatment of working moms with ADHD. Another fallout of these biases is the misinformation exchanged about ADHD in adults. So many of my own therapy clients who slowly started recognizing that they were probably dealing with ADHD had for several years believed that they were just incompetent or incapable.

These misconceptions are exacerbated when we add gender into the mix. Changes in hormonal activity at puberty, during pregnancy or menopause, for example, can further impact how and when ADHD is displayed and noticed. Research has shown that in recent years women in the US between the age groups of 30-45 are more frequently diagnosed with ADHD. This also means that for women, the recognition of ADHD might come at a later stage in life and sometimes converge with changes related to pregnancy and motherhood. This could result in mistaking adult ADHD for what is commonly called mommy brain.

Mommy brain is a term that is used to denote the brain fog, interrupted cognitive functionality and periods of memory daze that quite a few women experience during their pregnancies and post-partum phase. A study conducted by the University of British Columbia claims that the physical, psychological, and psychosocial stressors of pregnancy and motherhood change a woman’s brain functions related to emotional regulation and memory recall. Mommy brain is characterized by forgetfulness, difficulty in managing one’s attention span, feeling blank, and fluctuations in cognitive functioning, much like adult ADHD. But a major distinction is that the former is largely a situational and short-term disturbance whereas the latter is more of a deep-seated, long-term, chronic response loop. 

Adult ADHD in mothers is inadvertently tied into sociocultural expectations of unconditional resilience from women. Many women who started exhibiting signs of ADHD at a much younger age weren’t given the space to unpack their experiences. And in an organizational working environment, functioning with ADHD is compounded by gender biases that immediately label any type of non-conforming behavior as fragility, incapability and inefficiency — causing further alienation.

When I asked working mothers on my social media platform to share their experiences of living with ADHD, Sallyanne Rock, a UK-based mother of two teenagers and a former service desk manager, wrote to me about how when she first discussed her ADHD with her immediate boss, she was met with a lack of understanding and empathy. This led to her decision not to approach HR and occupational health services within the organization because she had already resolved to leave the job.

“I think that experiencing burnout, realising I had ADHD and recognising that I had been masking my difficulties for a long time was instrumental in my decision to resign. My day to day job involved so many Zoom calls and so much task switching that I felt unable to continue with it. In addition, because I worked in an operational environment, my working day and routine could be interrupted at any moment by a service outage that I would need to drop everything and respond to, which I found incredibly disruptive and difficult to deal with.”

If you think you may have ADHD, consider the following: 

Schedule a screening/assessment. Consult with your healthcare provider or employer-sponsored mental health provider to find a trained mental health practitioner to conduct an ADHD evaluation. 

Join a support community. Online support and advocacy groups such as these groups from the Attention Deficit Disorder Association and this group for moms with ADHD provide forums where you can chat with other ADHD adults — for information, advice and empathy. 

Identify and make room for your ADHD needs. Working moms have a lot to juggle, and repressing any ADHD-related discomfort can lead the stress to vent in unintended ways. Talk to your partner, a trusted friend or colleague about your experiences. If you feel a WFH/hybrid working model or a low-stimulation setup (dim lights, quiet) allows you to be more focused and productive, it is quite alright to discuss this with your manager to figure out a collaborative solution. Choose a method of disclosure in the workplace that makes you feel safe and secure. If you need help preparing for this conversation, you can ask your doctor, therapist, or career coach for their assistance.

Explore workplace tools and set expectations. Take advantage of scheduling apps, project management tools, organizers, and activity trackers to manage your daily tasks and reduce overwhelm. And set expectations about your response time and work habits. For example, let people know that if you are concentrating on a deliverable, you won’t check personal messages or might opt out of a fun office discussion occurring simultaneously. You are not being rude; you just need to direct your attention fully. If switching your video off during Zoom meetings helps you focus better, inform colleagues in advance. 

Here’s how organizations can help employees with ADHD:

Design mental-health-inclusive HR policies and foster an environment of psychological safety. The right organizational policies can create an environment where employees can bring their whole selves to work and ask for any necessary accommodations without fearing repercussions. Instead of individualizing employee struggles, build flexibility into your support offerings. For example, flexwork options and childcare programs are life savers for mothers with full-time jobs, while also boosting employee loyalty.

Offer supplementary mental health services. Mental healthcare should be a part of employee benefit programs. Assessments and screening for ADHD are difficult to access and often have very long waitlists. Organizations can contract directly with employee mental healthcare providers to make these services — as well as ADHD-focused occupational therapy — readily available to employees.

Build a mental health-friendly culture. Culture shapes interactions. If the organizational culture either directly or indirectly negates the experiences of those with ADHD, it can sniff out formidable talent and stifle diversity, which has been proven to improve a company’s profitability. Leaders and managers should be coached to respect the lived experience of others rather than enforcing rigid productivity rules that often backfire.


Scherezade Siobhan is an award-winning writer, psychologist educator and a community organizer who founded and runs Qureist — a therapeutic space for psychosocial wellness. Her work is featured and published in Medium, Berfrois, Quint, Vice, HuffPost, Feministing, Jubilat, The London Magazine, The Body Is Not An Apology among others. She is the author of “Bone Tongue” (Thought Catalog Books, 2015), “Father, Husband” (Salopress, 2016) and “The Bluest Kali” (Lithic Press, 2018). She is the current writer in residence at the University of Stirling and the winner of the Charles Wallace Grant, 2022. Her next book is “That Beautiful Elsewhere” by Harper Collins, set to be released in fall of 2023. She can be reached at or on Twitter and Instagram at @zaharaesque.


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Paying Attention: Working moms with ADHD

Scherezade Siobhan
July 25, 2023
Team Liftery
June 26, 2023

Congratulations! You’re about to become a mama — a hugely exciting milestone that will absolutely upend life as you know it. Enter baby snuggles, tiny clothes, so many diapers, and let’s face it — not a lot of sleep. Taking a multi-month parental leave (which you should absolutely do!) also has the potential to impact your career. But with some planning and proactive measures, you can navigate this transition smoothly without derailing your work-related goals. Here are some things to do before, during and after your maternity leave to keep your professional growth on track.


Communicate. Meet with your manager to discuss coverage during your absence, what you’d like to be contacted about during your leave, and expectations of your responsibilities when you return. Also make it clear that you’re dedicated to your role — this will instill confidence that you’ll still have your head in the game upon your return.

Plan to pass the torch. Whether you’re a people manager or individual contributor, set up your team to operate independently in the short term. Collaborate with your coworkers to create a detailed, written plan that ensures a smooth workflow during your absence, and designate someone to go to for help. Document your role, existing processes and ongoing projects, and then transition responsibilities to key players.

Be mindful of the review cycle. If performance reviews will take place during your absence and you’re a people manager, draft your evaluations before your leave, while everything is very fresh in your mind. And while you’re at it, draft your self review as well.

Learn. Find out about your company’s maternity-related policies and the accommodations available for your transition back to work. Can you ease back in with a 4-day workweek or even at 50% for the first few weeks? Could you work from home 2-3 days a week if that isn’t already the norm? Or might you want to negotiate a slightly decreased workload? What’s the precedent set by other moms at your company? Is there an employee resource group for new moms where you can find information and support? Or a dedicated HR representative who can help guide you both before and after you leave?

As a part of your learning, also connect with mom-friends and colleagues for their experiences and advice. If your company has an ERG or other group for moms, then tap into it now to find out how others have managed their leave and transition back to work. Also check out Liftery’s video interviews for parents-to-be.

Identify helpers. Line up help for your maternity leave and beyond. If finances allow, consider hiring a night nurse a few times per week so you can get some sleep. Discuss roles and responsibilities with your partner. Ask family for help. Start researching childcare options for your return to work.


Bond and heal. Prioritize your baby’s needs, your own healing and wellbeing, and getting the rest you need.

Let go of things you can’t control. You can’t do anything about organizational restructuring or changes in direction that take place during your leave. So worrying about them doesn’t serve a purpose, and can even prolong your healing. Instead, immerse yourself in your baby bubble.

Be present. Set clear boundaries between work and personal life. Resist the temptation to check work emails or take on tasks unless it’s an emergency or part of a planned return-to-work transition.

Set up a couple check-ins with your manager. Many new moms feel most prepared to go back to work if they’ve had time to process some of the changes that have taken place during their leave. To that end, you may choose to set up a check-in or two with your manager as your return date draws near.

Negotiate if necessary. If you find you need a longer leave than you’ve originally planned, then be prepared to tell your manager exactly what you want. The script can go something like this:

I am looking forward to coming back to tackle X and Y. Based on personal and family needs, I will be ready to come back on [DATE], working [# of] hours a week until [DATE 2]. Then I’ll transition back to full time hours. I’m happy to schedule regular check-ins with you as I ramp up after time away. Again, can’t wait to be back!


Think gradual. Start mid-week and with limited hours if possible. Think of it as a ramp-up where you start by listening,  learning, and catching up, and then add deliverables and decision-making.

Set boundaries. Block out time on your calendar for dinner, baby’s bedtime, and whatever else is important to you. If you can, also block out an hour first thing in the morning, so you have extra time to clear your head if needed… or even to take a nap after a wakeful night. Although it may seem that reducing your work time would diminish productivity, doing so can actually make you work smarter.

Lower your expectations. A messier house and unfolded laundry are okay. This is not the time for perfection — it’s the time to give yourself grace. And if you’re one of those people who can’t tolerate dishes and baby bottles in the sink, then ask your partner or other family members for help, or if your situation allows, consider outsourcing where you need it most. Babysitting, dinner prep, house cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping are all things that others can handle. In particular, having meals pre-arranged during your first week back goes a long way in allowing you to focus as much energy as possible on navigating your return to work.

Be intentional about how you spend your time. Skip meetings where you’re not adding value, and where possible, decline extra tasks that aren’t aligned with your team’s goals. This will let you dedicate the majority of your available time and energy to the most impactful work.

Let things ebb and flow. Your priorities will shift continually between your career and your family as needs change. There will be weeks you lean into work and weeks you lean into home. Likewise, there’s a time to coast in your career, and there’s a time to climb. Careers are not straight lines. Listen to and honor your gut instincts.

Find a support system. You may find a helpful confidante in a work colleague, an Employee Resource Group for women, a trusted friend, your partner or extended family. Liftery also offers free peer-support Circles for moms, providing safe spaces for sharing wins, struggles, and advice.

Again, sincere congratulations. You’ve got this.

Guide to Navigating Your Maternity Leave

Team Liftery
June 26, 2023
Carol Fishman Cohen
May 29, 2023

Are you considering a career break for childcare, eldercare, extended travel, pursuing a personal interest, or some other reason? Here’s what you need to do now to pave the way for your eventual re-entry.

  1. Don’t assume a full career break is the only option. Ask your employer for what you want. Do you desire more schedule control or a different work location? Can you change your working hours or days, or create a home and office hybrid arrangement? Would contractor status work for you? Decide what you want and make the case to your employer. They have invested in you, and you have institutional knowledge that could be expensive to replace. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot about how, when and where work gets done. If your employer is not able or willing to make adjustments to accommodate your needs, then you can consider a career break or a non-traditional work arrangement elsewhere.
  2. Stay connected professionally. Most of us who have taken career breaks in the past advise “keeping a toe in the water” if possible. In other words, don’t drop out of your career completely. Can you work for your former employer on a project or contract basis? Can you cover the occasional parental leave? Can you freelance? Can you teach a college course as an adjunct lecturer, utilizing your subject matter expertise? Consider these options now, and reach out to former classmates and colleagues who have tried these approaches to ask for advice. What do they recommend? And what do they wish they had known earlier?
  3. Document your work achievements in real time. Start documenting your career accomplishments, failures, and milestone moments — anytime you learned something significant. Your post-career-break-self will thank you. When you return from a career break, you’ll need to have anecdotes about your significant prior work experiences scripted and rehearsed for interviews. Documenting them now, in the moment, will make them much more vivid and detailed than if you try to recall them years later.
  4. Nurture your relationships with colleagues at all levels within your organization. This includes those who are junior to you — whether you mentor, manage or simply know them. Remember, while you are on career break, people who are now junior to you could be moving up, and they may be in a position to make a connection or open a door for you when you are ready to return to work. We even have members of our iRelaunch community who are working for people who used to work for them.
  5. Make a list of your work and alumni contacts, person by person. While you are still working, create a record of your career network, including suppliers, lawyers, accountants, customers, etc., in addition to your current work colleagues and fellow alumni from your alma mater. This will be an important resource later when you are on career break and want to keep in touch or re-connect with people from the past. LinkedIn is an excellent way to track your network and stay connected with professional contacts.
  6. Identify requirements to keep certifications, licenses, or other credentials current while on career break. If you hold certifications, licenses, or other credentials, you’ll want to make sure you know in advance how to keep them current so you don’t miss any deadlines. This may only involve continuing to pay an annual fee but could also involve continuing education coursework or periodic exams.
  7. Go into your career break eyes wide open as to the cost of taking it. Use the CAP calculator to calculate the cost of taking your career break. This interactive tool takes your current income and makes assumptions about salary increases, social security, compounding and other factors to give you a calculation of the all-in foregone income of career breaks of different lengths. I’m pretty sure if I had known the cost of my 11-year career break going into it, I would have returned to work much sooner.
  8. Don’t put off important life decisions. If you are considering having children, don’t try to wait for the “right time” professionally. No time is perfect. Women we have heard from over the years regretted trying to time their pregnancies strategically from a career perspective, as the longer they waited, the more likely they would be facing infertility and other child-bearing related problems.

If you consider these recommendations in advance, you will be in a better position to manage your career with intention. But also realize that you can’t control everything. For example, my employer unexpectedly collapsed while I was on maternity leave with my first child, so I did not have a company to return to. We weren’t getting any younger and were planning to have more kids in close succession. My decision not to go after the next big job marked the beginning of what became an 11-year career break.

That said, everyone’s situation is different and there are so many factors that go into career break decisions (not the least of which is financial). It is hard to generalize from any one person’s experience. So consider checking out Relaunch Success Stories and the 3,2,1 iRelaunch podcast to hear directly from relaunchers about their career journeys.


Carol Fishman Cohen is the CEO and Co-founder of iRelaunch. iRelaunch has worked with over 250 employers to build and expand career reentry programs of all kinds, and supports a community of over 100,000 “relaunchers” who are returning to work after career breaks from one to over 20 years. Carol is a relauncher herself, having left a Wall Street corporate finance role to take an 11-year career break before resuming her finance career at an investment firm. Carol is a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review and her TED/TEDx talk on career reentry has nearly 3.7 million views.  


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Career Break Ahead? 8 Essential Steps to Take Now

Carol Fishman Cohen
May 29, 2023
Team Liftery
April 19, 2023

When you’re juggling work and life — or work plus several lives (think kids, pets…) — there are never enough waking hours in a day.  But these personal productivity hacks might just help you cross more items off your list, without dropping balls… or losing sleep.

Here are some things to try:

Prioritize. Start each day by making a to-do list of the most important tasks you need to accomplish. Then, rank them in order of importance. Focusing your attention and energy on just the most critical items will raise the likelihood of getting them done. 

Vice President Google Store, Mauria Finley routinely keeps a sticky note with her top three priorities on her monitor to dictate how she spends her time. She asserts that letting some of the other, less important things slide actually makes her a better manager, because it allows “more space” for the members of her team to pick up and run with those secondary initiatives.

Set goals. Consider defining both short-term and long-term objectives for yourself. Short-term goals can help you stay motivated and focused on your daily tasks, while long-term goals give you bigger milestones to work towards over a longer period of time. And don’t underestimate the power of committing to a goal in writing.

On New Year’s Day, Birdies CEO Bianca Gates writes herself a letter where she sets goals for herself for the year. She finds that it serves as a kind of roadmap, guiding her to accomplish at least the top three items she wrote about. “Outside of those things, day to day things may seem murky and messy. But overall, if I feel like I’m achieving the top three priorities that I had set out for the year, then I feel like life is good. I have a strong foundation under me, and I don’t let any of the little things get to me because I’m thriving in the areas that are most important.”

Schedule it. Of course you already schedule your work meetings and kids’ doctor appointments, but also try blocking out time on your calendar for family and personal time — things like exercise or journaling, a movie on the couch with your kids, creative brainstorming for an upcoming vacation, or even just undefined alone time. Visual reminders and any audio chimes you set will keep you on track so you can accomplish more.

You can also use scheduling to compartmentalize your time, which allows for greater focus. For example, Virtualness CEO and Liftery co-founder Kirthiga Reddy says she sets aside a 2-hour block each week for mentoring conversations. Isolating these sessions into one block of time makes scheduling easy and minimizes time-consuming context switching during the rest of the work week.

Multitask. The trick in multitasking is in knowing what’s really “multitaskable.” Doing two things simultaneously that both require the same kind of focus (like working on a spreadsheet and responding to emails) will end up taking you more time instead of less, since you’ll have to make constant adjustments as you’re switching back and forth. Similarly, writing a product brief may take you longer if you’re doing it while listening to a podcast, since the two tasks can use the same brain centers. But combining activities that don’t compete with each other can save you lots of time — hence the concept of walking meetings and under-desk bikes. “I strive to combine three things wherever possible,” says Kirthiga Reddy. “If I can walk the dog, get my steps in, and catch up with a friend or colleague all at once, that’s just about perfect.”

Outsource. It’s important to recognize when you need help. Finding other people to handle tasks such as cleaning, laundry, yard work, or childcare can free up more quality time for you to focus on work and family. “I understand that not everyone has the financial possibility to do this, but I try to outsource everything I can, besides love,” says LinkedIn Engineering VP Erica Lockheimer. “And so the more that I can get someone to do those tactical things (cooking, cleaning…), the more I can focus on spending quality time with my children.”

Get sleep. We’ve all experienced this firsthand, but it’s worth emphasizing: sacrificing sleep to get more done leaves you feeling unmotivated and unable to make good decisions. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, sleep is directly related to daytime performance and productivity. Getting enough rest improves your ability to learn and solve problems. And when you’re sleep deprived, you take longer to complete tasks and make more mistakes. So staying up late to cram one more thing into your day could actually backfire, leaving you less productive during your prime daytime hours. Instead, prioritize getting enough rest.

Take breaks. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or stuck on a task, take a break to recharge. A few minutes of stretching, deep breathing, or even just spacing out can help you feel more energized and focused. “What we’re learning is some of the same consolidation activities that happen in our brains when we’re asleep also occur when we rest,” says psychologist and clinical professor Samantha Artherholt. She explains that allowing yourself downtime with minimal stimuli helps you become more attentive, focused, and creative. It also lets your brain process new information you’ve learned and connect it to other ideas. You know how sometimes you forget the name of a person or thing and then it pops into your head when you’re doing something completely unrelated? Bingo. 

Breaks are good for productivity. But if you’re concerned about either forgetting to take them or breaking for too long, then consider using a calendar or timer to help you stay on track. Which brings us to…

Use technology. There are so many productivity tools available that can help you stay sharp and organized. Besides your online calendar synced between your computer and mobile phone, apps like Trello, Evernote, and RescueTime can help you better manage your tasks and time. 

One productivity app you may not think of, however, is your phone’s camera. Photos expand time by saving memories and allowing you to access and feel the related emotions later on. How is this a productivity hack? “Sometimes my schedule is so busy that I can only attend conferences or meetings for a short time,” says Kirthiga Reddy. “While I’m there, I take lots of photos. When I look at them later, I feel as good as if I’d been able to stay the whole time. It’s a time saver and a happiness multiplier.”

Nobody will ever tell you that juggling work, life and family is easy. But using these techniques could help you improve your focus, maximize efficiency, save time, and accomplish more. Got a productivity app or hack you swear by that’s not mentioned here? Let us know — we may even feature it in a future article.


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Personal Productivity Hacks for Women who Juggle

Team Liftery
April 19, 2023
Rebecca Joy Tromsness
March 21, 2023

When you’ve spent years of your life wiping bums, managing cookie negotiations, outwitting stall tactics, and juggling naps, the concept of putting yourself out there — whether for a career relaunch or even just a transition — can feel daunting.

You have children on the brain during most waking hours, you’re self-conscious of any gaping holes on your resume, networking seems like a double dare, and especially if you have little to no recent paid experience, your confidence may be at an all-time low.

Seems like a perfect foundation for building a personal brand, right?


But hear me out. Let me tell you why it’s essential for your job search and how to do it, even if you have a gap and all the self-doubt in the world.


A personal brand is the culmination of things that distinguish you from your job-seeker competitors: it is a reflection of your unique skills, passion, values, work strengths, personality traits, and unique experience(s), accomplishments, abilities, and soft skills, among other things. It’s a marketing tool — a strategy — for your candidacy that encapsulates who you are, what makes you unique, how you solve problems, and what solutions you offer a target company to reach their goals and achieve their mission.

A personal brand is a “career identity” with a dynamic message: a unique value proposition to prospective employers. A powerful personal brand delivers a clear solutions-focused message that is impactful and captivating.

You might feel unworthy of “be”-ing a brand. Or, this all might be a bit of a turn-off. Trust me, I used to think personal branding was foolish and fake — synonymous with embellishment. You may be thinking, as I did:

I am not a brand.

I do not want to market myself.

I do not want to whip up a fake version of myself.

I want to honor my whole self and what I bring to the table without trying to be someone I’m not.

I get it.

One thing I’ve learned about personal branding — within the context of a job search — is that I can be true to myself while curating a relevant message toward a target role.

I see personal branding in two parts: Authenticity and Curation. When it comes to personal branding as a jobseeker, you need to both build and inhabit an impactful brand that lands call-backs.

Here are four delightful things to understand about your personal brand:

1.         You have one, whether you realize it or not. Whether you think it’s silly or not. We all have a personal brand that follows us around in the world. Simply put, it’s your reputation. The things you’re known for.

2.         If you decide not to communicate clearly what you’re about, you’ll blend in. If you decide to craft a targeted message about solutions you offer to employers, you’ll stand out.

3.         You’re in charge of it. You get to ensure it’s authentic, relevant, and that you’re content to embody/inhabit this version of yourself, in this particular season.  It doesn’t need to be flashy or “loud” (unless you want it to be). It simply needs to be clear, concise, and intriguing.

4.         It grows and changes with you. It’s never set in stone.


Your interview chances are nil unless you stand out from other applicants. Google any stat about your chances of landing an interview, and it won’t inspire confidence. For applicants with resume gaps, take that number and reduce it again. Caregiver bias is alive and well, even in a pandemic-era hiring landscape riddled with resume gaps. So crafting a message to employers that flies in the face of their assumptions is essential. That means having a fleshed-out personal brand that highlights your strengths/passions and signals what you stand for, what you’ve accomplished, and what you’re capable of achieving.

This message will infuse your LinkedIn profile and will be present in your headline, in your professional summary, and in your emails and direct messaging you do for networking purposes.

And as an extra bonus, knowing what you’re about and what you offer is a huge boost to your self-worth and keeps your job search laser-focused.

But other than being a mom, what, exactly, *are* you about?

Figuring this out requires time to reflect, a bit of soul-searching, a list of solid questions, a few trusted people to be a sounding board, and good ol’ strategy.


For moms with a hiatus from professional paid work or with a career pivot in mind, building a personal brand is a two-step process.


Take inventory by asking yourself the following questions and brain-dumping your honest answers. This initial phase is a sketch of your overarching personal brand. It’s the umbrella for all the possibilities. You are a dynamic individual, likely with multiple passions, skills, unique experiences, and achievements. Jot them all down. They don’t all have to make sense or come together seamlessly yet. This part should be fun! But if it’s not, and you’re at a loss, enlist a trusted friend or partner to help you out.

Write down the facts as well as your thoughts and observations about your:

•           Passions and interests

•           Education and work experience

•           Unpaid care work and volunteer work

•           Personality

•           Goals and aspirations

•           Values and mission

•           Strengths and skills

Answer these Qs:

What are you known for?

What motivates you?

Why are you unique?

What do you bring to the table?

Who do you want to influence?

What elements of your personality make you you?

Think back to your pre-baby professional experience, think about your unpaid or volunteer experiences and the people who have worked closely with you and reflect:

Do you have a reputation for something specific?

What do people say about you when you’re not in the room?

What do they say when you *are* in the room?

What do co-workers or teammates appreciate most about you?

What did colleagues or bosses say about you at your last jobs?

What does upper management or leadership appreciate most about you?

What do your neighbors say about you?

What do your community members (school, drop-in centers, library, moms-n-tots groups, faith groups, etc.) say about you?

What do trusted friends or family members say about you?

Once you’ve had a chance to jot down the answers to these questions, you might identify some themes, or you might see a whole lotta jumbled up unrelated pieces of your life on paper. Whatever you’ve got will be a great foundation.

Completing this first step – jotting down everything that comes to mind when asking yourself the above questions – is a huge task. Congrats! You’re ready for the next phase. It’s time to curate.

When creating a targeted resume for the role you’re after, you’ll take your “master resume” and select only relevant items (as opposed to cramming it with every single skill and experience you’ve ever had). In the same way, when you build a personal brand, you’ll take your “umbrella brand” and select the elements that will strengthen a personal brand that are relevant to the role(s) you’re after.

It’s about curating for relevancy. Not curating for dishonesty, to be someone you’re not, or to hide behind pretense. It’s about putting your best foot forward. It’s about your solutions offer.

What’s a solutions offer? This is your application trio (resume, cover letter, LinkedIn presence). Stop thinking compartmentally about a resume, letter, LinkedIn profile. Think holistically about your application trio as a clear, targeted message: a unique value proposition. What solutions do I offer? How do I solve problems? What have I accomplished? What am I capable of? What makes me unique? All within the context of specific industry trends, target companies, target roles. All three elements of your application will complement each other to accomplish one strategic message: “I’m the candidate you need for this role; these are the solutions I offer to help take company X to the next level, make money, save money, save time, improve efficiency, or make a bigger impact.”


Now it’s time to narrow your focus to a particular type of role you’ll be applying to (based on strengths, skills, passion, etc.) and then curate your brand toward that target role. A personal brand must be relevant to the type of job you’re after.

You’ve got about seven seconds to win over a decision-maker. A personal brand will streamline and synthesize things for them on your application documents, and make it easier for them to say “yes” to a call-back or interview.

Avoid a “Where’s Waldo” application, sending recruiters and hiring teams on a hunt to piece together what you’re about. Do the legwork for them. Make it easy.

You’ll need a key message, or unique value proposition — an intriguing and irresistible solutions offer.

Many re-entry parents and career transitioners aren’t quite sure what role would be the best fit. I get that. Here’s what to do:

With the skills you identified in your “umbrella brand,” do a bit of sleuthing. There are a ton of free tools on the internet that will match your skills to particular roles or will suggest career paths according to personality traits and strengths. This will give you a place to start.

  1. Free career assessment tools          
  2. Career quizzes to help you find your dream job        
  3. Free career aptitude and assessment tests        
  4. Even more career aptitude tests

Also, it’ll be super helpful to do a few informational interviews, especially if you’re looking at roles in an industry you’re unfamiliar with, or if you’ve been out for a long time and would appreciate a refresher in terms of “a day in the life.”

Reaching out to someone cold for an informational interview can feel daunting. I’ve put together a guide and email template you can use here.

If you’re considering positions that are super outside of your umbrella skillset, you’ll need to upskill and then craft a brand that connects the dots to show how you’re the perfect fit in the new role:

What diverse perspectives or experiences do you bring?

What have you achieved that translates to the new role?

What transferable skills are relevant?

What new/innovative/unexpected insight can you offer that brings value?

What courses have you taken or what projects are you working on to sharpen skills required for this role?

When considering roles, companies, industries, along with your skill set, also consider:

–   the season of life you and your children/family are in

–   the bandwidth you’ve got within it

–   the strength of your support system

–   what your long-term goals are

–   your list of non-negotiables (location, remote, benefits, hours, values alignment, etc.)

This will help to narrow down your potential role matches.


Once you *know* the job/role/industry you’re after, then you curate your brand. This means review the job postings, and take note of the key words, skills and experiences they’re looking for. You likely won’t tick all the boxes, but if you’ve got 60% or more of what’s listed, that’s a good sign!

Pluck the things from your umbrella brand that align with your target role(s) to start crafting a personal brand message.

Does what you wrote down align with the way you want to present yourself professionally, when you think about the role(s) you plan to apply for?

If not, how would you change it?

What action can you take to move towards the personal brand you want to embrace, identify with, and put into the [professional work] world?

The result should be authentic and something you are fired up about, something that uniquely encapsulates “you” — a you that people see, and a you that you want people to see.

Here’s an example. Maybe one of your children had a health issue that you managed for several years. If this experience and skill is relevant to the role you want, weave it in.

Here’s a mom who writes poetry (for fun, catharsis, creative outlet) and wants to land a data analytics role within healthcare. She’s currently upskilling in data analysis, taking free courses online. Her personal brand statement (that she can insert as her LinkedIn headline) might sound something like this:

Healthcare data analyst with 7 years in disease management | Telling stories with numbers helps avoid blunders | Type 1 Diabetes expert | Intrinsically motivated, data-obsessed | Poet | In a relationship with SQL & Python

It’s quirky, out there, clearly communicates what she’s about, solutions she offers, and how she’s unique. It’s fun and witty, and contains relevant keywords. She may want to switch up the order. She may want to make it less quirky. She may want it to speak directly to one target company based on their goals, mission, struggles found through company research and items outlined in the job description … Lots to play around with!

Also: She may not feel comfortable calling herself a “data analyst” quite yet. However, if she’s applying for a data analytics role and she’s upskilling to sharpen that skillset, then upon landing the role she’ll be a data analyst.

Take home message: don’t hesitate to use the job title of the role that you’re  applying for.

Lastly, putting a face to a name makes you stand out among other applicants. You may not want to upload a photo to your LinkedIn profile (many valid reasons for this), but if you choose the photo route, picking one that increases your likability might very well be the icing on your personal brand cake. 

Hot tip! A personal brand with a photograph on LinkedIn will rank you higher in recruiter searches and get you more overall views. And the cherry on top of your personal brand? A smile. Check out the test here, where my smiling photo received a likability rating 2x better than a non-smiling one.


Navigating a job search as a mom — whether re-entering the workforce or making a career change — is hard work, but worth the effort. Crafting a personal brand will immediately elevate your candidacy on LinkedIn, on your resume and cover letter, and in your networking. Plus, the image-boost comes full circle, infusing you with confidence and ease in reaching out.

·  LinkedIn is the largest professional networking site on the planet. A clear, strategic, targeted message makes you easy to spot.

·  A resume (and cover letter) laser-focused and infused with your brand will stand out.

·  Networking fans the flames of your application; without it, even a good resume can fall through the cracks and decision-makers quickly lose interest. Your personal brand is the springboard to these conversations.

If your job-search hasn’t gotten you very far, or you’re just starting out, give it a try — you’ve got nothing to lose.

Now, go and build a personal brand and kiss that self-doubt good-bye.


Rebecca Joy Tromsness is a workplace re-entry educator and job search coach based in Toronto. Follow her on LinkedIn here and reach out to her anytime at



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Personal Branding 101 for Moms

Rebecca Joy Tromsness
March 21, 2023
Shawna Samuel
January 30, 2023

Your manager hands you a stretch assignment or even better, gives you a promotion. But all you feel is a nagging sense of doubt about your own ability — like a Greek chorus warning: “You’re not ready for this!”

Getting a vote of confidence from our leaders should leave us feeling more confident and powerful than ever, shouldn’t it? For many women, it actually does just the opposite, giving us intense pangs of self-doubt. We criticize our own performance, convinced we’re not measuring up, even when we’re getting good feedback.

Why is this happening? 

Meet Your Inner Critic

Some self-doubt is natural when we take on new responsibilities. After all, we may not have 100% of the skills and experience we need going in. A little fear can even be useful when it motivates us to assess our gaps and make a plan to fill them.

But sometimes the voice of self-doubt can feel more like an unruly backseat driver. Researchers tend to call that negative, critical voice our “inner critic.” Everyone has one.

But, bottom line: if self-doubt leaves you anxious at the end of the day, or second-guessing what you (or colleagues) say in meetings, then you’ll want to learn to turn the volume down on that inner noise.

Sometimes the inner critic is strong enough that it begins to undermine our confidence. Known as Imposter Syndrome, it’s characterized by strong feelings that we’re a fraud, and that others will eventually find out the “truth” about our abilities. And it can start to impact our performance at work. 

This was the case for my client Erin*, who secured a coveted promotion to the executive VP ranks of her firm. On the surface, it was a crowning achievement of her decade of success in a heavily male-dominated field. But her smile felt forced. She felt like all eyes were on her, waiting to see if she measured up to her new title.

Instead of relaxing and enjoying her upgraded role and salary bump, Erin was feeling more pressure than ever. In meetings, she scoured the faces of her new peers for signs they might be doubting her performance. She resisted sharing her own ideas, worried that she might say the thing that would expose her as woefully unprepared for her new duties. Ironically, she was probably the most prepared person in the room; the constant self-doubt led her to double-down on the amount of time she spent shoring up her knowledge and double-checking presentations. But the extra time at work also meant less time with her five-year-old daughter, and an embarrassingly short fuse when she was at home.

She started to wonder if the promotion had even been worth it. In her old role, she knew her stuff, and hadn’t needed to work this hard. She even considered trying to get her old job back.

We worked together to quiet her inner critic, so that she could begin to see herself as the trailblazing leader that others saw.

The Role of Bias

Imposter syndrome is regularly “diagnosed” in women in leadership roles. Even high achieving women who have collected prestigious degrees and titles aren’t immune from feeling it. 

Early psychological research led many leadership scholars to conclude that imposter syndrome was some sort of pathology. If they could just “fix” their imposter syndrome, the thinking went, these people could stop doubting themselves and start feeling happy, confident, and fulfilled.

But new research suggests that imposter syndrome is not some sort of failing. If anything, it’s a sign of how finely tuned our internal radar is. If you’ve been socialized as a woman, you’ve likely absorbed big and small cultural messages about who belongs in leadership and who doesn’t. This can be as subtle as the holiday newsletter picturing the all-white, all-male executive team. Or it can be a pattern of how women are treated in meetings.

In the Harvard Business Review, Ruchika Tulsyan and Jodi-Ann Burey assert, “Many of us across the world are implicitly, if not explicitly, told we don’t belong in white- and male-dominated workplaces.” 

In cultures that routinely insinuate that female leaders are less capable, and that working mothers are more expendable, it’s not surprising that we end up questioning whether we really measure up.

So, it’s helpful to understand that feeling like an imposter often has roots in real biases. And yet, that doesn’t mean we’re stuck feeling this way.

Taming the Inner Critic

The most common advice for dealing with your inner critic is “fake it til you make it.” Or maybe you’ve been encouraged to recite affirmations of how amazing and smart you are. The trouble with this advice is that it doesn’t do much to address the real anxieties and pressures that come up when we’re working outside our comfort zone.

So, what can you do to regain your mojo?

1) Learn to identify the voice of your inner critic

Listen in and learn to identify the voice of your inner critic. You’ll probably realize that the voice of the imposter typically offers a predictable monologue of a few doubt-inducing phrases. Maybe it says, “you have no idea what you’re doing,” or “they probably think you’re clueless.” 

You might even give that voice a name. One colleague of mine calls hers Frank. She’ll then tell herself, “Oh, there goes Frank again, telling me my work isn’t good enough.” Calling out your imposter voice can remind you that it isn’t the voice of truth. It’s just good old Frank, like the reliably cranky uncle at your holiday dinners.

2) Question internalized messages about your capabilities

Once you understand how your inner critic speaks to you, consider where it got its script. When you notice the critic in your ear, ask yourself, “What is it that I’ve heard or experienced that’s making me want to believe that voice?” 

Question whether you truly believe those outside messages. Chances are, you don’t. 

3) Seek out diverse role models and mentors

Part of what can make our inner critic so pernicious is feeling like we don’t have a place to share our doubts or any help navigating them. Imposter feelings aren’t something we can easily discuss with our colleagues or friends… and certainly not our bosses. 

Tulsyan and Burey posit that those socialized as men often benefit from a built-in network of colleagues who look like them. Those networks can offer encouragement and advice at critical moments. Having that support and camaraderie may help men to view doubt as a normal phase of growth, and allow them to move through it more easily.

Women may have to work harder to build those support systems, but they’re no less important. If your workplace isn’t teeming with a diverse set of successful role models — and let’s be honest, few places are — then it’s time to expand your circle. Women’s leadership groups, a trusted mentor, an experienced coach, or even a supportive alumni organization can provide steadfast support to help you move through challenging circumstances. 

4) Recall your options and resources

Even in a recession, your current gig is probably not the only game in town. If your imposter is right — unlikely, but let’s go there — and you’re not cut out for your work, remind yourself of the skills and abilities you have to fall back on, the things that got you this far in your life and career. When clients do this exercise, they often discover that they have options —  usually a lot of options. Seeing how resilient, resourceful, and capable you are can take the pressure off and get you back into the zone of enjoying your current opportunity to learn and grow.

If you start hearing your own inner critic, these steps can help you successfully manage it. In fact, learning to silence that negative voice can shore up your confidence to take on even bigger challenges down the road.


Shawna Samuel, MBA is the founder of The Mental Offload, an executive coaching firm focused on the unique needs of women balancing leadership and family responsibilities. She is also the host of The Mental Offload podcast.


*Name has been changed


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Imposter Syndrome: Four steps to taming your inner critic

Shawna Samuel
January 30, 2023
Kerry Barlas
January 3, 2023

I was a stay-at-home mom. When my sons were young, I stepped away from my 10-year advertising sales career to become my family’s primary caregiver and household manager. With no roadmap for my career pause, I took a leap of faith. The days were long and often tedious. And at times, I felt conflicted about how I was spending my time and energy. But to this day, I have zero regrets — my memories of those years are filled with some of my sweetest moments. 

After an 8-year break from the traditional workforce, my younger son started Kindergarten. And the next day, I dove head-first into rebooting my career. While I was away, the media and advertising landscape as I’d known it had changed, so I embarked on a crash course to get savvy. But I was confident that the skills and strengths that drove my success in v1 of my career would serve me in v2. Plus, I’d built new skills and grown immensely during my most significant and challenging role ever — motherhood. 

Within a few months and after many conversations with people in my extended network, I landed a sales role with a small advertising technology company. And a few months after that, I left for a dream job at Facebook, where I spent eight transformative years. How did I do it? 1) I leveraged my network near and far, connecting with people with whom I hadn’t spoken in years, 2) I was fortunate to encounter leaders who, despite my career pause, were willing to take a chance on me, and 3) I truly believed that I was more capable and empowered than ever and that anything was possible.

By sharing my story, I hope to help normalize career breaks and embolden women to embrace hitting the pause button. So whether you’re taking a break, considering one, or planning your reentry to the workplace, here are some of the lessons I learned along the way.

Cherish the time and have trust in yourself

If you’re taking a pause, trust your decision and honor the time wholeheartedly. This is a precious time for you and your family, so make the most of it. Your capacity, strength, smarts, and skills will not diminish! Trust that you’ll be able to access everything you need and more when the time comes. When I was uncomfortable and conflicted, I worked hard to stay engaged in the experience of being a full-time stay-at-home mom. And I had faith that I would figure out my next move when the time was right.

Keep your interests and strengths alive

If you want to do unpaid or volunteer work during your break, be strategic about your choices. I made a special effort to seek out unpaid projects that leveraged my experience, strengths, and passion points. For example, I wrote restaurant reviews for a friend’s start-up food website and helped with a monetization strategy. I also volunteered my time working for the marketing director of a local youth crisis center, and was part of the leadership team responsible for rebuilding our community playground. 

Whatever your choices, take pride in that work, and make it part of your career highlights. Showcase your volunteer achievements using LinkedIn’s recently launched Career Breaks tool, designed specifically to “make it easier for candidates and recruiters to have open conversations around the skills and experiences professionals amass away from the traditional workplace.”  

Build a support network

When you embark upon your return to work, invest in a coach to help you clarify your strengths and skills, define what you want, and chart your path. Even when it feels uncomfortable, push yourself to schedule coffees, lunches, calls, and walks with anyone you can learn from and be inspired by. The work I did with my coach in the months leading up to my reboot was essential to building my confidence and believing in what I could do next.  

Commit to your story

As you’re considering returning to work, become crystal clear on your path to date, your distinct qualities, experiences, and skills, and what you want to do in the next chapter. Write it down, practice saying it aloud, and get feedback from trusted advisors. This is your story, and your ability to articulate it compellingly is vital as you launch your career reboot. I knew that I wanted to return to a role similar to the one I had left eight years prior and that I was capable of stepping back into it. I wasn’t willing to settle for a position that didn’t meet, if not challenge, my capacity and skills. This clarity allowed me to achieve my goals.

Be unapologetic

When interviewing for new roles, own your story, and make no apologies for the time you took off. Contrary to what many may fear, pausing our careers to spend more time with our families makes us better employees and leaders. We’ve gained invaluable perspective, become wiser and more adaptable, and tackled a new set of challenges. Here’s the authentic story I told and continue to tell: I’m grateful for having had the privilege to take a career break and spend more time in my kids’ lives. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And now, I could not be more excited for the next chapter and to get back to work. Next question!

The prospect of taking a break or planning your return to work can feel both daunting and exciting. I encourage you to create your own playbook and stay open to the possibilities. And don’t apologize — it’s okay to take your foot off the gas. Finally, have trust that you’ll find your way back when you’re ready. I’m rooting for you.

Kerry Barlas is the Founder/CEO of KBar + Co, a sales coaching and advising firm. You can reach her at


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No Apologies: Navigating your career break and return to work

Kerry Barlas
January 3, 2023
Sarah Sperry
November 15, 2022

Have you found yourself in the “default parenting” role without even realizing how you got there? And by default parenting, I mean that you’re the one who does the lion’s share of the day-to-day work to run your household — managing the kids’ schedules and all the accompanying text chains, making sure your pantry is stocked with food and thinking through meals for the week, getting all the laundry done, folded, and put away, knowing where your child’s favorite soccer jersey is or that special blanket that he/she loves so much, packing lunches… as well as being the primary homework helper, emotional support system and keeper of all things in your house. 

Sound familiar? This is what researchers of gender equity in the home call the “emotional load,” “mental load” or “second shift,” and in many countries, the majority of women carry this burden on top of their responsibilities at work. 

And it’s burning out working mothers at unprecedented rates. 

According to Deloitte’s Women at Work 2022: A Global Outlook Report, 53% of women surveyed say their stress levels are higher than they were a year ago and almost half report feeling burned out. The disruption caused by the pandemic as well as shifts in company expectations led to the Great Resignation where more than a million women left the workforce (myself included) because their caretaking responsibilities became too much. And now we are seeing the “great breakup,” with female leaders demanding more from their employers and willing to leave their current jobs to get it.

It is estimated that women spend on average three to six hours per day on cooking, cleaning, and other domestic tasks, compared to men’s average 30 minutes to two hours. And according to a January 2020 report from Oxfam, the unpaid labor of women and girls around the world contributes an estimated $10.8 trillion to the global economy each year. Women’s unpaid labor at home increased by 153% during the pandemic, and it’s estimated they experienced approximately $800 billion in lost income.

These are mind boggling statistics and a huge challenge for the overall care economy, the fastest growing sector of work in the world. So how can we begin to solve these mounting gender equity issues and tip the scale to make invisible labor at home more equal?

Eve Rodsky’s New York Times best selling book Fair Play provides a framework for how to start. A Harvard trained mediation lawyer, the premise of her book is that our home is our most important organization and without systems and processes in place to make it run efficiently, other areas of our life will begin to crack. While I highly recommend reading the book, here are some simple strategies you can implement in your home right away:

1. Take a step back and ask yourself if there are better, more efficient ways to organize your home life

When you are operating on autopilot, hammering out the 22 things on your personal to-do list on top of a full day of meetings, the daily grind can be exhausting. And in many cases you may find yourself deciding that it’s easier to just do it yourself instead of delegating or asking for help. 

This mentality leads to overwhelm and could eventually burn you out. 

First: Take stock of everything on your plate and make a list of your invisible work — whatever you do to run your household. And do include everything — even small tasks like taking a minute to reply to a school email.

Then assess your strengths and weaknesses as they relate to each task, and consider your partner’s as well. Add these as notes next to each item on the list. 

Next: Ask yourself which tasks you wish you had help with. Which tasks bring you resentment? Which ones do you absolutely hate doing? Ask your partner the same questions. 

Finally: Ask yourself which tasks you’re willing to let go of completely. Sometimes for high achieving, people pleasing, Type A personalities, giving up control and allowing someone else to take over can be the hardest part. 

Let’s say that through this exercise you discover that both you and your partner absolutely hate doing laundry. Then perhaps you could consider outsourcing it. Or maybe your partner would love to start taking your toddler to his/her wellness checks but you’ve just never thought of asking — it’s just a task you’ve taken on by default. 

Depending on the ages and responsibility levels of your children, you may be able to start sharing more of the mental load with them as well. For example, think of that long school supply list you have to purchase every August. Perhaps you can let them select their own items on Amazon and add them to the shopping cart. Or maybe they can simply add those snacks they want you to buy to the master shopping list or Instacart basket.

Remember you are a team, and it takes a village to run a family!

2. No is beautiful

For people-pleasing personalities, saying no can be difficult. But learning to decline and set better boundaries are important skills to learn, especially when overwhelm and burnout start to set in. 

Pause before you say yes to anything extra. Assess if you have room on your plate to host the Thanksgiving dinner, volunteer at your child’s school, or cook a meal for a friend. While we all want to be kind and do charitable work, “I’ll get back to you,” is a perfectly acceptable answer which can give you more time and space to decide whether you have the capacity to take it on.

At work, take control of your calendar to block out some time for yourself, whether it’s a workout or just an hour to focus on a task without distractions. Assess if every meeting request you receive is a valuable use of your time. Can the issue be solved another way? And make sure to work within established systems and processes. Is what you are being asked to do part of your core job responsibilities? Are there other ways you can delegate or are your perfectionist tendencies getting in the way of your successfully doing that?

Remember that saying no can feel empowering and provide autonomy if your mental load is starting to overwhelm you.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate

While talking with your partner about complex gender equity issues may feel heavy and not particularly fun, it’s really important to try to communicate how the mental load makes you feel. 

Chronic stress and burnout can lead to all sorts of emotional and physical symptoms, and there are lots of willing partners who want to help but may not even realize everything you’ve taken on.

From conception to birth and in the early days of caring for an infant, a woman’s body dictates the process, with our partners learning to assist. As an infant grows and reaches the toddler phase, it can be very easy to continue those early patterns where the birthing parent is in charge and the non-birthing partner waits for direction. Shifting that conditioning as your children get older takes open communication, patience, and a lot of practice!

Try discussing these topics when you’re out to dinner, over a glass of wine, or after the kids go to sleep when emotions are low and cognition is high. Or if you have a regular weekly check-in to discuss logistics for the week, use this time to discuss what’s working for each of you, what isn’t, and perhaps suggest swapping a few chores. 

Sharing the mental load with others will bring you more energy, joy and patience — allowing you to thrive instead of survive.

Sarah Sperry is a certified Executive Health and Wellbeing Coach and a Fair Play Facilitator. She has over 20 years of experience working in the financial services industry where she was actively involved in DEI, leadership, advocating for better parental leave policies, and overall culture change. She can be reached at or on social media @sperrywellness.


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Three Simple Tips to Rebalance the Mental Load in Your Home

Sarah Sperry
November 15, 2022
Team Liftery
October 11, 2022

There are plenty of good reasons to look for a new job right now. Still-low unemployment rates mean that candidates have leverage in negotiations and a good shot at landing a plum role with a nice compensation package. The abundance of open positions offering location or schedule flexibility increases the likelihood of finding a role that could be truly life changing. And of course, financial need or fear of layoffs could certainly be a motivating factor.

Whatever the reason for your job search, you’ll want to make sure that the employers you’re courting support your particular needs for work-life integration. After all, if your new company sets you up for success as both an employee and a mom, you’re more likely to excel at work and at home, enjoy working for your employer, and feel happier overall. And really, isn’t that the goal? In this spirit, here are our top benefit picks with moms in mind.

Parental leave. But not just any parental leave. Generous and equitable fully paid parental leave, with a super-low 0-6 month tenure requirement. What’s more, the employer should offer the same leave to both men and women… and strongly encourage everyone to take it! Why? Because normalizing parental leave for both moms and dads means that you won’t take a career hit because of your time off. And getting spouses involved in caretaking from the get-go sets the standard for equal sharing of unpaid caregiving work at home. Which, of course, is good for YOU.

Post-leave back-to-work programs. Going back to work after maternity leave can be very difficult — it’s common to feel guilty leaving your baby, unsure of how you’ll handle both employee and parent responsibilities, and nervous about any changes at work that happened while you were gone. Back-to-work programs allow for a more gradual transition. New moms work part-time at full pay for the first month post-leave and often receive coaching or extra support.

Non-baby caretaker leave. It’s true that new babies need care, and that parents need time to bond with their newest additions. But children don’t stop requiring care just because maternity leave has ended. Caretaker leave allows time off to look into medical, developmental, or educational issues that arise as your kids are growing up, and also to provide care for your own aging parents as needed. 

Subsidized on-site childcare. If you’re considering an on-site or hybrid role in a large company and have young children, this one’s an obvious perk to look for. 69% of women with children under 5 would be more likely to choose an employer that offered on-site daycare or benefits to help pay for childcare — and with reason. It’s easier to relax and do your best work when you know your children are nearby and can be reached at a moment’s notice. Without an extra commute to drop off and pick up kids, you gain extra time in your day. And then there’s cost savings. Need we say more?  

Backup childcare. Nanny sick? No school today? This temporary backup care is designed to step in when your regular childcare arrangements are disrupted, either expectedly (such as for scheduled closings, holidays and vacations) or unexpectedly (due to illness, inclement weather, and the like). Corporate-subsidized backup childcare alleviates stress and allows you to keep working. 

Dependent care flex spending accounts. Childcare is just plain expensive. Dependent care flex spending accounts allow parents to set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for childcare, which can result in non-trivial savings.

Fertility support and services. Some of us need a little extra help becoming moms. When this is the case, benefits that help pay for expensive services such as in-vitro fertilization and egg/embryo freezing can be the deciding factor in your choice of workplace.

Organization-wide salary reviews. At the end of the day, most of us are working in order to earn money, and salary matters. The motherhood penalty is real, with moms earning an average of 15% less for each child under 5. So fair pay is essential. Ask about company-wide salary reviews. If the employer ensures equity by level and position across the organization, that means you’re less likely to fall into the pay gap. 

Equity-focused performance reviews.  Many companies have annual performance reviews to evaluate employees’ accomplishments and growth areas. The best companies also ensure that all employees (regardless of gender or maternal status) are given equal opportunities for learning, growth, visibility and advancement. Think of things like highly visible projects, task force participation, and leadership opportunities. This is the stuff that promotions are made of, so ask if it’s allocated fairly and equitably.

Lactation rooms. Just ask anyone who’s had to pump in a corporate multi-stall restroom. If you work on-site, having a clean, comfortable, private place to pump milk multiple times a day does make a difference.

MilkStork. This service for nursing moms who take business trips ships freshly pumped milk home for consumption or safe keeping. 

Mental health services. Life plus work can be stressful at times. Adding parenting to that formula can considerably up the ante. Mental health benefits can provide therapy or coaching sessions to help ride the inevitable waves.

Women or parent-focused employee resource groups (ERGs). Finding community and support among colleagues who also happen to be parents can make for understanding ears, fabulous connections, and positive feelings about your workplace.

Got other benefits we should add to the list? Let us know!


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Team Liftery
October 11, 2022