Name: Madeleine Abrahams
Occupation: Marketing and Customer Care Executive at Smartcom
Question 1: What do you think is the biggest challenge faced by mothers in the workplace?
To cope! It is hard to juggle a career, being a mom and a good wife all at the same time. Most of the time moms neglect themselves the most, which is an important element to note if you want to be successful in everything you take on.
Question 2: What is the most important piece of advice you have for mothers who are pursuing a career?
Don’t lose your dream of a successful career if you fall pregnant. A lot of moms I work with just settle for ‘whatever’ when they return from maternity leave. There are many companies out there that understand parenting, and jobs that allow moms some flexibility.
And if that doesn’t work out, what stops you from becoming an entrepreneur? Look for alternatives, if necessary, but don’t give up on your dream.
Question 3: As a mother, how do you explain to smaller children why you have to spend time away at work?
From a young age I have explained to my children the principle of work. If you are a hard worker, you get rewarded. In my case, the reward pays for their education, our house, cars, etc. So now that my oldest is 8 years old, she understands that if she does her chores, she will be rewarded with spending money. I see it as a life skill, not just an explanation as to why I have to leave for work.
Question 4: What can professional mothers do to manage their time better?
I believe that whatever you don’t schedule won’t happen, so I schedule just about everything in my life, just like I would schedule meetings at the office. From dates with my husband, to family time in front of the TV on a Friday night, doctor’s appointments, and teacher meetings – you name it, it is scheduled.
That way I know that what is important to me and my family won’t get overridden with something else, and I won’t drop a ball. It also gives the children a sense of security and something to look forward to if they know upfront that Friday is a movie night, etc.
I must emphasise that flexibility and spontaneous events are also necessary, so don’t get too rigid! Sometimes the spontaneous moments are the most memorable.
Question 5: Does raising kids teach you any skills that you can use in the workplace?
More than anything I think it has taught me to have fun and to laugh at myself. I was definitely more serious in the workplace before I had children. They have also taught me the importance of balance.
Question 6: What should professional mothers consider before starting employment at a new company?
In today’s life and age time is critical. So consider how far the new offices are from your home, consider the impact of traffic and how long it would take you to get to your child if there is a crisis at the school or at home.
You also need to know how the company feels about flexi hours and what type of policy the company has when it comes to family responsibility. Money is not everything, and too often moms change jobs for money and the children get neglected due to long hours at the office.
Question 7: Lots of professional mothers feel guilt when making sacrifices. How do you deal with this guilt?
I think it is important to keep a balance in life. As my late dad always said: “Too much of anything is never a good thing.”
I don’t believe in giving my children or husband any material things to deal with my guilt, but if I find that I have been neglecting them I make a point of spending individual quality time with each of them. Not necessarily at home; I will take my daughter for a milkshake or my son to watch some skateboarding at the skate park. Somewhere where we can reconnect doing something that they love doing.
Madeleine is a mother of two and Marketing & Customer Care Executive at telecommunications company, Smartcom. Her telecommunications career spans over 13 years, and includes positions at Vodacom SA.