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Recommendations of Working Mothers for Employers: What Would Help to Harmonize Work With Raising a Child

Working mothers have developed recommendations for employers on what an employer should do to minimize tension by harmonizing the maternity and occupational obligations.

A survey of women on social media showed that a family-friendly work culture and greater public awareness of raising children are paramount to working mothers.

‘The survey eloquently showed that if you want to find a solution to the problem look for women, talk to them and listen. No certified expert will be able to provide as much valuable insight as are generated by a collective efforts of working mothers who face challenges head on’ says Margarita Jankauskaitė PhD, expert of the Center for the Development of Equal Opportunities and the project ‘More Balance’.

Dominant Work Culture: Children Must Not Hinder Employers?

Most working mothers (73%) said there would be less tension in combining motherhood and professional responsibilities if they could work on an individual or flexible working schedule. 69% noted that ‘a family-friendly work culture in the organisation is such an attitude that employees have families and this is normal’ would help reconciling family and professional responsibilities without guilt.

‘The results of the survey show that families raise children somewhat secretly so there would be no chance for them to disturb employers, colleagues, and even friends. It takes place at the expense of your happiness, emotional and physical health, relationship with your partner, and quality time with your child. Work becomes bigger than life. The daily lives of many families look like this: we juggle work and children and are tired and unhappy most of the time. There is no easy solution to this situation, but in addition to structural changes with a better and more flexible childcare network and a more family-friendly work culture, it is important to emphasise the general empathy of society for those who are raising children’, says Akvilė Giniotaitė, the founder of the popular social network accounts ‘Ne kopūstų vaikai’ and the expert on gender education.

Akvilė Giniotaitė / photo from personal archyve

People Desire a Work Culture in Which It Is Legal to Talk About Difficulties

Two-thirds (66%) of women said that the opportunity to work from home/out of the office would make it easier for them to harmonise the situation. Over 62% of working mothers said the tension would be reduced by a work culture in which it is legal to acknowledge and tell that there are difficulties in reconciling work and motherhood, e.g. ‘I’m having a hard time, I feel stressed because of deadlines’ etc.

‘Many of the tensions that still arise for working mothers would not exist if the dominant work culture in companies became based on dialogue. If it is realised that the number of people with caring responsibilities is increasing, and this is one of the clearest long-term trends in the labor markets of developed economies. This is due to the establishment of the two-family breadwinner model and the growing number of single mothers and fathers in the labor market. Thus, the share of employees who have important family responsibilities in addition to their professional ones is increasing. Therefore, it is important to stop talking about the ‘labour force’ and to understand that the economic well-being of the country is created by people who also have to perform vital work of social reproduction, in other words – to take care of the family’, emphasises M. Jankauskaitė.

Margarita Jankauskaitė / Vladimiro Ivanovo nuotr.

Margarita Jankauskaitė / Vladimiras Ivanova’s photo

Mother Free Days – Not a Manager’s Grace, but a Normal Policy of the Company?

During the survey conducted in Lithuania, 58% of women recommend they value their work in terms of performance rather than hours spent at work, which would reduce the stress of combining work with raising children.

54% of working mothers argued that a clearer portfolio of benefits, such as mother-free days, health days, and holidays, would reduce internal conflicts by combining work and motherhood, and most importantly, for working mothers to take advantage of these benefits without remorse, these benefits should be presented not as a grace of the manager, but as a normal company policy enshrined in company documents.

Approximately half of the women (48% of each group) said that a space for children in the workplace would help them to better reconcile work and family responsibilities, as well as conscious, concrete actions by management to create a family-friendly work culture.

There Is a Gap Between Work and Family

‘Relieving working mothers from crushing tension and feeling of guilt requires a radical shift in collective imagination and rhetoric, where care is given as much or even more importance than economic growth rates. In order to live, we have to experience the things we want to live for’, said M. Jankauskaitė, emphasising the importance of work-life balance.

In the survey, women also said that the following changes from employers could help to minimise or eliminate tension between motherhood and occupational obligations: creation of a work culture where the child’s needs are a priority (36%), the opportunity to bring the child to work (33%), and career opportunities offered at the workplace taking into account the changed circumstances of the family (31%).

‘Work, the general public, and the extremely intensive life of families are separated by a wide gap. We have a culture in which we have separated these two elements, even though in life they are inextricably intertwined. In order to change the situation and raise awareness, we need to discuss much more not only about reconciling family and work, but also to realise that a society that is more family-friendly will relieve parents/guardians, strengthen communities and will guarantee more favourable conditions for children to grow up. This is how not only families with children win, but also the rest of society’, emphasises A. Giniotaitė, the founder of the social networking group ‘Ne kopūstų vaikai’.

Situations That Cause Internal Conflicts

In addition to recommendations for employers, this survey sought to find out what situations most often cause internal conflict for working mothers.

As much as 56% stated that ‘whatever I do, whether I prioritise the child’s needs or choose a job, I still feel guilty’. 54% of working mothers said that internal conflict is caused by not having time only for themselves and their hobbies/rest.

4 out of 10 respondents said they felt guilty about situations where ‘a child doesn’t want to go to kindergarten and I have to go to work’. One third (33%) of working mothers admitted: ‘I feel dissatisfied with colleagues when I deal with children during work (or have to take a sick leave certificate because of a child’s illness and colleagues are doing my job)’.

The Child Is Not Just a Family Affair

3 out of 10 women (29%) admitted that ‘it is difficult to reconcile a child’s necessary visits to institutions (such as a polyclinic, children’s development center, etc.) with my work schedule’. 27% stated that internal conflicts are caused by ‘Insufficient involvement of the partner in childcare’. A quarter (25%) of women are stressed by the fact that, ‘My manager is disappointed with me when I have to take a sick leave due to a child’s illness’.

‘Currently, the idea is being circulated that in order to make it easy to reconcile work and family, it is only necessary for a husband to be equally involved in household and childcare. Although this is an important element, it is not enough, because it supports the attitude that the child is only a matter of the family itself’, says A. Giniotaitė.

Working mothers also listed more recurring situations that often lead to internal conflict. For example: 18% of women admitted feeling guilty that they do not spend their mother’s free day with a child, 15% experience guilt due to the remarks and reproaches of childcare professionals, such as ‘you could pick up your child earlier from the kindergarten/afternoon school group’.

For one-sixth of working mothers, the internal conflict is caused by the fact that ‘despite all the effort, I allow myself to do pleasant things (such as massage, pedicure, hobbies, etc.)’. For a smaller number, 13% of respondents said that the internal conflict is caused by ‘greater than mine involvement of my partner in childcare’.

‘The situations mentioned by women show that well-being is not only determined by reducing the stress caused by the lack of balance between work and family. The opportunity to have a meaningful personal life, to spend time on hobbies and activities that encourage growth, improvement, nurture relationships, and experience emotional satisfaction is important as well. Therefore, the way the work environment adapts in response to changes in society has a significant impact on creating an attractive organisational microclimate, and the latter – in pursuit of the company’s goals’, describes M. Jankauskaitė PhD, an expert at the Equal Opportunities Development Center.

Insights for Women on How To Combine Work and Raising Children

In a survey conducted on social networks, mothers also listed many examples that would improve the current situation and reduce tensions between work and motherhood:

Normal workload, instead of culture as efficiently, quickly, more, without mistakes as possible, the only thing that matters is the result, and the process is not. It is a normal attitude towards a man who is taking a father’s free day, not an offer to him to look for another job, because of it’.

‘Father’s free days are paid for by the state, and not by the employer’.

‘I was self-employed, but that means if I worked less or couldn’t work because the child was sick, my income decreased right away. There should be more support from Sodra, say, not 60% from the sick leave, but 100% from the first day instead of the fourth. That’s why my head is in a vice’.

‘To consider an employee as a person and to pay attention to the social policy and responsibility of the organisation. Society is growing by creating shared values. It also starts with the attitude of employers’.

‘Not to be disturbed after working hours because of all sorts of trivial things that can be fixed the next day’.

‘I think the penalty of motherhood is real due to lack of promotions. A decision that the promotion while raising young children would be too much, is made for you, no one thinks through whether you want and whether you could, just decides that you don’t and you couldn’t’.

‘The manager wants such a result that neither working nor non-working hours are enough and focusing on the result is not possible at all with a family and in order to meet the needs of children. Because there are no limits to the improvement of the result’.

‘Keeping in touch with those on maternity and paternity leave would help’.

‘More understanding from colleagues’.

‘My workplace judges based on the result, not the hours worked, but I don’t see how it could help: the child is ill, and if I won’t work, there won’t be a result anyway. Another aspect, if you are pursuing at least the slightest career, you are still competing with colleagues without children, and in order to devote as much of your resources to work as they devote, you must inevitably compromise on motherhood’.

‘Working hours. For example, for an architect’s job in Norway, normal (regulated) working hours are from 8.00 am to 3.30 pm. Then everyone focuses only on work, and the rest of the time is for family and personal needs. It would be perfect. You would not have to handle your own or children’s affairs secretly at work.’

‘Absence of pressure not to take the sick leave and look for a babysitter when the child is ill’.

‘Legal official breaks for breastfeeding at work. <…> A place where milk can be drained if necessary’.

‘One hour shorter working day on the part of the state, so that the transportation of children can be managed more calmly. I would exchange my mother’s free day, if possible, to shorten the working day by an hour, thus avoiding traffic jams, getting to clubs, specialists, etc. on time’.

Almost 8% of women said they were not under pressure to reconcile work and family life because their employers were flexible and practised a family-friendly culture in the workplace. Women also drew attention to other family responsibilities, including not just raising children, which are important to combine with work, but also nursing and caring for loved ones.

In a survey of social network groups for  mothers, only working mothers were selected as respondents in response to recent surveys commissioned by the Office of the Equal Opportunities, Ombudsman, which showed that 65%  of working mothers felt a sense of guilt about combining work and motherhood.

The survey was conducted in social network groups for mothers and fathers. From the 9th of November to the 15th of December, almost 1.2 thousand working mothers participated in the survey. They were asked two questions: ‘What are the most common situations that cause you internal conflict?’ and, ‘What can employers do to keep the tension between motherhood and work responsibilities to a minimum (or none at all)?’


This article is part of the project “Everybody’s Talking: Work-Life Balance Goes Mainstream”, partially funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020). The content of it is the sole responsibility of the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.