June 1, 2016 Jen Maltby

Picture taken by me, letters arranged by my daughter. I choose to believe the F stands for failure.

I’m a working mom and I have a very important lesson to teach you.

But first some background: when my first child was born I had a very clear plan for her birth. After sixteen hours of labor that plan went flying out the window as I prepared for an emergency c-section. In my own mind, this was the first time I failed as a parent.

Nine years later I have two beautiful, growing girls. And I fail every day. I’ll give you today as an example: my 5-year-old has an art show at her school at 1PM. Sure, 1PM is a perfectly easy time for a working mom to go to an art show, amiright? So, I can’t make it. My dear, sweet daughter cried her eyes out when I finally broke the news to her. Her words: “But my work is so pretty, I am like an artist, you have to come see it, Mama!”

At 1PM today I will be at a meeting, in my office, in Boston far from her art show. Mom. Fail.

Now, I don’t mean to undercut my youngest girl’s feelings. It truly breaks my heart that I can’t be there for every event she has in life, but I also know that she will be just fine (especially after I take her out for ice cream tonight – success!) and I will be just fine. Because I am used to this game. It’s called failure, and as a mom I am GREAT at it.

Now if I am you reading this I might think…great at failure? Is this woman OK? Maybe someone should call her doctor? But wait – hear me out.

Real failure doesn’t come from making mistakes; it comes from avoiding errors at all possible costs… Being mistake free is not success. ~ Fast Company

The fine folks at Fast Company likely weren’t talking about a 5-year-old and an art show when they penned the words above. But what they said rings true for every mom (every parent really). For us, failure is just part of the game. Mistakes are normal, we learn from them, we learn how to manage them, anticipate them, recover from them. We are EXPERTS at the failing game.

Here comes my lesson.

There is so much conversation today about moms in the workplace and glass ceilings, equal pay, paid family leave, recovering from the work gap after staying home with your kids, etc. You could Google any of these and get enough hits to keep you reading for the foreseeable future. But let’s keep it simple, here is why moms are so important to your company: they aren’t afraid to fail. They know that from failure comes success. And that is an invaluable trait; one that you should foster as the boss or mentor of a mom and one that you should consider when you think about that next hire for your own companies.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  – Thomas A. Edison

After all, he wasn’t a mom but if it wasn’t for Thomas Edison’s dedication to failure that little thing we call a light bulb would not be shining above your computer screens right now. So what is your light bulb and how can the moms at your company help you discover it?


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