My daughter called an official end to Mom’s day off at breakfast. “More pancakes please. Chop chop. Mother’s Day is over.” So back to work it is. As I head in to the office, the disjoint between what is celebrated on Sunday and the reality of Monday morning is gnawing at me. And it’s not just about getting breakfast on the table. It is about the way we value or de-value the mom approach to life.
The prevailing approach in workplaces, particularly in a post-recession economy, seems to be command and control. But that is not how my mom did it. She was in control, but she did not lord it over you. She made tasks fun. When there was firewood to be brought in, my mom would declare in a happy, energetic voice: “Let’s make a brigade!” Each of the five of us would take a position on the stairs and pass logs from one to the other until a full cord of wood had been successfully relocated. Doing useful work became fun. We didn’t learn to associate meaningful activity with drudgery or fun with being passively entertained. Life was fun. What distinguished fun from not-fun was not the action itself but how you chose to handle the task. At the heart of the mom approach to life is the belief that the right things can get done without making people suffer. How true is that at work today?
Mother’s Day was initiated in the United States after the Civil War. A chief advocate for the setting aside of this day was Julia Ward Howe, a social reformer and pacifist. Her “Mother’s Day Proclamation” was a call to action for women to join together in shaping society in a more constructive and peaceful way. Her 1870 proclamation began as follows:
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts…
Howe goes on to encourage women to “leave all that may be left of home” to gather together, mourn the dead, and form a global congress of women to promote “the amicable settlement of international questions.” She wanted us to go out and change the world. That’s a far cry from breakfast in bed or a day at the spa. Howe believed that women had a responsibility to shape their societies at the political level. In today’s age, we have achieved much. We have seats in the boardroom. We hold high political office. We own businesses and run universities. But I wonder how much we are using our authority to truly shape and change the organization where we lead. Are we still playing by boy rules? Or are we insisting on getting the right things done without making people suffer?
Perhaps it’s time for a new generation of Type A nurturers to use our positions of influence to bring our momness to work.
© May 2010 by Pam Daniels. All rights reserved.