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(10 min read)
Making a choice between family and career is something that working moms around the world have to face every day. This becomes especially hard with children needing special care. Going back to work, staying at work, or continuing on an upward career trajectory becomes difficult to some mothers who need to balance it all. Access to maternity benefits such as maternity leaves, lactation rooms, flexible work hours, and programs that recognize special needs are all helpful in giving working moms the confidence to fulfill their role in the family and continue to become successful in their careers.
These five amazing moms share uplifting stories of how IBM is helping them succeed in their dual roles as mothers and professionals.
New moms need time and support to gain confidence in the new role of motherhood
Hannah, mom of Nora (6 months)
When my daughter was 8 weeks old, we realized she was having an intolerance to something I was eating. We eliminated the common culprits, but we could tell we’d hadn’t fully solved the problem. Our happy, smiley girl would arch her back in pain. She’d cry and she could only find comfort in one place—snuggled up on my chest. After countless visits to our pediatrician and a GI specialist, we finally got to the root of her issues. I was able to eliminate those foods from my diet, and slowly but surely her side effects subsided.
The timing wasn’t lost on me, either. Most of my girlfriends with children had to return to work at 8 weeks (if not sooner). I thought of them often during these turbulent few weeks where I was still deep in the “4th trimester”. My body was barely healed from giving birth, breastfeeding was still a challenge, and these intolerances meant my daughter needed 100% of my attention. I was so thankful for the weeks of maternity leave. As all moms and dads know, the difference between a 2-month old and a nearly 5-month old are vast. At 20 weeks, we’d had time to find our footing; and I was already gaining confidence in my role as a new mother—a prerequisite to being able to fully return to my career.
In the month I’ve been back at work, I’ve remained so thankful for the support IBM shows working moms. My flexible schedule means I get to drop off my daughter every morning and make every pediatrician appointment without depleting my vacation leave. IBM provides much support for nursing moms as well: designated lactation rooms, close parking (man, there’s a lot of gear to carry!), and breastmilk shipping services for traveling for work.
A good work environment should support you in fulfilling your family duties
Ashley, mom of James (8 yrs), Sophia (6 yrs), and Jack (2 yrs)
I came to IBM five years ago with a 3-year old and 1-year old at home (and have since added another little love to the mix). My husband has a wonderful job that we all love and support, but it requires him to travel 9 months out of the year. To say that coming back to a full time role five years ago with a husband that is gone so much was frightening is an understatement. I was worried about not being available for the kids in a moment’s notice. I was worried about my work life balance and how I would separate the two. I worried a lot, but the longing for my career growth and the need for me to work outweighed my worries.
Oh how grateful I am that I didn’t let my worry set me back. My career has grown, but in return my kids have thrived. I owe that to IBM. I am able to manage a really hectic (and fun) family of 5 and all the extra activities involved in that thanks to the flexibility, benefits, and work life balance commitment from IBM. IBM supports and encourages home / life balance and that has been and will be one of the most attractive benefits I enjoy. IBM has figured out how to provide their employees the challenges to continue growing within their roles, yet also allowing flexibility for their employees to not have to choose a family OR a career. During my employment at IBM, I have never felt like a working mother but instead have always felt like an empowered woman. There is a common understanding that family comes first and that we all work better when our home life is balanced and calm. IBM has shown me that I do not have to choose between a career and my family and I am grateful for the opportunities they continue to provide.
Getting the support needed to care for a child with special needs
Pam, grandmother of Brody (6 yrs, right picture) I have been blessed to work at IBM.
Throughout the years, my managers have been understanding and embraced “family comes first and truly matters”. Six years ago, life circumstances led me to getting permanent custody of our special needs grandchild, Brody. The word “lost” cannot capture my overwhelming feeling of “drowning” due to my inability to navigate parenting him initially. It took me a few months to realize that his fixed gaze stares and his sleeping for hours after these episodes were actually seizures, and after each one, he would go into postictal state where he would literally drop down into sleep in an altered state of consciousness.
By the time we found a neurologist that could assess him, he was having 10-15 seizures a day. The seizure medications they provided caused full body muscle spasms, racking him with unimaginable pain, and had to be discontinued. The fact that he could not speak, nor establish eye contact to engage with anyone, and had multiple meltdowns daily, was just as intimidating and disheartening.
Once I received IBM benefits, I immediately reached out to IBM’s Special Care for Children’s Assistance Program (SCCAP), and found a “pot of gold”. I was referred to another neurologist, three therapists (occupational, behavioral, and speech), and a family counselor. My virtual nurses, Kathy and Mike, were compassionate, and wellsprings of knowledge. They told me how to expedite putting him in an Individualized Education Program (IEP), suggested facilities close to our home that worked with children on the spectrum, and how to network and establish a supportive and thriving community. Every three years, we meet with the Custodial Board. In the recent meeting, the board members described Brody’s case as a miracle, and congratulated the efforts we had made in getting him the help he needs. “It takes a village”, and IBM’s SCCAP program opened the doors to an encompassing world of support services for children on the spectrum.
Making it work while keeping family a priority
Mary-Peyton, mom of Whitaker (7 yrs) and Caroline (4 yrs)
While pregnant with my daughter, Caroline, I was put on hospital bed rest at 28 weeks. My son, Whitaker, was only 3 at the time and did not understand why his mommy couldn’t come home. Three weeks later, Caroline was born at 31 weeks, via emergency c-section and spent a month in the NICU. The fear, stress, exhaustion, and trauma that I experienced was completely overwhelming. I felt as though had the wind blown in my direction, I would have shattered into a thousand pieces. But work was never a part of that stress. I was able to take the time I needed to prioritize my family and my own post-partum needs. I often joke that I should have named my daughter Kathy after my two favorite nurses. One sat with me through many tears, and the other I never met in person. The “virtual” Kathy was assigned to me through my IBM benefits and she called me every day, then weekly, then monthly as I healed and life began to settle. She was kind, funny and tender. She asked me questions about my own health, Caroline’s health, and the health of my family support. “Virtual Kathy” was a sounding board for me and also gave medical resources and advice where she could. Today, Whitaker and Caroline are thriving, busy children that keep me constantly on my toes! I am so thankful for IBM to support me as a mom and as a working mom.
Using flexible work schedule to be an effective working mom
Beth, mom of twins Avery and Byron (6 yrs)
My twins Avery and Byron were born 8 weeks early and were kept in the intensive care unit for over a month. Not being able to bring them home from the hospital right after being born was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But with the benefits I received through IBM, I didn’t have to worry about my babies getting the special care they needed. They were under the care of some of the best doctors in the world.
While in intensive care, they diagnosed Avery with bilateral hearing loss. With all the testing, hearing aids, speech therapy and special doctors she has needed since birth, IBM’s health benefits came through once again. Through IBM’s commitment to working moms and a flexible work schedule, I was able to be there for my twins when they needed me in the hospital – even until now. Today my twins are 6 years old and thriving. I wouldn’t trade my time with them for anything and I’m fortunate to have IBM be so supportive of working mothers while helping provide the necessary benefits to support children with special needs.
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