Amy Hilbrich Davis, founder/CEO of inspiring Moms contributed this post as a Featured Guest Blogger. Inspiring Moms helps leading companies increase employee engagement by providing working parents with the strategies and tools to achieve greater balance, success and happiness in their family life. Davis is also the mother of seven and author of the award-winning balance MAP.

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama shared a vision for how we can reinvigorate America’s competitiveness by out-innovating and out-educating the rest of the world.  Specifically, he identified our collective accountability to invest in the future of our children.

“That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities.”

Increasing the success of our children is complex and there is no single solution to this issue, but one thing is certain: we will not achieve this goal without setting our mothers up for success.

As we look to increasing the health and success of our children, we need to recognize that it starts with the mental, emotional and physical wellness of our mothers. There is a large body of research demonstrating a positive relationship between maternal mental health and both more effective parenting and children’s cognitive and emotional adjustment. And while moms want to feel successful in work and their family life, the majority of moms don’t feel successful as mothers.  According to internal research conducted by inspiring Moms, almost 2 out of 3 mothers in a survey sample of 1,000 feel like:

  • They aren’t doing a great job as a mom;
  • They aren’t effective at managing competing priorities;
  • They aren’t in control;
  • They aren’t thriving as a mom.

What may be surprising is that there is no significant difference between full-time employed, part-time employed or stay-at-home moms.  This issue affects all kinds of mothers and their children.

In order to increase the success of our children, we must help our mothers achieve greater success in their family life. There are three practices that can be implemented today that will help achieve this goal:  a flexible workplace, training and development for motherhood and supporting nursing mothers in the workplace.

Workplace flexibility has moved from an employee benefit or accommodation to a proven strategy to increase business performance and shareholder value.  The report from Corporate Voices for Working Families titled “Business Impacts of Flexibility: An Imperative for Expansion” provides an evidence-based business case on how and why the flexible workplace positively impacts talent management and human capital, resulting in better business and financial outcomes.  To a working mom, it allows her to proactively manage the schedule conflicts between work and family life with reduced guilt and stress.  And while the flexible workplace provides a proven and sound foundation, it is necessary, but not sufficient.

The earlier findings on mothers’ feelings of success suggests a lack of knowledge and confidence in what it takes to be successful in this role – independent of employment status or the amount of time spent with kids. This clearly demonstrates the opportunity and need to provide formal learning and development for the job of motherhood.  Despite its importance, motherhood is the only job with little to no training, yet we know training works.  U.S. companies spend over $125 billion annually to increase the success of their employees in the workplace.  As we look to out-educate other countries to maintain a competitive advantage, why wouldn’t we apply this proven best practice to the job of raising a family?

I founded my company, inspiring Moms, on the insight that professional development for motherhood would help mothers be and feel more successful.  Our program uses the science of personal and family wellness and provides mothers with the strategies, tools and proven solutions to create greater health, happiness and success in their family life.  Our award-winning online tool, the balance MAP, uses a 15-minute self-assessment to create an individualized action plan to help each mother reduce stress and solve her greatest challenges.  When a mother feels happier and more successful in her family life, she is a more focused, engaged and productive employee.

Another practice that will help set mothers up for success is workplace support for nursing mothers.  One of the most important decisions that a new mother is faced with after the birth of her baby is whether to breast or bottle-feed. While 75 percent of mothers start out nursing their babies, only 17 percent actually achieve the Surgeon General’s recommended goal of six months of exclusive breast-feeding. This is such a concern because breastfeeding provides significant and proven health benefits to both mother and child.  While this decision is personal and hinges on a number of contributors, the inconvenience and awkwardness associated with pumping at the workplace is a huge barrier for mothers to overcome, both mentally and physically. Corporate Voices provides valuable insight and a toolkit to address this important opportunity.

Corporate Voices is also planning to release an updated and expanded version of its current workplace lactation toolkit to specifically address the barriers facing nursing mothers in hourly positions. The changes in the toolkit will reflect a new amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires employers to provide both time and space for nursing mothers to pump at work.

The success of our mothers cannot be underestimated in importance or value.  As Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis once observed:

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters much.”

At the heart of innovation is seeing old problems in new ways.  Since Sputnik, the lives of moms have become increasingly more complicated and demanding, yet we have provided them few resources or tools to help.  Helping mothers succeed, not just at work, but in their family lives, is an approach that will strengthen our nation and our business community.  The President summed it up with his challenge:

“And so the question is whether all of us – as citizens, and as parents – are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.”