Executive Commentary
How Many More Sleeps Mommy? – The Other Hidden Barrier to Women at Work
Charlotte Jensen
Charlotte Jensen
CEO Sports & Leisure,
Sodexo North America

Some of the buzz these days surrounds women in the workplace and the various barriers to their professional advancement. My personal experience over the years, probably like many others, has varied between amazing bosses and mentors who encouraged me to grow, and of course the not so great bosses and the leaders who felt threatened and excluded me. Over the past 9 years, my journey has been more about the evil two words we call “mommy guilt.”  It’s the other hidden barrier that so many of us share which often holds women back from the next big promotion.

Let me explain:  I’m the working and traveling mom with an awesome stay-at-home dad as a partner.

Here I am, in the job of a lifetime at an amazing company that values my Quality of Life, working smarter, diversity & inclusion, promotions, gender balance, vacations and personal time. Finally, I made it to the C Suite – the years of great mentorship, hard work and people willing to give me a shot at something new have paid off.

So how come I sarcastically quote myself as “mother of the year” and often have poignant memories of late night FaceTime calls with silly filters instead of life events, while feeling like I am letting everyone down by not being home as much as I should?

How will my son feel when he is 30? Will he be in the therapist’s office wondering if his mother valued her career more than she valued him?

I, like every other mother I know, think of myself as the MOM: the fixer, the planner, the shopper, the healer, the maker of appointments and scheduler, the one who orders diapers and toothpaste using GoGo Inflight, the person who notices it’s time to trim fingernails. You name it. We do it. Even from the road.

Growing up, I had an awesome, nurturing, fridge-is-always-full, laundry-always-folded-and-put-away, picks-up-from-school-with-a-smile and snacks at the ready – mom. And a just as awe-inspiring, hard-working, corporate, engineer, logical thinker, amazing athlete and funny dad who took no prisoners, and still doesn’t.

What were women originally put on this Earth to do? Recreate, nurture and gather. Men are to hunt, kill and protect. Fast forward to 2017 and we find ourselves in this new age where genetically and physiologically, both sexes still have inherent signals in our minds and bodies which indicate how we are supposed to respond or act and tell us what we are meant to “do” all day.

Honestly, I battle with this daily. Could I really stay home full time if given the opportunity? Could I take a step back and work part-time or remotely? Is that even in my DNA? I adore my job, my colleagues and our clients and value the positive change my company is making to people’s Quality of Life across the planet.

I don’t think I’m alone. That guilt is part of the bigger picture on gender in the workplace. I don’t have the answer. (You thought you were going to read this whole article and I was going to give you the answer!)

Here is what I do know. I am changing the conversation at home. The conversation is centered on the fact that there is no place I would rather be, but that mommy is also very good at her job and she loves working. Our household resembles the relationship between Emperor penguins. The mom goes out and finds food while the daddy keeps the egg or the hatchling warm until she returns. This significant mental shift not only makes me feel better, but it gives me strength and confidence as I walk out the door.

My hope is that when my son sees me excited and happy in my career he will grow up to respect women in the workplace and therefore be more inclusive – and also a better future husband and father.

Lastly, I have to remember that many young boys don’t get to spend this kind of time with their fathers. It’s very unusual, even today, so I know this special time with his dad will remain with him for his lifetime. I also respect the fact that one of us is able to stay home.

Working mommies have to forgive ourselves and know that we are doing the best we can at any given moment as we are changing the world. And for those mommies at home raising our children in very different circumstances; you too are changing the world.

We can’t have it all. We can’t please everyone and there is no work-life balance. My goal is work-life integration and when I’m home, I do everything I can to be present and engaged.

That is the Quality of Life that I can bring to my own soul and to those around me.

One more sleep baby, mommy is on her way.

7 comments on “How Many More Sleeps Mommy? – The Other Hidden Barrier to Women at Work

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    Amazing piece girl! So true as a full time single mom and full time principal I struggle with this. I LOVE your important shift of perspective ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

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    Thank you for putting into words what so many working moms struggle with everyday. Hopefully, by our contributions and challenges we are paving the way for future working moms to feel just a little less mommy guilt and greater pride in the example we are setting for the next generation of leaders.

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    Charlotte – as a mom of 3 and having worked for sodexo for 22 years (prior to kids) I’ve stuggled with the same “mommy guilt” – I can relate. But as two of my three children are safely in college, I’m happy to say they are successful with driven ambitions and I’ve got to believe that one of the reasons is they have seen both their dad and me work so hard at jobs and companies we love. So thank you for sharing your story. It’s great to see you in this role and much success. As long as our children are safe, happy and loved – we’ve done our job as moms!

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    Great message Charlotte! I grew up with the same values. Never having children of my own, the pressures and stresses are not the same but the barriers are. Your statement is a daily reminder of what’s important. “We can’t have it all. We can’t please everyone and there is no work-life balance. My goal is work-life integration and when I’m home, I do everything I can to be present and engaged”

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    You have put into words what I see and feel all too often. I have two children at home (Maria 14 and Panayiotis 12) and a husband who also works full time protecting crime, many times the “mommy guilt” gets the best of me, but knowing and hearing your are not alone, goes a long way. I remind myself often, “Keep doing what you love and be intentional abut life’s priorities, as time flies by us way too quickly”. Thank you for sharing!


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