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“How do you do it?” The importance of mentors for the working mom

Jenna Lauer
Managing Partner, LA
Hall & Partners

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There are two questions that regularly recur in my life. The first, “What should we do about dinner?” This is usually in discussion with my better half on our commutes, or running late from a meeting or kid obligation. The second question, “How do you do it?” My immediate response is, “Do what?” But when I drop my “Are you judging me?” attitude and truly try to unpack this frequent question, it's almost always about being a working mom.

This question comes from all different positions: 1) young professional women trying to plan for a family and career; 2) women who stay home to care for children that are considering returning to work; 3) women who stay home to care for children and truly want to understand how our household runs; and 4) men who have more traditional household roles and want to understand how our household runs.

Well, I already gave myself away! I have no idea what's for dinner. Ever.

My husband also doesn’t know what's for dinner. Ever. So that is my first and probably most important answer to this lurking question – find a great, compatible life partner. Being married to me is not always easy. I am admittedly a high-stress, highly motivated, professionally curious, ambitious, sassy strawberry blonde, but that was part of the original deal. Like any relationship, you have to find your own balance and way to operate. We operate in less traditional ways, but in a way that works for us. We have a very equal partnership which allows both of us to be family focused, career focused and what-we-want-out-of-life focused. It's not easy and it takes continuous nurturing and rebalancing. It might seem like a constant juggling act, but in reality it's finding the perfect blend of your life goals and ambitions. You must think of it as a journey.

The next part of “how I do it” is similar to the above in that it takes help and partnership. The term “it takes a village” is gospel. My village is made of up outsourced responsibilities in relation to my household, and strong relationships when it comes to my career and life goals. Mentors are everything. Mentors play a huge role in my life. I have several mentors (officially and unofficially labeled) who help me make hard decisions, stretch my thinking, offer wisdom, or just offer empathy in a time of need. I also spend time mentoring others (officially and unofficially).

Find a team to help support your journey. Be a part of someone else’s. Merge your adventures together.

One flaw of mentorship I often see is when people view it as a point-in-time help center. Mentorship should be combined with friendships and long-term desire for a relationship that matters. It should also be a two-way thing. Everyone has something to give and receive in a relationship. Make sure you offer and open yourself up to that arrangement.

The best way to find mentors is to first become one yourself. Take stock of what you're really good at. Understand your strengths and find someone who you can help out. This is all around you. Find someone at work or in your friendship circle that you can help. Find someone with different strengths and learn from each other. Find the mini-you that's a few years behind, and give them ideas based on what you learned on your path. Mentoring others is the most rewarding human experience. When you start giving back you will find others in unexpected places that will help you as well. It is a glorious circle to be a part of.

Basically, “how I do it” is 100% relationship based. What business isn’t relationship based? What joy of life doesn’t include loving people around you? I do understand why I get the question. Being a professional mom is a hectic lifestyle. For me, it's also a wonderful and fulfilling lifestyle. Some of us chose it, while others it is chosen for. But like any path in front of you, you have to find a way to navigate it. Find a team to help support your journey. Be a part of someone else’s. Merge your adventures together. You won’t regret it. Now if I could only figure out what to make for dinner tonight…