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Family-Centric Job Benefits Can Make Motherhood a Career Asset

I remember the day I decided not to go back to work. I was in the bathtub with my eight-week-old son, who was still nursing around the clock. Barely adjusted to the new emotional and physical demands of motherhood, I couldn’t dream up a world where I had the energy to drop my baby at day care, work all day, then stay up most of the night taking care of him. So I weighed the costs: Double my commute time, cut my salary in half, and risk my mental health, or sacrifice my career to stay home? In the end, I chose the latter.

Family-centric benefits like parental leave, subsidized childcare, and even a flexible working environment where moms can pump or take sick days are indeed costly for employers — but there’s evidence that the benefits of supporting parents in the workplace vastly outweigh the cost, for businesses and parents alike.

For starters, research shows that paid parental leave improves worker retention, increases employee productivity, and boosts employee loyalty and morale. Providing a place to breastfeed means women might miss less work, since their babies tend to be healthier. And there’s evidence that subsidizing childcare boosts retention and positively affects companies’ bottom lines.

While the economic perks of providing maternal benefits are clear, so is the cost of not doing so: For every 100 pregnancies, a company without maternal benefits could lose more than $9 million annually. Laura Handrick, Careers and Workplace Analyst at Fit Small Business, says failure to invest in maternal care can significantly contribute to employee turnover, which can get very expensive for businesses. Replacing a mom who doesn’t return after her maternity leave can cost as much as 200 percent of her salary.

“Hiring someone new is always more costly than investing in your current employees,” she tells us. “Not only do you lose all the employee’s invested knowledge, but you also have to hire someone else and retrain them, and it could take three to six months to get that person up to speed, which means compromised productivity.”

Further, missing the mark on supporting parents can also be damaging to a business’ image, affecting the quality of future hires and compromising sales.

“A brand reputation depends not only on how you treat your customers, but how you treat your employees,” Handrick says. “If a company is trying to build a brand with a client and has poor reviews or a bad reputation, that will damage your employment brand, plus make it harder to hire good employees in the future.

On the flipside, providing meaningful maternal care can attract employees, says Amy Henderson, founder of Tendlab, a consulting firm dedicated to helping companies create work environments that empower parents.

“There’s research showing that millennials will choose positions with a lower salary if they have family-friendly workplaces, even if they aren’t planning on having kids,” she says. “If the workplace is seen to support parents, all employees are more likely to stay and choose that company over another company that doesn’t.”

To mitigate financial loss and improve maternal health outcomes, Dr. Alexandra Sacks, MD, a reproductive psychiatrist and co-author of What No One Tells You: A Guide to Your Emotions from Pregnancy to Motherhood, recommends that employers consider providing extended, paid maternal leave. Often, the earlier a woman returns to work, the greater the risk for her mental health — and the business.

“It actually puts more stress on the workplace when we demand workers go back so soon after giving birth,” Sacks tells Brit + Co. “The earlier we require workers to return to work, the more their lives and bodies are in flux. So if moms had a little bit more time to adjust to new parenthood, they might need fewer accommodations by the time they have to go back to work.”

While women certainly deserve time to adjust into motherhood, Henderson has found that the character traits women develop while simultaneously working and parenting — namely the ability to develop broader, deeper relationships — can positively transform women’s careers, and their workplaces as a whole. “Possibly in part because of how hard it is, motherhood can make us better in a host of ways, developing capacities in us that enable us to do better in our careers.”

But a woman’s contributions to her place of employment are limited to the level of support she receives at work, Henderson’s research shows.

“Motherhood can have a very positive impact on our careers, but this is only the case if a mom is supported or perceives she is being supported,” Henderson says. In the absence of this support, whether at home or in the workplace, Henderson says these positive capacities actually degrade, and a woman is unlikely to thrive in the workplace — which costs everyone.

RELATED: Within the Gender Pay Gap, Working Moms Fall Even Farther Behind

(Photo via Getty Images)

Ashley Abramson
Ashley Abramson is a writer/mom hybrid from Minneapolis, MN. Find her online at or on Twitter @ashleyabrmsn.

Alright, folks. We've officially made it to fall. And if you haven't already started switching out your decor (as long as it's ready by Friendsgiving, right?) you still have time to do so. Draw inspiration from this round-up of new home products that includes harvest-inspired candles, cozy linens and textiles, and a v. practical piece of furniture. One scroll through these, and you'll have all the motivation you need to transition the seasons. Scroll on to start shopping.

Prism x LOREM Collection ($96+): Calling all Cali babes. The popular Long Beach boutique, Prism, announced a boho-fabulous collab with home decor line, LOREM, that we can't get enough of. Shop everything from plant hangers (eight options, to be exact) to artwork, all inspired by the very colorful vibes of the brands. If you were looking for a cheery way to tide you through winter, this. is. it!

Floyd Mattress (Price TBD): Fans of the cult-favorite Detroit-based brand will love their latest launch debuting on October 29. The highly-coveted Floyd Mattress will have the same made-to-last design and superior comfort as their other furnishings, tailored perfectly to fit the line's in-demand bed frame. Additional details for the mattress include a breathable foam material, highly-mobile packaging, and a low-profile design to secure your best night's sleep yet. Check back on the last week of the month to get one for yourself.

Dims 'Composed Vanity' ($595): Small space? No problem! Direct-to-consumer brand, Dims, is giving you a quick and stylish solution to your storage needs with their newest item that doubles as both a desk and vanity. The functional piece is made with non-toxic, chemical-free materials and can be assembled in seven minutes or less. Throw in four sleek shades to choose from, and this may just be your best purchase of 2019 yet!

Saatchi Art x The Citizenry Holiday Collection ($225+): Get ready to deck your walls this holiday season. Saatchi Art partnered with The Citizenry in a one-of-a-kind collection that features a curation of art across styles. Explore everything from modern to abstract creations in a selection so stunning, it's bound to spark a conversation at your next gathering.

NEST Spiced Orange & Clove Collection ($16+): If you haven't experienced the addicting aromas of the beloved NEST fragrance brand, this is the perfect time to get on board! The label recently released their latest scent — spiced orange & clove — just in time for all your gatherings. Inhale festive notes of orange pomander, spiced brandy, cinnamon, and gingered honey across their suite of candles and diffusers to bring all the good vibes to your home.

Bloomingdales x RiLEY Home ($19+): RiLEY Home gets millennials. So they teamed up with Bloomingdales to make shopping their selection more attainable than ever. Now, you can get in on long-lasting, luxurious staples like flannel sheets, bedding, printed throws, premium pet beds, and more, by shopping online and in-stores at the department store. (Trust us: These dream goods are ones you're going to be *glad* you stocked-up on.)

Italic Serene Towels ($12+): The luxury brand that prides itself on using the *same* factories namesake brands (like Calvin Klein and Lacoste) use, but without the price tag behind them, brings you a new product for fall. Treat yourself to Italic's ultra-soft towel set spun from fluffy, 100% Australian cotton, in a convenient set of six. Consider it the perfect indulgence after a long soak in the tub on a cozy FNI (Friday night in)!

Hyascent x Neiman Marcus ($169): 'Tis the season for a delightfully scented home. Warm your abode with scents like bourbon joy, cheeky rose and more in a unique diffuser that doubles more as decor than a fragrance-inducer. Fresh off the (online) shelves of Neiman Marcus, explore nine scents that last up to six months in a specialized hourglass holder. (Shhh! Your friends will never know the secret of why your place smells so darn good!)