Several years ago, I helped to create a training course in my job about diversity. The goal of the class was to inspire people to think beyond the common constraints that you think of when you hear the word “diversity”-to go beyond race, ethnicity and gender. There is so much more to all of us than what the world can see: the way we think and process information; the way we interact with others; what motivates us and keeps us engaged. Those differences can make the workplace a goldmine of ideas and innovation if you only recognize and embrace them.
I was reflecting on this concept recently as I was sharing one of my first experiences as a working mom with a group of co-workers. I was talking about effective coaching and how I was lucky to be on the receiving end of some really good coaching when I returned to work after maternity leave. At the time, I didn’t have my “head in the game.” I was exhausted and worried–all typical new-mom stuff. But I was letting it affect my job performance. I got called out on it. It was a great eye opener for me. I needed to get my shit together if I wanted to be respected and succeed in my job. After I told this story to my co-workers, one of them thanked me. She said that she was a new single mom and struggled all the time to “have it all.” She described some of her struggles with her toddler that make her daily routine challenging. It took all my strength not to give her my two-cents worth of mommy advice. Every mom likes to hear that they’re going to be ok, that what they’re doing is the right thing. Who am I to give this woman my so-called words of wisdom?
I started thinking about our Judgment-free Motherhood Campaign and what it means to be judgment-free. When you make the choice to accept differences, you are on the road to being judgment-free. Wouldn’t the world be a better place for moms if we could all just embrace each other’s differences? Is it possible that we can connect through our differences instead of segregating ourselves because of them? What can I learn from you if I listen to understand your decision to breastfeed? What can I learn from you if I listen to understand why you’re homeschooling your child? I don’t need to feel like my place in the world of mothering is threatened because your choices are different from mine. They’re just different. Listen. Understand.
Now instead of focusing just on diversity and recognizing differences, many companies are moving towards the concept of inclusion. By practicing inclusion, you are “walking the talk” and proactively making people feel welcome at an organization, making them feel valued through your actions and behaviors. That’s a lesson that we moms can take to heart. We’re all trying to raise happy, healthy kids. Maybe it’s time we make each other feel welcome and value each of our contribution to raising these little members of world. Walk our talk.
When was the last time that you reached out to someone who was making different choices than you and asked them what their experience was like? When was the last time you lent your ear to someone who was struggling with their choices and just listened and understood where they were coming from? We all have so much to learn and so many to learn from.