By Jessica T
The majestic mother's roomUploaded: Mar 26, 2014
Three times a day, I get to rush down the hall and lock myself in a room that only a handful of other mothers in my building can access. It's completely disruptive to whatever work I'm doing. And yet, as soon as I'm in there, my blood pressure falls, and I relax. The mother's room is twenty minutes of pure serenity.
While I pump, I can follow up on action items from the meetings I've attended that day. I send emails and think. I find time to clear my head and perform the tasks I can't tackle in the wild. I can open that daunting spreadsheet or write the speech that I can't seem to find time for. And, for the most part, I'm uninterruptable.
During my first week back on the job, my new boss took me aside and confessed that she loved her short-lived time in the mother's room. She explained that for her, it was a respite from work -- a time when she could reconnect with her identity as a mother. After our conversation, I was better equipped to let go of the stress of getting undressed, hooked up, and dressed again to rush off to my next meeting. Her counsel allowed me to tap into this sacred space and cherish it.
For me, the mother's room also provides time to reflect on my flexibility as a working mom. In business school, I got feedback from my classmates that I was sometimes too rigid about my family obligations. (Unlike all of my peers, I had a husband and a two year old at home.) If I was to succeed in the working world, I would need to be flexible as contingencies arose.
A few weeks ago, I had two incidents when I missed my appointments for the mother's room because of meetings that ran late. I quickly booked rooms in other buildings, got in, got out, and made it to my next engagement with moments to spare. "That was amazing," I thought to myself. Against all odds, I had fulfilled my commitments to work and my kids and hadn't lost my mind in the process. I passed a friend, another mother, on my way to deliver a speech at a conference. "I'll watch you on live stream," she said. "I'm headed to the mother's room!"
My second week on the job, a young man transitioned off our team to another project. He left brief notes on all of our desks. He said he admired my ability to multitask in meetings. I was horrified -- had I not been giving my full attention to a meeting he was in? Did he catch me responding to an email while others were in the midst of a discussion? If he had early feedback for me, I decided, I had better follow up with him. I sent him an email asking for clarification.
"Don't you remember?" he wrote back. "Your first week on the job, I needed to give you the background on a project. You said I could call you in the mother's room and disappeared. I didn't know what you were talking about, until one of our colleagues filled me in. That was my first meeting with someone in the mother's room."
To say I was relieved was an understatement. I had been multitasking! "Glad I could be your first," I replied.